For most of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. (the big three) have dominated the races. It took a Saturday night in Bristol to end all that.
All three had cars good enough to win, but wild, aggressive driving ended any hope of victory. Harvick may have had the fastest car again but a near brush with the wall caused a tire to go down and he had to make a green-flag pit stop, losing two laps in the process. He eventually recovered enough to finish 10th.
The “big three” have won the majority of the 23 races and had very little contact with each other in doing so. Last Saturday night, Kyle Busch and Truex played bumper cars with each other, resulting in a 20th-place finish for Busch and 30th for Truex. Busch’s problems started on lap two when he got loose and spun. His car blocked the entire field and resulted in 15 cars of the 40-car field sustaining damage, most of it to Busch’s car.
Going down two laps for repairs, Busch was still one of the fastest cars on the track. Gaining a lap back on a waive-around and the other on a free pass, another mistake was his downfall. Busch made contact with Truex that put Truex out of the race.
Both drivers are in Toyotas and the teams have supported each other over the past few years. Truex was visibly upset with the incident but stated it was just Bristol. Busch took the blame for the incident stating, “That was just a misjudgment on my behalf. I crashed the [No.] 78.”
Kyle Busch’s problems continued after the race while he was signing autographs for fans. One fan confronted Busch verbally and physically while he was signing. As Busch then prepared to leave in his golf cart, the individual struck Busch across the chest, and at that time, Busch confronted the individual. The two were separated quickly and a uniformed officer pulled the individual to the side, allowing Busch to depart.
While the “big three” were having their problems, the elder Busch, Kurt was taking advantage of the situation. Kurt won the Bass Pro Shops/NRA race to secure a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. Kurt Busch took the lead for the first time with 24 laps to go and held off Kyle Larson for the victory, his first at Bristol since 2006, before the track surface was changed. “It just matters to win — it’s all about winning,” Kurt Busch said. “I’m glad we did. We’ve been the most consistent team this year that hasn’t won.”
Kyle Busch still leads the points race but his lead over Harvick dropped from 62 to 43. Truex held on to third with Kurt Busch 4th. The nine race winners have locked themselves into the playoffs and Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin have enough points to ensure themselves of a playoff spot.
NASCAR takes a week off with the next race on 2 September at Darlington.