Matt Kenseth would lead the middle part of the race, but in the end, it was Kyle Busch that would take the win in the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 presented by Lilly Diabetes at Bristol Motor Speedway.
With 90 laps to go, Kenseth got hung up in lap traffic, which opened up the door for Busch as he was able to sneak by and grab the lead. From there, Busch would hold serve off of pit road on the pit stops and held the field of chargers off in the ensuing restarts to grab the win. It marks Busch’s 65th Nationwide win and his second this year after winning at Phoenix last month.
“The biggest thing was how much the track changed from practice and we really had to change our car a lot today,” Busch commented. “Adam made some great changes in getting the car to roll better. A couple of those guys got close – Kenseth was lightning fast mid-race – but I was able to get by him through traffic like he got by me before.”
While it may just be another Nationwide Series win for a Sprint Cup Series driver, it marks a historic win. Busch now has 16 NASCAR national series points race wins at Bristol, which is more than any driver at any track in NASCAR national series history. In his career to date, Busch has five Cup wins, seven Nationwide wins and four Camping World Truck Series wins.
Pole sitter Kyle Larson would finish second for the second straight year as he crossed the line a couple second behind Busch. Larson looked like he may be able to close the gap, however he would get up close to the wall with approximately nine laps to go and found himself in a battle for second with Kevin Harvick. The young driver also had to fight his way back to a top five finish after speeding down pit road mid-race.
“Started off the race a little tight and then once we got later in that run, ti was better,” Larson commented. “We kept working on it and were better from there. Restarts really depended what line you were in. I thought I could chase down Kyle, but jumped the cushion and wasn’t able to catch him.”
Kevin Harvick would finish third for his second top five in his second start with JR Motorsports this year.
“Our felt like we were better than both of them at the end,” Harvick commented. “Just the last restart, we started on the bottom. Before that, we were catching them up there on the top. Just couldn’t get going on the restart.”
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Ryan Blaney would finish fourth in his first Nationwide Series start of the season. Blaney will be making a total of 15 starts this year in the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang for Penske Racing while running the full truck schedule for Brad Keselowski Racing.
“It was very tough,” Blaney commented. “The first four laps I thought we were going to be good…and then as it went on, it went looser and looser. We got lucky and got the free pass there and we had to come up through there, maneuvering through traffic. An awesome job by the whole team and looking forward to going to Texas with these guys.”
After leading a race high 178 laps, Matt Kenseth fell back in the second half of the race and would end up finishing fifth.
“Our Camry was fast today and then I got passed in lap traffic,” Kenseth said. “I thought I was being too aggressive as it was, but Kyle got by me there. every restart, I was on the bottom and by the time you got to the one and two, a couple rows would’ve passed you.”
Rookie Ty Dillon would finish sixth after having to fight to get back on the lead lap. A long green flag run early in the race had only six drivers on the lead lap under the lap 93 debris caution.
“This whole weekend for our team has been a long weekend,” Dillon commented. “This left side tire threw us for a loop. We started guarding for it….and then when the race started, the marbles cleared and you could run the top. The car was tight early but we kept working at it. We got a lap down but were able to fight our way back on the lead lap. There at the end we were in the right line on the restart. Sixth place – we really bested ourselves today. That’s better than I thought we’d finish.”
His Richard Childress Racing teammate Brendan Gaughan would finish seventh, followed by Trevor Bayne.
“Richard Childress gives me great Chevrolets,” Gaughan commented. “We haven’t figured out that qualifying deal yet so we need to work on that, but we were able to get a break there and end up on the lead lap at the end of the race.”
The JR Motorsports teammates of Chase Elliott and Regan Smith rounded out the top 10. Smith will keep the points lead with his second straight 10th place finish, one point ahead of Dillon.
There was a small controversy mid-race after Elliott got the lucky dog under a lap 136 caution as he did not line-up in the right spot on the restart. Lucky dog recipients are supposed to line-up behind lead and lap down cars, but ahead of the wave-around cars. Elliott instead lined up behind the lead lap cars, but ahead of the lap down cars. Larson was one of the drivers that complained on his radio at the time, saying, “I don’t care if it’s Elliott’s son or not. That’s bull. I’ll say it right on the radio.” However, Larson brushed it off after the race saying that it didn’t matter.
Cale Conley would impress in his first career start, coming home 11th place in his No. 33 OKUMA Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
Unfortunately, Ryan Reed would suffer his third wreck of the season as he would get loose while battling James Buescher for position, making heavy contact with the inside wall. Reed was carrying Drive to Stop Diabetes on his Ford Mustang, as he has been the whole season.
“Me and the 99 had been racing hard and I was underneath him, showing my nose – and he didn’t give me a break,” Reed commented. “Coming off the corner, he came down a little and I got loose and went into the wall. If he really came down, it’ll be a long year. It’s tough to the start the season this way. It seems we’ve caught the rookie blues.”
Ruben Garcia Jr. also didn’t have that good of a day as he would make heavy contact with the inside wall at lap 125.
“It got loose in the center and then I got up high and into the marbles and it came around and I got into the wall,” he said afterwards.
The Nationwide Series drivers will now move from one of the smallest tracks to one of the biggest track as they’ll tackle the two-mile Auto Club Speedway oval next weekend.