Last August Kyle Busch became the first NASCAR driver to ever a sweep a complete weekend with victories in all three of the sports’ national touring series events at Bristol Motor Speedway. His encore this weekend at the famed short track proved to be nearly as impressive, although with no Truck Series race on the schedule he had to settle for just two victories instead of three.
Busch, who captured Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday by leading 266 of the race’s 300 laps, would complete the sweep again with a strong first-place run in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Unfortunately the good fortune didn’t extend to his teammates as a late tire issue relegated Joey Logano to a 23rd-place finish and damage from an early wreck left Denny Hamlin with an ill-handling car and a 33rd-place finish.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the 12th position and was stellar from the outset yet again. Navigating his way to the front of the field Busch took the lead for the first time on lap 85. From there Busch spent the rest of the day inside the top-five and much of that was spent trading out of the lead position with Jimmie Johnson. As the leaders came down pit road for the final stop of the day late in the race, Busch was running in the second position, but the M&Ms crew put together a stellar stop to put him back out in front. Busch knew what to do from there as he would never relinquish the lead and went on to capture his first win of the 2011 season. In all he would lead seven times for 153 total laps.
Joey Logano started the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the 18th position and would report an apparent issue with his engine early in the race. Despite the problems he managed to race his way back inside the top 20 through the first third of the race and had entered the top 15 midway through the 500-lap affair. Logano continued to get stronger as the race went on and appeared set for a top-ten finish, but a problem with his right front tire following the day’s final pit stop would prove costly. The tire would give way with about 20 laps remaining and the trip to make repairs under green conditions would set him back several laps and leave him with a frustrating 23rd-place finish.
Hamlin qualified the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in 25th position and found early misfortune on the tight confines of the half-mile track. With several cars wrecking in front of Hamlin on lap 28 he was unable to avoid contact and it caused damage to his No. 11 Camry. Although the FedEx team worked quickly to make repairs the damage affected the handle on the car and Hamlin was unable to keep it on the lead lap. Further diagnosis showed that the toe of his car had been knocked out causing an extremely loose race car and it was all Hamlin could do to keep the car on the track and out of trouble. He would ride it out to a 33rd-place finish 12 laps off the pace.
Carl Edwards finished second behind Busch, while Jimmie Johnson was third, Matt Kenseth fourth, and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five. There were 10 cautions for a total of 59 laps and 17 lead changes among eight different drivers over the course of the 500-lap race.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the west coast next week at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA on Sunday, March 27. The race will begin at 3 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 2:30 PM ET. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.