BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski found themselves racing side by side for the lead in the Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night. As the laps went by with the drivers still door handle to door handle, it became clear that something had to give.
But neither driver was in the giving mood.
On lap 219, Busch finally got around Keselowski on the low side on the back straightaway, but Keselowski hooked the back of Busch’s No. 18 Toyota. After scraping the fence, Busch caught Keselowski in turn four and spun him, bringing out the caution as he took the lead.
Busch survived two more double-file restarts before sailing away to capture his record-tying 10th Nationwide Series victory of the season. Afterward, Busch said it should have come as no surprise that he turned Keselowski.
“Isn’t this the way Brad races everybody? That’s just the way it is,” Busch said. “That’s why he got spun out. I pulled a slide job on him turn two. He just drove in the back of me and put me in the fence.
“It’s Brad Keselowski, so I wasn’t happy about it so I was going to go back and spin him out. I did. I won the race. Good for me.”
Keselowski was forced to pit after gathering up his car on the front straightaway. The series points leader regained a little ground after two late cautions, but still left the track with a disappointing 14th-place result after leading 62 laps.
“I got up to the front legitimately, took the lead and got intentionally wrecked,” he said. “It is what it is, and I’m just going to get to work kicking his ass.
“Hard racing, man — going for the win. I was on the outside, he was on the inside. He did a good job, almost cleared me, and then he took it for granted that I was going to lift, and I didn’t.”
Jason Leffler secured a runner-up finish, and polesitter Elliott Sadler finished third. Dale Earnhardt Jr. survived a poor qualifying effort — starting 34th — to finish fourth.
Carl Edwards rounded out the top five, making up some ground on Keselowski in the series standings. Edwards now trails by 313 points.
Earnhardt took a moment to give Keselowski, who drove for him in the Nationwide Series, some advice.
“I just told him he’s going to be around here for a long time and not to make a tool out of himself,” Junior said. “I saw the replay — that was just hard racing, man. I’m sure that ain’t the end of it, but that was interesting.”
Keselowski said Busch took advantage of the fact that he was on probation and couldn’t retaliate. Busch begged to differ.
“I think Brad Keselowski should look himself in the mirror and say, ‘I’ve brought this upon myself,’” Busch said.
Busch grabbed the lead from Sadler on the first lap and dominated the early stages of the race. He led the first 30 laps as part of a total of 116 laps led. Differing pit strategies shuffled the deck when Sadler and Keselowski held off on their first pit stops until a caution flag came out on lap 83. The track position gamble worked, and the duo stayed at or near the front until Keselowski’s spin on lap 219.
Busch’s car looked unstoppable all night. The chassis he used Friday night was running its 10th race and visited victory lane for the eighth time. Even the slight damage to the front of Busch’s car that occurred when he scraped the wall and later bumped Keselowski couldn’t slow the Toyota — Busch sailed away from Leffler after the final restart.
Kasey Kahne had a scare on lap 83 when his car turned sideways on the front straightaway and slid driver’s side down through turn one before settling along the inside wall. Kahne climbed out of the car and finished 37th.
“I was on the outside and I had no more room,” he said. “I guess the 12 (Justin Allgaier) didn’t know I was there. I was up in the wall and got sent down the straightaway.
“ It wasn’t that big of a deal — I’ve had much worse.”
Allgaier, who won the Nationwide race here in March, found his own trouble as the race continued. A wreck on lap 188 put him behind the wall and he finished 33rd.
“It’s been a tough night,” he said. “I thought we had a great car this weekend. Unfortunately, the night races just get us. I don’t know what it is.”
After winning Wednesday’s Camping World Truck Series race, Busch now has a chance to make history by sweeping all three NASCAR events at Bristol in a single weekend. If the opportunity for victory presents itself in tonight’s Irwin Tools Night Race, Busch plans to do whatever he needs to do to make that happen.
“I just hope I have a good enough race car to do it,” he said. “If you have an opportunity at the end of the race, and it’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity, I certainly wouldn’t want anything other than that.
“If there’s an opportunity to be more aggressive, yeah, I will.”