BRISTOL — Kyle Busch used all the track to hold off Kyle Larson and win Saturday’s Jeff Foxworthy Grit Chips 300 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Coming upon the lapped car of Brad Teague on the final corner, Busch’s Toyota dove to the inside as Larson’s Chevrolet went to the outside. Busch pulled ahead as they rubbed fenders coming to the finish line for the second-closest finish (.023-second) in Bristol history.
“I did everything I could to protect the momentum,” Busch said. “I gained so much ground on the 70 car that I thought I would run into the back of him coming off turn 4. I knew if he goes into turn 4 and slows down any little bit and it hurts my run at all, Larson might have enough speed on the bottom.
“I just wanted to take the chance of going down to the bottom and knowing the start-finish line was halfway down the straightaway.”
Busch pointed out he also won the closest Nationwide race in Bristol history in August 2011 over then teammate Joey Logano. Busch extended his record of 53 career Nationwide Series victories and tied Kevin Harvick with five Nationwide Series wins at Bristol.
He made the winning pass on Harvick on lap 237, and thought that was who he would be racing at the finish. Harvick instead chose to pit with 32 laps to go, leaving the race win to be decided between the 27-year-old Busch and the 20-year-old Larson.
“We were battling hard with the 33. I thought it was going to be a battle between he and I for the win,” Busch said. “Then, the 32 stuck his nose in there and almost took it from us.”
Larson, a USAC Sprint Car star who is quickly adapting to stock cars, was making just his fourth career Nationwide Series start. With it his first time racing at Bristol, he was figuring out the best move to make at the end.
“We got a run there and I was catching him,” “I didn’t know what I was going to do when I caught him. I was pretty happy Kyle went to the bottom on that final corner, it gave me one more chance to get him at the end.”
“We kept the fenders on it all day, but we had to use them up trying to beat Kyle. I didn’t think I had enough momentum whether he squeezed me or not. But, it made a heck of a finish.”
Brian Vickers, Busch’s teammate, finished third in a Toyota, followed by Sam Hornish Jr. in a Ford.
Hornish maintained a 23-point lead in the Nationwide Series standings after what he described as dodging about 30 wrecks on the day.
Harvick rounded out the top five. He took over the lead from Brad Keselowski on lap 193 after Keselowski cut a tire and brushed the wall as the result of contact from Regan Smith. He stayed in the lead until Busch successfully navigated lapped track for the winning pass.
Knoxville driver Trevor Bayne finished 12th in his Ford and Johnson City racer Teague finished 29th.
The race was slowed by eight cautions for 54 laps, including a multi-car accident on lap 160 when Hal Martin came across the front of Teague’s No. 70 Toyota and collected four cars in the accident. They included the cards of Austin Dillon, Reed Sorenson and Jeffrey Earnhardt.
On the final lap, Busch was faced with a tough decision of how to deal with Teague and the other lapped traffic.
“It’s a tricky decision,” Busch said. “I’m just glad it paid off and I’m sitting here with a smile on my face.”