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Kyle Busch remains peerless at Bristol in Nationwide Series

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By Seth Livingstone (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — Kyle Larson had a plan in mind for the finish. But Kyle Busch has it all figured out at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch became the first driver in history to post 16 victories at a single track in NASCAR’s three national touring series, pulling away from the field after the final restart with nine laps remaining, to win Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 presented by Lilly Diabetes.

Busch, a five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner at Bristol, won for the sixth time in his last eight NASCAR Nationwide Series starts on the .533-mile track.

Larson, who battled side-by-side with Busch in the final laps of last year’s Nationwide race at Bristol, took second place from Kevin Harvick with seven laps remaining but had no shot at catching Busch.

“I was not going to be as nice as I was last year,” said Larson envisioning a replay of his 2013 battle to the wire at Bristol in which he came up 0.023 seconds short.

But plans to thwart Busch never materialized. Larson slipped up the track, too high, and Busch pulled away to win by 1.441 seconds.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re cheering or booing,” said Busch, who has seven victories and 16 top-10 finishes in 20 career Nationwide starts at Bristol. “Hopefully we can sweep the weekend.”

Larson, who started on the pole, was the only driver besides Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth to lead a lap. Busch led the final 91 on his way to his celebratory burnout.

“When I got too high in (turns) 1 and 2 and Kevin (Harvick) got to my inside, I knew that was it for the race,” said Larson, who has top-10 finishes in each of his three Nationwide starts at Bristol. “I knew I had to hold on for second.”

Busch remains hard-pressed to come up with a definitive reason for his success at Bristol.

“My first time here in 2004 was a test with my Hendrick (Motorsports) Nationwide guys,” he recalled. “My throttle hung going into Turn 1 and I killed the car.

“(Since then) I’ve sort of figured it out, started running up front, leading laps, winning races. Why that all is, I don’t know. I just enjoy coming to banked race tracks. Bristol reminds me a bit of one of my favorite tracks where I ran late models, Winchester (Speedway) in Indiana.”

Busch had his hands full with Kenseth for much of Saturday’s race. Kenseth, driving his first Nationwide Series race at Bristol since 2009, led 178 of the first 209 laps but finished fifth behind Ryan Blaney.

“Kenseth was lightning fast much of the day and I was having a hard time catching him,” Busch said. “The biggest thing was that the track changed so much from practice. It was entirely different — not even close. Adam (Stevens, Busch’s crew chief) made some really good calls on the pit box trying to free me up.”

Kenseth’s struggles came in traffic and trying to make up ground when restarting on the bottom.

“We had a good car, early, and in the whole race but just kind of got picked in traffic,” Kenseth said. “Once (Busch) got the lead, it was hard to beat him.”

Rounding out the top 10 were Ty Dillon (the highest-finishing rookie), Brendan

Gaughan, Trevor Bayne, Chase Elliott and Regan Smith, who continues to lead the series points standings, one point ahead of Bayne.

  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Kyle Larson
  3. Kevin Harvick
  4. Ryan Blaney
  5. Matt Kenseth
  6. Ty Dillon
  7. Brendan Gaughan
  8. Trevor Bayne
  9. Chase Elliott
  10. Regan Smith,
  11. Cale Conley
  12. Landon Cassill
  13. James Buescher
  14. Brian Scott
  15. Dylan Kwasniewski
  16. Chris Buescher
  17. Elliott Sadler
  18. Jeremy Clements
  19. Joe Nemechek
  20. Ryan Sieg
  21. Timmy Hill
  22. Will Kimmel
  23. Jamie Dick
  24. Dakoda Armstrong
  25. Mike Wallace
  26. Mike Bliss
  27. Eric McClure
  28. Derrike Cope
  29. Joey Gase
  30. Josh Wise
  31. Ryan Reed
  32. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  33. Ruben Garcia Jr.
  34. Kevin Lepage
  35. Kelly Admiraal
  36. Tanner Berryhill
  37. Matt Carter
  38. Carl Long
  39. Matt Dibenedetto
  40. Blake Koch

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