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Busch bumps past Larson for Food City 500 victory

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 16, 2018 at 7:34 PM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kyle Busch brought the bump-and-run back to Bristol Motor Speedway to win Monday's rain-delayed Food City 500.

Busch, driving the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, bumped Kyle Larson's No. 42 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet between turns 3 and 4 with five laps to go and raced to his seventh Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Bristol and his track-record 21st win overall.

Coming on the heels of his victory at Texas a week ago, this marked the fifth time in his Cup career that Busch scored back-to-back wins. It was his 45th career victory, moving him past Hall of Famer Bill Elliott into 16th place on NASCAR's all-time wins list.

But the key to Busch’s winning move Monday was not giving Larson a chance to get even.

Photo gallery: Kyle Busch wins at Bristol

"It was all about chasing down that No. 42 and being able to get to him," Busch said. "I thought about holding that bump-and-run deal to the last lap, but I took my chances with it. If he got back to my rear bumper, so be it, that's fair game to race that way. Fortunately, I was able to get away and he wasn't able to get to me."

AT THE FINISH

Larson was understandably frustrated after having the dominant car most of the day. He had raced out to a seven-second lead on Sunday before the race was stopped for rain. He had a commanding lead again on Monday until a late caution for Brad Keselowski's Ford blowing a left front tire and spewing debris on the track led to a late-race showdown.

Larson has finished as runner-up to Busch four times at BMS, the first three in NASCAR Xfinity Series races.

"As soon as I restarted, I was extremely loose and just didn't have any grip," said Larson, who led four times for a race-high 200 laps. "I thought I could get going, but I never really did. I hate that I didn't win. It's another one at Bristol that got away. Some race. I've been beaten by Kyle about every time I've raced here, too. That gets frustrating after a while."

It was the opposite feeling for third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time NASCAR champion saw his career-long winless streak reach 31 races but earned his first top five of the season and first since Dover in October.

"We've been talking about our cars performing better and driving better, but to finally back it up with a solid finish is exactly what we needed," said the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. "I really feel like we're rolling in the right direction now."

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in a Ford and Alex Bowman in a Chevrolet rounded out the top five. Ford drivers Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano took the next four positions, followed by Ryan Newman in 10th in a Chevrolet.

STAGE RACING

Keselowski won the race’s first two stages. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford used pit strategy to get out front in stage 1, but it put him back to 14th when the race was halted for weather after 204 laps Sunday.

With new left-side tires, Keselowski quickly stormed through the field when the race resumed. He passed leader Larson for the lead on lap 244 and then held off Busch to win the second stage.

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