BRISTOL, Tenn._ Leading 153 of the 500 laps, Kyle Busch was able to score his second straight weekend sweep at Bristol Motor Speedway and win Sunday’s Jeff Byrd 500. Holding off Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson on the final laps, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver scored his first Sprint Cup Series win of the season one day after dominating the 300-lap Nationwide Series event.
Breaking out the broom in Victory Lane, Busch celebrated not only his second weekend sweep, but also his fifth straight NASCAR national series race at Bristol – including Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. It was his fourth victory in the last five Bristol Sprint Cup events and his fifth series win at the track – tying him with his brother Kurt, Jeff Gordon and David Pearson .
“As soon as I can beat Darrell (Waltrip) for most wins here they can name [the track] after me. This is his right now,” Busch said. “This is pretty cool. It’s an awesome opportunity to come to Bristol and win in front of these fans -- I love it. It’s a lot of fun and especially five in a row. This is cool. It was a grueling day today.”
“That's a pretty big feat,” runner-up Carl Edwards said. “That's a good weekend right there. To put two back to back like that is pretty amazing.”
While Saturday’s Nationwide win was a dominant one, Busch had to work a little harder to take home the trophy on Sunday. As the race hit the 400-lap mark, it appeared Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet was the car to beat. Yet, on the final pit stop of the day, a No. 48 crew member slipped while the No. 18 team fired on all cylinders, getting their driver out with the lead – something he hung on to for all but one of the final 71 laps.
“Our guys on that last pit stop won this race coming out of the pits first,” he said. “I don’t know if I could have gotten by Carl – Carl was good. Our car was definitely better on the longer run. We kind of stretched it out a little bit there. I was worried that Jimmie might get by him and come frazzle me for a little while. I felt good about these guys and what they did.”
Despite a number of cautions bunching up the field in the final 60 laps, Busch was able to maintain the lead thanks to great restarts and the preferred line on the high side.
“When you get launched down a straightaway, I don't know what the degree of banking here is, 28, 30 degrees, you're running down that banking, it's momentum, instead of coming out of a hole uphill spinning your tires,” Busch explained. “That's basically what the differences are in the two lines, why the outside is better on restarts.”
“I think there was a 10th or so being the leader that you had in your back pocket,” Johnson said after finishing third. “It's all a compounding event. If you can control the race on the restarts, that outside lane has a big advantage, there's a big advantage going up through the gears. There's something with the banking, the transition off the corner onto the straight where you can really launch on that outside lane.”
Using the high line to his advantage, Busch compared it to driving on a freeway off-ramp.
“Take an off ramp or on ramp from a freeway to a freeway, that it kind of circles around, goes back the other way, run on the inside real tight and see how much wheel you have to put in it, and then run on the outside and see how much less wheel you have to put in it. You can carry more momentum and speed up there,” he said.
With Busch in control on the high side, Edwards did nearly all he could to get by on the bottom – everything but moving the No. 18. Diving under Busch in each corner, Edwards was able to put the bumper to Busch, but did not turn him – afterward saying he still owes Busch one.
“I thought I could get to him at the end and rough him up a little bit and maybe get by him, but his car took off,” Edwards said. “I just told them I should have hit him harder when I got to his bumper the first time, but we were racing really hard. His car was better there at the end. I didn’t know how fast Jimmie was, so I thought, ‘Man, if we starting roughing each other up, it might end up worse for us in general.’ But it was a good race at Bristol. Kyle did a good job. Our team did a good job.”
“I have no idea what I'm owed from, so ... You'll have to ask Carl,” Busch said. “Normally when it's against you, you'll always remember it forever. I don't remember what I did that made him mad. Apparently he still thinks that.”
When asked if he was worried about a repeat of 2008, when Edwards turned Busch for the win, Busch admitted it was in the back of his head.
“I was trying to drive away from him so he couldn't have the opportunity to get to me,” he said. “When he got to me that one time, I'm like,’ Oh, man. That was your shot, so nice try.’ He didn't get it done. I thought, ‘Man, if I could just get away from him, I wouldn't have to worry. Concentrate, get going.’”
That is exactly what Busch did, sweeping the weekend in the process.
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