BRISTOL, Tenn. – Ryan Blaney swept past Kyle Busch on a restart with seven laps to go and held on to win Friday night’s rain-delayed Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Until the final restart, Busch appeared dominant and on his way to his seventh win in his last nine NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at Bristol.
Blaney’s victory was his first this season and second in 24 career Nationwide Series races.
“It’s awesome to be here in Bristol in Victory Lane,” said Blaney. “Really I was worrying about salvaging second because Kyle was so good … But we were ready for our opportunity. Luckily we got it and we were able to take advantage of it.”
Busch, however, was not happy with Blaney’s timing on the final restart.
“The leader is always at the biggest disadvantage,” Busch said. “The 22 (Blaney) was five mph faster than me by the first double stripe. I didn’t go because I didn’t want to go, but everybody behind me is trying to go. It’s stupid.
“One of these days I’m going to lock all four down and stack the whole field up. You’re supposed to be nose-to-nose on the restart. When the leader picks up pace, everybody else (is supposed to) pick up pace.”
Blaney saw it differently.
“Kyle didn’t go on that final restart,” Blaney said.” He said his tires were jacked up. But we got to the second (yellow) line and we went. Luckily, we were able to hold him off there. It was one heckuva race.”
Blaney survived contact with Kyle Larson with 19 laps remaining before fending off Busch down the stretch.
Series points leader Chase Elliott finished third with Ty Dillon fourth and Regan Smith fifth. Elliott had a bird’s eye view of the final restart.
“No harm, no foul (the way I saw it),” said Elliott, who led 59 of the first 149 laps. “I saw Kyle make a rare mistake on the restart. It was really hard not to spin your tires. One guy (Busch) spun his tires and the other guy capitalized.”
Larson seemed to be posing the most serious challenge to Busch until he tangled with Blaney with 19 laps remaining. That collision sent Larson into a spin that led to heavy contact with his Turner Scott Motorsports teammate Dylan Kwasniewski.
Busch had wrestled the lead from Kyle Larson after a restart on Lap 195 and appeared on his way to dominating the the remainder of the race in his Monster Energy Toyota.
He drew away from Dillon on restarts with 33 and 13 laps remaining. But the race’s 10th caution flag prevented him from posting his 67th career Nationwide victory in 287 starts.
Aside from Busch, Larson, Elliott and Blaney, the only other driver to lead laps was Elliott Sadler, whose championship hopes took a hit. Sadler, who began the night third in points, 16 behind Elliott, suffered front end damage in a collision with Timmy Hill on Lap 185 and ended up hitting the wall twice before race’s end, settling for 29st place.