Busch’s No. 41 Ford took the lead from his teammate Clint Bowyer on a restart with 23 laps to go and then held off Kyle Larson on another late restart. It was his sixth career win at Bristol, but his first since 2006.
It was the 2004 Cup Series champion’s first win of the season, his first since winning the 2017 Daytona 500 and the 30th of his career. It was also the first Cup Series win for his crew chief Billy Scott.
“It’s awesome to do it at Bristol. To get to victory lane at my favorite track and do it the hard way, going inside, outside, all this damage, I’m just so proud,” Busch said. “We had good restarts when we had to, and then you’ve got to get clever and throw everything at it. This is one of the sweetest wins ever.”
Larson finished runner-up for the second straight Bristol race after losing a late-race battle to Kyle Busch in April. Larson, who started from the pole, felt it was track position more than his No. 42 Chevrolet that allowed him to have such a high finish.
“I got lucky lining up in the right lanes,” Larson said. “I had two runs where the leaders were a half straightaway from lapping me. I’m so happy to finish second, but it was probably the most frustrating Bristol race I’ve had because I didn’t feel like I had a shot to win.”
Chase Elliott finished third in a Chevrolet, followed by Joey Logano in a Ford and Erik Jones in a Toyota. It was Elliott’s third top-10 finish in six Bristol races.
Bowyer and Ryan Blaney finished sixth and seventh in Fords, followed by Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson. Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 10.
It was Busch’s younger brother, Kyle, who caused much of the night’s excitement.
Kyle Busch spun out on lap 2 of the race, causing a multi-car accident that caught up defending series champion, Martin Truex Jr., Darrell Wallace Jr. and several others.
Busch was racing to the inside of Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 car before losing control coming off turn 4. His car spun in front of a pack of cars behind him, giving them nowhere to go. Busch suffered body damage to his No. 18 Toyota, but consistently ran laps faster than the leaders.
Busch was back on the lead lap at the end of stage 2, and moved in the top 10 on lap 339 and the top five on lap 397.
His most controversial moment came battling defending series champion for second place. Contact between the two sent Truex’s No. 78 Toyota into the inside retaining wall and then into the No. 7 of JJ Yeley, who slammed hard into the middle of turn 2.
“Totally my fault, four inches, six inches or whatever it was, I misjudged it,” Busch said. “I didn’t mean to him, but I just clipped him.”
Truex was upset after the race, kicking the side of his Toyota when he got out of the car.
“I got hit in the left rear, pretty simple. It’s a shame. We had a good thing going,” Truex said. “It’s just Bristol. This place has been so hard on us.”
Busch crashed on lap 482, sending the crowd into a frenzy. He finished 20th, three laps down after getting stuck at the bottom of the apron with his tire cut.
Blaney edged Harvick in a photo finish to win Stage 1 of the race. The margin was .003 of a second, literally a win of inches. Logano held off Chase Elliott in another close battle to win Stage 2.
The race featured 19 lead changes amongst nine drivers. Blaney led three times for 121 laps, followed by Bowyer leading 120 laps, Elliott with 112 laps led and Logano at 95 laps lead.
EAST TENNESSEE CONNECTIONS
Knoxville driver Trevor Bayne finished 11th in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford after getting as high as fourth. Sevierville driver Blake Jones wound up 27th in the No. 23 BK Racing Toyota, achieving a goal of a top-30 finish set before the race.
Jesse Little, whose mother is from Kingsport, was caught up in the lap 2 accident. He finished 35th after completing 59 laps in his No. 96 Toyota.