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BRISTOL — Brad Teague was in the middle of the action the last time the NASCAR Nationwide Series raced at Bristol Motor Speedway.
As leaders Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson came to the checkered flag for the Jeff Foxworthy Grit Chips 300, Teague’s No 70 Toyota was directly in front of them. It forced Busch to make an aggressive move, pinching Larson’s car against the wall at the finish.
Busch inched ahead for the victory with the official margin of victory a mere .023 of a second.
Teague, who ended up 29th, explained how he never intended to be a part of the finish.
“What happened on the last lap, I broke a wire on the alternator,” he said. “I couldn’t get out of the way real good. It got on the throttle and the motor shut off. It was like when you run out of fuel. It was pretty exciting, but it worked out the way it would have anyway.”
Busch’s Toyota was the race’s dominant car, while Teague’s Toyota struggled throughout the day. Still, he was running at the finish and earned $26,141 for the Jay Robinson-owned team.
The Johnson City driver will be back in the No. 70 for tonight’s Food City 250, where he is scheduled to make a 33rd career Nationwide Series start at Bristol.
It puts him third on the all-time start list and second among active drivers. Overall, he has 44 starts in NASCAR’s three national series at Bristol. At age 65, he is grateful for another chance to speed around the high-banked short track.
“It’s the local track, but also my favorite track,” he said. “Every time, somebody seems to have a car available for me. We just try to help with a little local sponsorship to buy tires. We don’t have the money to compete with the top cars, but a goal is to finish somewhere around 18th to 24th. I just appreciate the team giving me the opportunity to drive the car.”
In March, Teague and 70-year-old Morgan Shepherd extended a record they share for longetivity. The two are the only drivers to race the first year of the Nationwide Series (1982) and still remain active in the series.
Outside of Teague, another East Tennessee favorite is Trevor Bayne in the No. 6 Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing. The Knoxville driver is currently eighth in the Nationwide Series points.
Bayne has one win this season at Iowa and 13 top-10 finishes in 22 races. He comes into Bristol with three straight top-10 finishes, the last two coming on road courses.
He won the pole for this race a year ago, and finished 12th at Bristol back in March. He’s 73 points behind Sam Hornish Jr. in the championship standings.
Four drivers -- Elliott Sadler, Regan Smith, Austin Dillon and Brian Vickers -- are all within 18 points of Hornish. It makes the Food City 250 a key race to survive.
Three of them have previous championship experience, while Sadler was series’ runner-up the last two seasons..
Hornish is a three-time IndyCar champion. Dillon won the 2011 Camping World Truck Series title, and Vickers was the Nationwide Series (then Busch Series) champion in 2003.
Still, none of the championship leaders are the odds-on favorites to win the race.
That distinction goes to Sprint Cup Series regulars Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.
Busch has five Nationwide Series wins at Bristol including the aforementioned March victory. Overall, he has 14 wins in NASCAR’s three national series at Bristol including a win in Wednesday night’s Truck Series race. Keselowski is a two-time Sprint Cup and one-time Nationwide Series winner at Bristol.
Food City 250 qualifying is set for 3:40 p.m. with the race scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.