Friday's motors: Larson gets first Bristol win in Xfinity race

Associated Press
Kyle Larson celebrates after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Friday.

Bristol, Tenn. — Kyle Larson capitalized on Kyle Busch’s early exit to win the Xfinity Series race Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, his first victory ever at the track he calls his favorite.

Larson has won four of the six Xfinity Series races he has entered this season. The latest victory came hours after he earned the pole for the Cup Series event Saturday night.

“I wish Kyle Busch wouldn’t have had his troubles so I could have raced him,” Larson said. “But it still feels really, really cool to win a race here, finally, at Bristol. I’ve been close so many times. This is my best racetrack by far.”

The race went into overtime after Daniel Hemric spun with two laps remaining. Larson held off a challenge from Justin Allgaier on the restart.

Allgaier ended up in third place, behind Christopher Bell.

“We had the yellow with two to go and I thought ‘Man, again? I’m going to lose another one here.’" Larson said.

Although Larson had never won here before Friday, this marked his eighth top-10 finish in nine Xfinity Series races at Bristol. He has finished second on this track four times  at a Cup event earlier this year and at Xfinity Series races in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

All four times, he lost to Busch, who has mastered this track throughout his career.

Busch led for the first 70 laps Friday until he got a flat right front tire that caused him to hit the wall and damaged his car enough that he couldn’t return. Busch was leading by over 3 1/2 seconds at the time he got the flat.

“I just got in the corner a little too hot, just got up into the fence a little bit,” Busch said. “Two or three laps later, it blew out.”

Larson took command of the race immediately after Busch’s exit. Larson won the first and second stages, but fell to 12th place after pitting before the final segment.

Bell was leading as Larson began working his way back toward the front. As Bell got held up in traffic, Larson managed to pick his way through and get back in front with 97 laps remaining.

“The guy in second definitely has an advantage whenever you’re getting through traffic, especially whenever you get the traffic going side by side,” Bell said.

Busch was seeking to win both the Xfinity Series and Cup series races at Bristol in the same weekend for a third time. He had accomplished the feat in 2010 and 2017.

During each of those two sweeps, Busch also won a Truck Series race in Bristol. This time, he didn’t enter the Truck Series event, which was won Thursday by Johnny Sauter.

Busch seemed well on his way to winning at Bristol again Friday until his surprising exit. Instead, a different Kyle will be aiming for a Bristol sweep this weekend.

Truex seeks sponsor

NASCAR champion Martin Truex Jr. needs sponsorship to stay with his championship-winning race team.

Truex is locked in a fierce battle with former champions Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick in his push to defend last year’s Cup Series title. His Furniture Row Racing team is in the mix even though the future of the No. 78 team is in flux.

Furniture Row is seeking a primary sponsor for next year, and does not have contracts with Truex or manufacturer Toyota. He said he hopes to have a better idea on what his future holds in the next few weeks.

“Right now, we need sponsorship. That’s as simple as it gets,” Truex said. “Is there a 50 percent chance we get that in the next couple of weeks? Or is there a 100 percent chance? Or is there 2 percent? I don’t know. I can tell you that everything really is based upon that.”

Colorado-based Furniture Row for years was sponsored by team owner Barney Visser, who with Truex was finally able to sell inventory and bring funding to the car. The team had a breakout 2018 season and won the Cup title, but 5-Hour Energy is leaving at the end of the season and Visser doesn’t want to return to funding the operation out of pocket.

Truex's name is suddenly mentioned as a potential replacement for Kurt Busch at Stewart-Haas Racing, where he would be Harvick’s teammate, or a myriad of other possibilities.