In perhaps the best race of the young NASCAR season, Kyle Busch outran hard-charging youngster Kyle Larson in a 100-yard dash to the finish and won Saturday’s Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300 Nationwide race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Results: Grit Chips 300
Larson trailed Busch for most of the closing portion of the race and appeared to have little shot at passing him on the final lap because lapped traffic was in the way.
But Larson roared to the outside coming into the fourth turn on the final lap and slammed side-to-side with Busch as they crossed the finish line, Busch winning by about half a car length. The official margin was .023 of a second, making the finish the second closest Nationwide finish in track history.
Completing the top five were Brian Vickers, Sam Hornish Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Hornish kept the series point lead.
“A young kid like that – he has a lot of talent,” Busch said of Larson. “He’s got a lot going for him. It was fun racing with him. I wish it was a little easier on me.
“I don’t like making them close, but it’s more exciting for the fans.”
Larson, whose involvement in a last-lap crash at Daytona in the season opener drew national attention because of fans being injured in the grandstand, shadowed Busch for lap after lap approaching the finish.
“I didn’t think I was going to have enough momentum to get by him, whether he squeezed me or not,” Larson said. “It made for a heck of a finish.”
Busch, Kevin Harvick and Larson were wrestling for the lead with 35 to go when Jason White hit the wall, causing the race’s eighth caution.
Surprisingly, Harvick pitted from second place for four tires and dropped to eighth for the restart. He wasn’t able to make up the difference to challenge for the lead again.
The landscape of the race changed dramatically with 106 laps to go when Brad Keselowski crashed into the turn-three wall after battling Regan Smith for the lead.
Five laps earlier, Keselowski’s car sustained left front damage as he and Smith raced hard for the lead. Their cars touched as Smith slipped up the track.
Keselowski stayed in the lead, but the car’s fender rubbed against the tire, and it blew five laps later.
Keselowski pitted for four tires and lost a lap to the leaders. Harvick moved in front after Keselowski’s problem.
The race was slowed for 12 laps on lap 106 after a major accident in turn one. Jamie Dick, who had spun earlier to bring out the first caution, was tapped by Brian Vickers, and Dick’s car slid into the inside wall and bounced back into the low groove. Nelson Piquet Jr., trailing the accident, couldn’t avoid Dick’s Chevrolet and slammed into it, seriously damaging both cars.
A few laps later, Jeremy Clements, returning to the series after a two-race suspension, slapped the outside wall and damaged the right side of his Chevrolet, bringing out the day’s fourth caution.
Turn one hosted another crash on lap 160 as Brad Teague tagged Hal Martin, sending Martin into a spin and into the path of Jeffrey Earnhardt. Austin Dillon was involved in the tail end of the crash, causing minor front-end damage to his car.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.