At The End, It’s The Kyle Show In BristolBy Chris Knight
Kyle Larson in just his fourth Nationwide race floored everyone with a veteran like performance to score a runner-up finish in his No. 32 Cottonelle Chevrolet Camaro for Turner Scott Motorsports. Last March, the Chip Ganassi Racing development driver locked a top-10 finish in his first Bristol trip in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Based on his performance though, you would have thought Jimmie Johnson was behind the wheel.
He was that good.
The finish was the second-closest finish in the track’s history, as the two crossed the finish line .023 seconds apart.
The performance by the 20-year old Larson virtually erases a controversial finish at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway last month, when the development driver turned a regular coming to the finish for the win in the inaugural “Battle to the Beach.” Still, controversy or not, Larson will be a household name for many years to come.
“I did everything I could to try to protect the momentum,” said Busch, who collected his 53rd NNS trophy. “A young kid (Larson) like that, he’s got a lot of talent. He’s obviously made a name for himself.”
Sunday’s pole sitter for the Food City 500 now has 13 victories at the 0.533-mile oval, five in each the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series respectively and three in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Larson, the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champ offered, “I was catching him. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I got to them. I was pretty happy that Kyle (Busch) went low on that last corner because I knew it would give me one more shot to get by him.”
Before the event became the “Kyle and Kyle” show, Kevin Harvick in the No. 33 Armour Sausages Chevrolet Camaro also kept the first short track race of the season an intense nail-bitter, but Harvick’s chances of victory would be dashed after a surprising decision to pit when the final caution flag waived inside the final 35 laps of the race. Harvick put forth a gallant effort to return to the lead pack, but his chances were ultimately eliminated after contact with teammate Brian Scott in the winding laps.
Harvick’s spotter took blame for the incident and apologized to both via Twitter.
Behind Larson, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Brian Vickers in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry finished third for the second straight week, while points leader Sam Hornish Jr. took advantage of the contact with Harvick and Scott to scoot into fourth with Harvick, who led 43 laps closed out the top-five.
Regan Smith in the No.7 TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet Camaro also contended for victory and tried to inherit the lead from Harvick in the second half of the event, but his machine broke loose, made contact with Brad Keselowski and slid back to fourth. From there, Smith was out of the picture and settled for sixth.
Reining ARCA Racing Series champion Chris Buescher claimed seventh making his first start of the season for Roush Fenway Racing, but his finish didn’t come without a visit. Pole-sitter Justin Allgaier, who led the opening 62 laps of the event, had a personal conversation with his former ARCA racer after Buescher’s Ford booted Allgaier’s Chevrolet from seventh on the final lap. Allgaier, the soon father-to-be finished eighth.
Roush Fenway Racing officials confirmed that Buescher would race at Texas Motor Speedway in April in his No. 16 Ford Mustang.
After a rough outing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend, Parker Kligerman rebounded in his No. 77 Bandit Choppers Toyota Camry to net ninth and Scott, after the late-race mishap managed to hang on to 10th, continuing a top-10 streak that now extends to six, including the final two races from 2012.
Hornish Jr. and Scott remain the only two drivers to score a top-10 run in every race run thus far in 2013.
After starting on the outside pole, Austin Dillon finished 11th, but his performance was hindered after contact from a nasty wreck involving Jamie Dick and Nelson Piquet Jr.
Trevor Bayne, surprisingly was never a factor all day and finished a quiet 12th, he was flanked by Mike Bliss, Alex Bowman and Keselowski. In all aspects, it was a nice recovery from the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Keselowski, who blew out a tire while leading after contact with Smith.
After a nice save earlier in the race, Travis Pastrana learned a ton in his Bristol Motor Speedway debut and finished 16th in front of John Wes Townley, in a Venturini Motorsports-prepared Toyota, Reed Sorenson, Josh Wise and Scott Riggs rounded out the top-20.
The runs by Wise and Riggs were commendable coming from lower budgeted teams.
After destroying his primary car in a practice crash on Friday afternoon with Joey Gase, Brad Sweet couldn’t do much with his backup JR Motorsports entry and after an early race spin became literally, non-existent, but still finished 22nd.
The cars of 28th and 29th place finishers Mike Harmon and Brad Teague ignited some flames both on and off the track Saturday, as both drivers who struggled for speed all-weekend, found themselves as moving-chicanes throughout the race. Harmon and Hornish Jr. made contact early which caused the No. 55 of Dick to spin.
While later on a nudge from Teague sent the No. 44 of Hal Martin hard into the frontstretch wall. Martin climbed from his mangled Toyota and offered an applause gesture to the hometown native before climbing into the ambulance for the mandatory trip to the infield care center. He finished 31st.
Defending race-winner Elliott Sadler had high hopes for one of his favorite race tracks, but after grazing the wall early-on and succumbing to engine failure on lap 85, this was a day that Sadler would soon like to forget. It also dented Sadler in his championship chase as he dropped seven spots in the standings after his 36th place run.
Four teams started and parked their machines in the 31st annual event, Mike Bliss, J.J. Yeley, Chase Miller and Michael McDowell to finish 37th – 40th respectively.
After round four, Hornish Jr. continues to hold command in the championship standings with Allgaier trailing by 22 in the arrears. Brian Scott (-25) is third, flagged by Smith (-26) and Vickers (-30).
Next up for the NASCAR Nationwide Series is a return trip out west to Auto Club (Calif.) Speedway for the running of the Royal Purple 300 on Saturday, March 23.
Follow Chris Knight on Twitter @Knighter01.
Views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Catchfence
Article Tags: BMS, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chip 300, NASCAR Nationwide Series, NNS