In beating Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano to the checkered flag in a near dead heat (.019 seconds), Busch won his 50th race in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series, breaking a tie with 52-year-old Mark Martin for the top spot on the career victory list.
The margin of victory was the smallest for a race at Bristol since the institution of electronic timing and scoring in 1993.
“It’s awesome,” Busch said of the 50th win, his 23rd in his last 51 Nationwide starts. “We had Mark with us there in Loudon (when Busch tied the record July 16), and it was a phenomenal way to win 49 races and tie Mark Martin. And then to come here and to be able to beat his record here at Bristol, one of my favorite places and one of the team’s favorite places, it was certainly an awesome race.”
Behind Busch and Logano, Clint Bowyer ran third, followed by Carl Edwards and Aric Almirola.
“I don’t know where he (Logano) came from,” said Busch, the first driver to win three straight Nationwide races at the .533-mile track. “He had a rocket ship there at the end. I just kept getting a little bit looser and a little bit looser the more we ran there.
“I thought maybe the top (lane) was going to win the thing, and I was just trying to pinch him down a little bit—he used me up.”
On pit road after the race, Logano eyed Busch’s celebration in victory lane with envy.
“I did everything I could possibly do, looking back at it,” said Logano, whose ploy to stay out on old tires during the final caution nearly paid off with a win. “I did everything I could have done besides wrecking him, but that ain’t the right thing to do when he’s your teammate—so we did everything we could do.”
Michael Annett, Jason Leffler, Elliott Sadler, Parker Kligerman and Brian Scott completed the top 10. Sadler trimmed the series lead of 11th-place finisher Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to five points.
Busch led the first 112 laps of the 250-lap race, until Bowyer passed him in traffic for the top spot on Lap 113. Bowyer was still out front when Jeremy Clements’ blown tire brought out the second caution of the race on Lap 124. That gave Bowyer and Busch, who had not yet pitted, a chance to come to pit road for tires and fuel on Lap 127.
Bowyer led the field to a restart on Lap 132, but three laps later, Kenny Wallace blew a tire in Turn 3 and smacked the outside wall to cause caution No. 3. It was the second of three quick yellow flags, the last of which was for Kligerman’s spin in Turn 2 on Lap 145.
Bowyer again led the field to green on Lap 151, but Busch powered past Bowyer’s No. 33 Chevrolet at the start/finish line on Lap 163. On Lap 187, Bowyer retook the lead but surrendered it two laps later. The top two cars ran side by side until David Starr plowed into the Turn 1 wall on Lap 191 to force the fifth caution.
Busch, Bowyer and Edwards all came to the pits for tires on Lap 193, while Logano, Leffler and Sadler stayed on the track and inherited the top three positions for a restart on Lap 198. Logano grabbed the lead on the restart, with Busch surging into second behind him. Those two cars pulled away, with Bowyer in pursuit.
Busch soon dispatched Logano, and the top three drivers—Busch, Logano and Bowyer—opened a wide gap over Leffler and Edwards in fourth and fifth, respectively.