Kyle Busch finally broke the tie with Mark Martin at the top of the "most wins in the Nationwide Series" records to enter the history books all by himself, taking his 50th series victory with the Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Friday night.
But Kyle was made to work for it, most dramatically at the end by his Joe Gibbs Racing Cup team mate Joey Logano, despite a first half that saw Busch lead every one of the 112 laps on the short half-mile oval and looking like he was cruising to victory lane on autopilot.
Then came lap 113, and with Busch hung up in traffic it allowed Clint Bowyer to close right up on the #18's bumper and take the lead for himself. Bowyer was still in front when a caution came out on lap 125 for a flat tyre on the #51 of Jeremy Clements, and maintained the top spot through the ensuing pit stops. There were two more rapid fire cautions - on lap 136 when Kenny Wallace blew a tyre and hit the wall into turns 3 and 4, and on lap 154 when Parker Kligerman half-spun in turn 2 while battling with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - which meant that Busch hadn't been able to fight back, and Bowyer continued to lead to the restart.
Once there was a return to green flag conditions, Busch retook the lead on lap 162 and led for another 25 laps, but Bowyer stayed in touch and retook the position just two laps before a caution came out on lap 191 for a blown tyre on David Starr's #33 which sent him into the wall at turn 1.
Busch, Bowyer and Carl Edwards all came into pit lane for fresh tyres, while Joey Logano, Jason Leffler and Elliott Sadler all gambled on staying out on old rubber and duly inherited the top spots. While Busch and Bowyer quickly dispatched Leffler and Sadler, the arrangement seemed to suit Logano just fine and while he soon surrendered the lead to Busch he was still able to stay with the #18 as the threesome broke away from the rest of the field on an all-green run to the chequered flag. Busch gradually eased out a lead of eight-tenths over Logano, but as the tyre wear disparity evened out in the final laps Logano was suddenly on it and cut through the gap to put himself right in a position to take the win.
"I don't know where he came from," said Busch. "He had a rocket ship there at the end. I just kept getting a little bit looser and a little bit looser the more we ran there," admitting that if the race had been two or three laps longer then Logano would probably have had the edge and gone on to beat him.
"I did everything I could have done besides wrecking him, but that ain't the right thing to do when he's your teammate! So we did everything we could do," said Logano.
In the end, Kyle crossed the finish line just 0.019s ahead of Logano, making it the closest finish at Bristol since electronic timing and scoring was introduced in 1993 - a classic way for him to finally take the record for most Nationwide Series wins in his own right after break the tie at the top of the history books with Mark Martin that he achieved at New Hampshire in July.
"It's awesome," Busch said. "To come here and to be able to beat [Mark's] record here at Bristol, one of my favourite places and one of the team's favourite places, it was certainly an awesome race." Martin has held the record since 1997.
Sadly for Busch, any hopes that he might be able to repeat his clean sweep of all three national-level races at Bristol this week have already been dashed after he spun out in the mid-week Camping World Truck Series race
on Wednesday night after contact with Elliott Sadler. Busch initially hinted that Sadler may have spun him on purpose, as part of the continued hostilities between Busch at the Richard Childress Racing/Kevin Harvick Inc. stable, but Busch said on Friday that the incident had been smoothed over between them the following day.
"Just talked to Elliott. It's all good," Busch confirmed. "It's over, it's done with, it's in the past. We agreed on some things, so it was a delightful conversation."
For his part, Harvick - who wasn't running on Friday - said curtly that Kyle "keeps running his mouth, he might get it whipped off the track," suggesting fireworks when the two meet on track in the Cup race on Saturday night.
As it was, Friday's Nationwide race turned out to be a Cup-dominated affair, with no Nationwide Series regular getting to lead a single lap and the highest placed Nationwide driver (Aric Almirola) managing only fifth place. But two Cup drivers - David Reutimann and Kasey Kahne - had an early clash on lap 35 that spun Reutimann in turn 4 to bring out the first caution of the night. Both drivers were able to carry on, but they both finished two laps off the lead.
Earlier in the day, Kyle Busch had also topped qualifying with a lap time of 15.979s putting him 0.018s ahead of Logano, who shared the front row with him at the green flag.
Among the six drivers that failed to qualify for the 43-car grid was TJ Bell, who earlier was involved in a pit lane accident that saw him reverse the #50 over a crewman working underneath it. The mechanic - car chief Cory Howe - was airlifted to a nearby medical facility for treatment, but was confirmed to have suffered only minor injuries
Full race results, qualifying and practice