Sunday's motors: Kyle Busch beats brother to grab eighth Bristol win
Bristol, Tenn. — Kyle Busch was in the race Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, so of course, he won.
Busch grabbed his third Cup win of the season, eighth overall at Bristol, and 10th this year spanning all three of NASCAR’s national series. He beat his older brother, who said if given the chance in Sunday’s race, he’d have wrecked him so that Kurt Busch was the one celebrating in victory lane.
“He told me in victory lane and I told him ‘You can’t tell people you’re going to wreck them before you do it because when roles are reversed that person is going to wreck you because you already told them you were going to wreck them,’” Kyle Busch said. “So I guess if I’m ever running second to Kurt, I’m going to wreck him. I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way.”
The Busch brothers lined up side-by-side on the final restart, but Kurt Busch had nothing to slow Kyle Busch’s steamrolling of the competition this year. They’d inherited the lead as the first in line not to pit for tires during the 11th caution, and it set up a final shootout between Bristol’s two winningest active drivers.
“He gave it one hell of a fight,” Kyle Busch said. “Busch and Bristol, sounds familiar.”
Kurt Busch is a six-time winner at the .533-mile high-banked oval and lamented the loss over the P.A. system. When he said he would have wrecked Kyle Busch, the crowd roared and affirmed Kurt Busch’s frustration with the final results. He’s emerged as the top driver in the winless Chevrolet camp with seven finishes of 12th or higher in his debut with Chip Ganassi Racing.
“That one is tough. I really wanted to beat him. I was going to wreck him,” Kurt Busch said. “Figure he could give a little love to his brother. I wanted that one bad. Feel like him right now — I’m all mad because I didn’t win.”
The wins go to Kyle Busch, seemingly all the time this season, in anything he drives. Along with teammate Denny Hamlin, they’ve given Joe Gibbs Racing five wins through the first eight races. If a Gibbs car doesn’t win, then a Ford from Team Penske has, and that organization has the other three Cup victories this year.
The win was probably going to go to either Penske driver Brad Keselowski or Joey Logano until a late caution forced teams to choose. They could go in for tires or stay on track and try to maintain their position for the final 13 laps. The leaders — Logano and Keselowski — went to pit road, while Busch and his big brother moved to the front of the field.
“It was a no brainer for us,” said crew chief Adam Stevens. “We were just going to take our chances. I didn’t think we would inherit the lead. That made it a little bit easier on us.”
The pit strategy set up the storybook final ending to a weekend spent honoring Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip, the all-time winningest driver at Bristol with 12 victories. He used this venue to announce he’ll retire as Fox Sports’ lead analyst after 19 seasons, and his success at making the concrete jungle his playground was celebrated as Waltrip waved the green flag to start the race. Waltrip also was wired by the network to give his trademark “Boogity! Boogity! Boogity! Let’s go racing, boys!” call from the flagstand.
But Waltrip, an unapologetic Kyle Busch fanatic, barely had time to catch his breath before an accident on the second lap brought action to a halt. Caught up in the commotion? Kyle Busch, who had a damaged Toyota that sent him to pit road for repairs.
Team owner Joe Gibbs saw Busch spinning and thought, “Oh, my gosh, our day is going to end early.”
“I think with Adam and Kyle, they have a way of fighting through adversity,” Gibbs said. “Adam told Kyle right off the bat ‘Hey, the car is not really hurt.’ I think it probably took something away from the car, but they just did a great job fighting all day.”
Because what was once Waltrip’s domain now belongs to Kyle Busch, and not much can stop him these days, especially at Bristol.
So it was fitting, then, that he found himself out front in an entertaining, old-fashioned Bristol barnburner. The race had 11 cautions, 21 lead changes and the 47 green-flag passes for the lead were the most since NASCAR began tracking that statistic in 2005.
The race also had a very familiar face in victory lane.
Kyle Busch and his brother have combined to win the last four Cup races at Bristol, and Kyle Busch has 22 total wins at the track. But success is measured in the Cup Series, and Kyle Busch has trophies to collect to catch Waltrip.
“It ain’t 12, that’s for sure. So I got more to go. We’re getting there,” Kyle Busch said.
Takuma Sato of Japan won the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama for his fourth career IndyCar victory.
Sato, the 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner, became the fifth driver to win after starting on the pole at Barber Motorsports Park at Birmingham and was in control most of the way. Scott Dixon earned his sixth runner-up finish in the race’s 10-year history.
Sato had a late issue when he went into the grass and lost about a second off his lead at the road course. He quickly gained it back over the final laps to win by 2.4 seconds. Dixon held off Sebastien Bourdais for second.
Sato reclaimed the top spot on lap 58 of the 90-lap race after coming out of pit road. It was the 11th lead change, a record for the race. Sato didn’t give it up again despite his precarious moment when he managed to maneuver the No. 30 Honda through the grass and back onto the track.
The ex-Formula 1 racer had become the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race in 2013 and the first to win the Indy 500 four years later.
He had never finished better than eighth at Barber.
Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate, Graham Rahal, started second but ran into mechanical troubles. His car lost power on a straightaway to end his day after 55 laps, but the day was still a big success for the team. Sato won at Portland last year, his first with the team.
Two-time defending champion Josef Newgarden worked his way up to fourth after starting 16th. Newgarden, the series points leader, had won three of the last four Alabama races.
Bourdais navigated the 90-lap race with only two pit stops.