Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was turned sideways on the backstretch on the opening lap of the race. He rallied from the early misfortune to lead three times for 71 laps, and then had to hold off his brother, Kurt, over the final 19 laps to win the race.
It was Busch’s second consecutive Food City 500 victory, his eighth Monster Energy Cup Series win at Bristol overall, the most among active drivers, and his track-record 22nd overall in NASCAR’s three national series (Cup, Xfinity and Trucks).
He scored a series-best third win of the season. With his 54th career victory, Busch tied Lee Petty for 10th on NASCAR’s all-time win list, moving him just one win behind ninth-place Rusty Wallace.
“It’s pretty awesome to win today at Bristol. I love this place,” Busch said. “It was fun to battle my brother at the end. It wasn’t quite the side-by-side racing. I saw him working the top, I’m like, ‘I better go.’ I got up there and was able to make up some ground. The Skittles Camry wasn’t the best today, but we made the most of it and got everything we needed at the end.”
Kurt Busch, who finished 0.722 seconds behind in the No. 1 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, said it stinks, and he wanted to beat his little brother. He was the series’ most recent winner at Bristol in August and ranks second behind his brother among active drivers with six wins at the high-banked oval.
It was the second 1-2 finish for the brothers, with Kyle coming out on top both times.
“That one is tough. I really wanted to beat him,” Kurt Busch said. “I was going to wreck him. I wanted to stay close enough so when we took the final lap, I was going to drive straight into (turns) 3 and 4. I wanted this one bad. I feel like him right now. I’m all mad because I didn’t win.
“With three laps to go, (the car) stepped out in turn one and I wasn’t close enough after that.”
Kyle Busch on Kurt’s comment: “I wouldn’t have wanted to be in that situation and glad it didn’t turn out that way. It doesn’t matter who it is. You just try to get away from him. But when I saw him closing in on me, I was like, ‘I have to get away from him, I can’t lose to my brother.’ ”
Kurt Busch wasn’t the only frustrated driver.
Defending series champion Joey Logano, who was the leader before the caution at the final restart, finished third. His team made the decision to pit and get four fresh tires while the Busch brothers stayed on the track with older tires on their cars.
Logano restarted eighth and didn’t get up to the leaders quick enough to run them down.
“The restart was a mess. I don’t know what was going on there on the restart,” Logano said. “We were all three, four-wide. I don’t know what the deal was. We just didn’t win it when it mattered the most, when the 18 got ahead at the end.
“I think we had the fastest car, we just didn’t get all the pieces right. You can have the fastest car, don’t do the rest of the stuff, you don’t win. The 18 capitalized on that.”
Clint Bowyer, who finished seventh, was frustrated with his fellow Ford driver Logano after the two were battling for position late in the race. Bowyer ended up going to the pits with a flat tire before rallying for the top-10 finish.
“You get a car that good … I’ve been coming here a long time and I’ve been close a few times, you’re like, I want to win at this place,” Bowyer said. “He was chopping down pretty hard. I know it’s time to race, but he didn’t leave a lot of room off (turn) four and I got loose. I must have cut the valve stem or something.”
REST OF TOP 10 AND OTHERS
Ryan Blaney finished fourth in a Ford, followed by Denny Hamlin in a Toyota.
Ford drivers Paul Menard, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman finished sixth through ninth. Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top 10.
Pole winner Chase Elliott was 11th, while three former series champions were in the top 20. Kevin Harvick was 13th, Martin Truex Jr. was 17th and Brad Keselowski was 18th.