BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kyle Busch got his 16th career win at Bristol Motor Speedway – more than any other NASCAR driver at any other track – by holding off Kyle Larson after a late restart in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.
Busch has now won three consecutive Nationwide Series races at Bristol since last March, when he and Larson also went 1-2 to the finish.
Of his 16 national wins at Bristol, five are in the Sprint Cup Series, seven are Nationwide and four are in the Truck Series.
“I definitely like coming to Bristol, I always have,” said Busch, who made his first trip to the .533-mile bullring in 2004 testing with Hendrick Motorsports.
“I’ve definitely gone through some trials with the Cup cars. First couple times here was a rough go-around for me. Sort of got it figured out, was able to start leading laps, start winning races and that’s been the biggest things. Why that is? I don’t know. I just enjoy coming to racing. To the banked tracks. It takes guts to go fast.”
Busch now has 65 career Nationwide Series wins.
On Saturday, he and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth combined to lead 298 of the 300 laps.
But Kenseth was mired in lapped traffic once Busch got out front.
“There were seven or eight (cars) that were really struggling today, so you caught them a lot,” Kenseth said. “Every 25 laps it seemed you would catch the same group. It was tough to get through there. Once he got the lead, it was hard to beat him.
Kevin Harvick was second on the restart with nine laps to go, but pole-sitter Larson got by him with seven laps remaining to try to challenge Busch for the victory. He didn’t get much of a chance and settled for second.
“I just tried to run hard and I know (Larson) was running the top, he loves the top,” Busch said. “I knew he was going to be up there. I tried to perfect that a little bit earlier in the race, but it seemed like anybody who was behind me on the restart would be able to jump the two guys that were on the bottom.”
Harvick was third and Ryan Blaney was fourth.
Kenseth was fifth after leading a race-high 178 laps.
Busch led four times for 120 laps.
“Kenseth, he was really fast,” Busch said. “He was lightning fast there much of the day and I was having a hard time catching him. I was just able to bide my time through traffic a little bit better than he did and he got stuck and I passed him.”
THEIR FEUD started with some Twitter posts about the closing laps of the Daytona 500 and it heightened three weeks later at Bristol Motor Speedway, where an on-track spin nearly led to post-race fisticuffs.
Things took a turn for the worse between Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano a week later at Fontana when the two drivers refused to give an inch while attempting to win. It led to a crash, a broken vertebra for Hamlin and a destroyed relationship between the former teammates.
As they return this weekend to Bristol a year later, Hamlin has finally put his malevolent feelings toward Logano aside.
“We’re OK,” Hamlin said. “We don’t talk or anything like that more than we should and really no less than we should, I would say. You can hold grudges all you want, but it’s not going to make you any faster and it’s not going to get you any closer to a championship.
“I’m bitter in ways, and in other ways it’s been so long ago and there’s so many trials and tribulations between then and now, that I think I’m a better person now and I think I’m a better driver now.”
Said Logano: “I feel like we’re fine. A year is a long time. It’s over now. I feel like we’ve moved on.”
Hamlin missed almost five full races with his back injury and struggled through constant pain upon his return in May. He refused to end his season early, even when it became apparent he’d miss the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship for the first time in his career.
But in finishing out the year, Hamlin earned his only victory of the season in the finale at Homestead. He carried that momentum through the offseason and was strong during Speedweeks, where he won two races and finished second in the Daytona 500.
FORMULA ONE: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in a rainy qualifying session, while four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel will start the race from 12th after being caught out by the wet conditions at Melbourne, Australia.
Vettel was joined by fellow big-name drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button in dropping out of qualifying in the second session as they struggled on the wet surface at the Albert Park street circuit.
While Vettel struck trouble, his new Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo thrived, qualifying second, three tenths of a second behind Hamilton’s pole time. Ricciardo narrowly missed becoming the first Australian to take pole in his home race.