BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kyle Busch has a special fondness for Bristol Motor Speedway, but the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota needed a huge stroke of luck on Sunday night to rekindle his love affair with the half-mile track.
Busch won the Food City Dirt Race from a distant third place after the Ford of second-place Chase Briscoe slid up the high-banked dirt track into the Chevrolet of leader Tyler Reddick in the final corner, turning both cars sideways.
Reddick righted his Camaro and steered toward the finish line, but Busch’s momentum off Turn 4 carried his No. 18 Camry past the flag stand 0.330 seconds ahead of Reddick, who was denied his first NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Busch, on the other hand, notched his 60th career victory, ninth-most all-time and most among active drivers. With his first win of the season, he matched Richard Petty’s series record streak of 18 years with at least one trip to Victory Lane.
An eight-time winner on Bristol’s traditional concrete surface — again, most among active drivers — Busch won the second NASCAR Cup Series dirt race since 1970 and the first featuring the new Next Gen race car.
“Yeah, we got one,” Busch said with a wry smile. “Doesn’t matter how you get ‘em. It’s all about getting ‘em. Can’t say enough. I mean, man, I feel like Dale Earnhardt Sr. right now (as the crowd booed his unexpected victory). This is awesome. I didn’t do anything.”
After the second of two rain delays, Busch restarted second on Lap 227, but he fell back as Briscoe passed him on Lap 232 of 250 and began to chase Reddick for the lead.
“I don’t know why, we couldn’t fire off after it rained, both times,” Busch said. “It just would not fire. Took it about 20 laps to get going.
“Overall, just really pumped to be back. Real pumped to get a win. This one means a lot. I can win on any surface here at Bristol. Bring it on, baby.”
A chagrined Briscoe took full responsibility for the accident that handed Busch the win.
“I was running Tyler down and tried throwing a slider and didn’t expect him to drive in there on me, and I got loose,” Briscoe said. “I was spinning either way. I feel terrible. I didn’t want to wreck him. That was my fault 100 percent. I hate it for Tyler. He’s a good friend of mine.”
Reddick took the disappointment with consummate grace.
“I don’t think I did everything right, to be honest with you,” Reddick said. “Briscoe was able to run me back down there. Just looking at it, I should have done a little bit better job of just … I don’t know. I shouldn’t have let him get that close. He ran me back down. Worked really hard to do that.
“I mean, you’re racing on dirt, going for the move on the final corner. It’s everything that, as a driver, you hope to battle for in his situation. Made it really exciting for the fans, so… It does suck, but we were able to finish second still. I’m being honest. I should have done a better job and pulled away so he wasn’t in range to try to make that move. That’s how I look at it.”
Reddick took control of the race after a restart on Lap 151 to begin the final stage. With a ferocious run through Turns 1 and 2, he shot between the cars of Busch on the top and Joey Logano on the bottom to take the lead for the first time.
He held the top spot for the next 99 laps, through five cautions and the second rain delay. The final lap was the only one Busch led.
Briscoe was credited with a 22nd-place finish after running second into the final set of corners.
Logano came home third, 4.004 seconds behind the race winner. Kyle Larson was fourth, followed by Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott, Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon.
Briscoe led the first 48 laps, but his No. 14 Ford spun early with a flat tire to prompt a caution flag on Lap 49. He rallied to take the lead on Lap 140 and held on to win Stage 2 with 150 laps complete. Larson won Stage 1.
The NASCAR Cup Series’ next race is scheduled next Sunday (3 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway.
Note: Inspection in the Cup Series garage is complete with no issues, confirming Kyle Busch as the race winner.
Contributing: Staff reports