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Busch retains Nationwide crown at Bristol

Kyle Busch continued his love affair with Bristol Motor Speedway, holding off a spirited challenge from Kyle Larson to win Saturday's Nationwide race.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings

Kyle Busch once again proved himself the master of Bristol, Tennessee as he and his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Matt Kenseth dominated Saturday's Nationwide Series race, the pair between them leading all but two laps of the race before Busch ultimately surged ahead to clinch his 65th victory in 274 series starts by the time that the chequered flag came out.

It has been a different Kyle - Kyle Larson - who had started the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 at the front after winning his first pole in the Nationwide Series in 37 races, having pipped Busch to the top spot by 0.021s with a lap of 15.415s (124.476mph) on the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway short track. However - and rather predictably given his six prior Nationwide wins here - it took Busch only until lap 3 before he bounced back from a sluggish start to punch his way to the lead ahead Kenseth, and the pair were easily able to continue out in front after an early first caution for Jeffrey Earnhart tapping the wall on lap 5.

A lengthy green flag spell saw Kenseth and Richard Childress Racing's Kevin Harvick worked the high line to lead the charge through the backmarkers that left only six cars on the lap by the time everyone needed to make their first round of pit stops, which was neatly facilitated by a debris caution on lap 96. At the restart on lap 100, Kenseth resumed in the lead ahead of Harvick, Busch, Regan Smith and Brendan Gaughan, with Ryan Blaney getting the free pass and Larson sent to the back of the field (but still on the lead lap) for speeding on pit lane.

A caution for Mike Bliss pinning into the wall on lap 134 enabled some cars to get back on the lead lap by staying off pit road and taking the wavearound, but when the race resumed on lap 146 Kenseth once again took charge of the leaders as they again carved their way through the crowded traffic conditions until a new debris caution on lap 214 enabled everyone to make their final planned pitstops under yellow. Busch won the race off pit road and led Kenseth and Harvick to the green flag on lap 220 but the race was under caution three laps later when Ruben Garcia Jr. spun the #24 into a hard nose-first impact with the inside retaining wall coming off turn 2 to bring out the fifth yellow of the day with 66 of the 300 lap race distance remaining.

While Busch continued to lead, it was Larson who was coming on strong. After having worked his way back to the leaders following his earlier pit road speeding penalty, Larson passed Harvick for second and promptly set to work reeling in Busch, potentially setting up a replay of 2013's photo finish between the two namesakes. A caution for Ryan Reed spinning out into the inside wall on the backstretch while duelling with James Buescher closed the field up once again, requiring Busch to ace the restart on lap 269 to stay ahead of Harvick and Kenseth as Larson temporarily fell back to fifth behind Chase Elliott. The #42 had just got back up to fourth when a new caution materialised on lap 287 for Jeremy Clements scraping the outside wall in turn 4.

That set up a nine-lap shootout to decide the race: the high line was the place to be, which helped propel Larson past both Harvick and Kenseth into second place, but all the time that he spent consolidating that gain by warding off Harvick's counterattack gave Kyle Busch the chance to blast to safety and pick up his seventh Bristol victory and his third here in a row after leading for 120 laps, some way short of Kenseth's grand total of 179 although the #20 slumped to fifth place behind Ryan Blaney in the closing minutes after that poor restart.

"I've sort of figured it out," said Busch, a master of understatement when it comes to the superiority he enjoys at Bristol. "Started running up front, leading laps, winning races. Why that all is, I don't know. I just enjoy coming to banked race tracks.

"The biggest thing was that the track changed so much from practice. It was entirely different, not even close," crediting crew chief dam Stevens for freeing up the #54 over the course of the race. Even so, Busch admitted that this time he feared his team mate might have the better of him: "Kenseth was lightning fast much of the day and I was having a hard time catching him. I was just able to bide my time through traffic a little bit better than he did and he got stuck and I passed him kind of the same way he did to me earlier in the race."

Having clinched the win, Busch will be hoping that the strong form showed here by the JGR team will translate into similar success in the Sprint Cup race, but the biggest headache for everyone on Sunday might be the weather with rain and even snow forecast over the next 48 hours.

Further back behind Kenseth, Ty Dillon was the highest-placed Nationwide regular in sixth place ahead of Brendan Gaughan and Trevor Bayne. In the Nationwide championship standings, Regan Smith continues to lead by one point over Trevor Bayne after coming home in tenth place just behind Chase Elliott.

Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Nationwide Series championship standings



Related Pictures

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Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Cartwheel Chevrolet, pits during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit:  Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 15, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet SS, finishes in eighth place Sunday, March 29, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident in front of Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, as Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Hormel/Menards Toyota, drives away during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, and Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Hormel/Menards Toyota, race into turn one during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on March 28, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Joey Logano (left), driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Joey Logano (left), driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, poses with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the Coors Light Pole Award for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 27, 2015 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet, races during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Sport Clips Toyota, leads Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 22, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Doug Pensinger/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS finishes in sixth place and Paul Menard, driver of the #27 FVP/Menards Chevrolet SS finishes in fourth place Sunday, March 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS finishes in third place and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS finishes in second place Sunday, March 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #88 taxslayer.com Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive4Clots.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 21, 2015 in Fontana, California.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #88 taxslayer.com Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive4Clots.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 21, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #88 taxslayer.com Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive4Clots.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway on March 21, 2015 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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