Side by side and trading paint, Busch and teammate Joey Logano came barreling out of turn four on the final lap of the Food City 250 on Friday night. But Busch found a way to nudge his No. 18 Toyota ahead at the finish line to record his 50th career Nationwide victory, giving him the most wins of any driver in series history.
Busch’s milestone victory, which came by a scant .019 seconds over Logano, broke a tie with Mark Martin, the previous series wins leader. The victory also made Busch the first driver to win three straight Nationwide races at BMS.
The finish had the fans on their feet, flashbulbs exploding around the half-mile track. When the dust cleared, however, Busch had outlasted Logano and etched his name in the record books.
“I’m sure the fans loved it,” Busch said of Logano’s late push. “I’m sure they wanted him to win — anybody but Kyle.
“To come here and be able to beat this record at Bristol, one of my favorite places, certainly a phenomenal race.”
For Logano, the frustration was written all over his face as he climbed out of his No. 20 Toyota. He tugged a baseball cap over his head, watching dejectedly as Busch did a burnout and took his No. 18 Toyota for a victory lap with a commemorative flag marking his 50th Nationwide win fluttering out the driver’s side window.
But as he reflected on it, Logano said there was nothing more he could have done to get by Busch in the closing laps short of wrecking him.
“I went full-on,” he said. “My turn one and two were really good. Then on three and four, I couldn’t clear anybody. I knew I had one shot at it.”
Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Aric Almirola rounded out the top five. Bowyer was a force for the entire race, leading 52 laps on the evening.
By the end of the race, however, Bowyer found himself on old tires, trailing Logano and Busch to the finish line. Bowyer had a great view of the historic finish, but he joked that he had only one chance to win the race: If Logano and Busch wrecked each other.
“That just wasn’t where I wanted to be watching from,” Bowyer said. “Joey just didn’t do his job there. I was waiting for him to wreck him. At the end, I was hoping he’d do his job and he let me down.”
For the first half of the race, it was hard to imagine the finish was going to be as close as it ultimately was. Busch led the first 112 laps of the race, and did so in dominant fashion before Bowyer finally got around him.
Logano inherited the lead for the first time after opting to stay out when the fifth and final caution of the race occurred on lap 192. Busch stopped for fresh tires, and 12 laps after the restart on lap 197, he retook the lead from his Joe Gibbs Racing stablemate.
Busch thought he was going to pull away, but Logano kept cutting into his lead before finally pulling up to the bumper of the No. 18 with five laps remaining.
“I don’t know where he came from,” Busch said. “He had a rocket ship there at the end and I just kept getting a little looser and a little looser.”
Busch said he opted to give Logano room in the bottom lane because his machine was faster on the straightaways when he exited the corners on the high side of the track. It was a decision that ultimately won the race for Busch because the ability to get back on the throttle coming out of turn four allowed him to pull a few inches ahead of Logano.
“We bounced the door a couple times, and looking at the replay, I needed to bounce the door one more time,” Logano said. “I wish I were in Victory Lane right now and not sitting over here in second by three inches.”
Edwards overcame an early pit road speeding penalty to score a top-five finish. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 11th, escaping Bristol with a five-point lead over Elliott Sadler in the Nationwide standings.