Kyle Busch has won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The #18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver held off a late charge by pole sitter and rookie Erik Jones to take his second win of the season and his third win of the week after having also taken victory in the supporting NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series races.
The five-hundred lap race was capped off by a seventy-nine lap green flag run, where Busch had to hold off Jones whilst simultaneously negotiating lapped traffic. Jones tried as hard as he could to get to the bumper of the #18, but the pole sitter was dealt a bad hand with the traffic in the closing stages and was unable to the #18 back in.
Kyle would cross the line just 1.4 seconds clear to take his second victory of the season and his third victory this week. Kyle entered both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series races and took victory in each. His follow-up win in the Cup Series on Saturday night marks the second occasion that he has accomplished the feat of winning all three races in one week at one track; last doing so in 2010, also at Bristol Motor Speedway. He also remains the only driver in NASCAR history to have achieved this.
“Man, Erik Jones put up a whale of a fight. That all I had. I was running with my tongue hanging. My arms were jello and my throat hurts, but man that’s awesome,” said Busch in victory lane, “Can’t say enough about everybody on my Joe Gibbs Racing team.
“Adam Stevens (crew chief) and the guys are phenomenal. The car might not have been perfect, but I’m never perfect. I never feel like we’re perfect, but this Caramel Camry was fast. So proud of these guys, so proud of my team, so proud of Joe Gibbs Racing. So proud of Rowdy Nation, this one’s for you.”
Busch’s praise of Jones wasn’t undeserving. The driver of the #77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry put in a standout performance all weekend and just came up short in the closing stages. The twenty-one-year-old led just over half of the race distance and managed to work himself back to the front numerous times throughout the night. His second place finish comes off the back of a third place at Michigan last time out, further adding to a solid rookie campaign. Nevertheless, he was understandably disappointed to have missed out on his first NASCAR Cup Series win.
“You don’t want to sound like you’re whining or being a sore loser by saying it sucks to run second, but it’s a bummer,” said Jones post-race, “It hurts. You know, you want to win every race you’re in. This was the first shot that I really had to come really close to it in the Cup Series.
“Bristol is a really good racetrack for myself. Thought we had a shot at it all night, led a ton of laps. It’s Kyle Busch. He won all three races here this weekend. So I feel like I’m close to him here—just trying to find that last little bit.”
Toyota locked out the first four positions at Bristol, with Kyle Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing team-mates, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth, taking third and fourth respectively. Kenseth, who remains just inside the cut-line to make it into the playoffs, crucially jumped ahead of Jamie McMurray in the standings and now has a small cushion just in case anybody else secures a first win of the season in the next two races that would push the cut-line ever closer. Kurt Busch completed the top five in the #41 Monster Energy Ford Fusion. Ryan Newman took sixth place ahead of Trevor Bayne, who put in an impressive drive to take seventh in the #6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
Kevin Harvick drove through the field from twenty-ninth to take eighth for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kyle Larson followed him home in ninth after having started on the front-row before leading seventy laps. The #42 Chip Ganassi Racing driver couldn’t maintain his front-running position however and faded in the closing stages. Just behind him was the #21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney, who completed the top ten.
Hendrick Motorsports had a tough night. None of their four drives featured in the top ten, with Jimmie Johnson being the highest placed driver in eleventh. Chase Elliott started on the second row of the grid and led two laps, but the #24 NAPA Chevrolet wrecked after Kevin Harvick came down on him whilst passing lapped cars. The #24 was pitched into the inside wall, but thankfully the front-nose damage was light enough for Elliott to recover to eighteenth. The final two HMS Chevrolet’s were just a few seconds back, with Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kasey Kahne taking twenty-third and twenty-fourth respectively.
It was a similarly poor night for Team Penske. Joey Logano entered the weekend with high hopes, as both he and his crew chief had circled Bristol as their best opportunity to get a vital win to get into the playoffs. The reality, however, was a thirteenth place finish; with team-mate Brad Keselowski further back in twenty-ninth after suffering a flat-tyre that he was never quite able to come back from.
Points leader Martin Truex Jr had a fairly quiet night in the #78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry. He was unable to replicate the front-running pace of team-mate Erik Jones and fell from sixth on the grid to twenty-first place. As a result, Truex will have to wait until at least the next race at Darlington to clinch the regular season championship; with the #78 driver currently holding an impressive 101 point lead over the #18 of Kyle Busch.
The unfortunate accolade of ‘biggest wreck of the night’ sadly went to the #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Austin Dillon and the #33 Circle Sport Racing Chevrolet of Jeffrey Earnhardt. The rear of Dillon’s car suddenly snapped around on him as he entered turn three, sending the #3 straight up the racetrack and into the path of Earnhardt’s #33. The contact was unavoidable and hard, but thankfully both drivers were unscathed in the incident.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will take a week off next week. The next destination for the series will be the historic Darlington Raceway for the Southern 500; NASCAR’s throwback weekend where teams and drivers remember and celebrate the history of the sport with special liveries from the past. Behind the fun of the throwback will be intense competition; as just two races remain until the championship playoffs begin.
2017 NASCAR Cup Series – Bristol Night Race – Race Results
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