Bristol, TN – Kyle Busch claimed his fifth Nationwide Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway after beating rookie Kyle Larson to the finish line by just inches in Saturday's Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 300.
In what turned out to be an epic battle on the final lap, Larson, who made only his fourth Nationwide start, nearly stole one from Busch, the series' all-time race winner.
Larson chased down Busch for the lead in the closing laps and ran right behind him heading into the final lap of this 300-lap race. As they came out of the last turn, Busch went low while Larson moved up high in an attempt to pass for the lead.
While trying to squeeze through on the frontstretch, Larson's Chevrolet made contact with the outside wall and then bumped into the side of Busch's Toyota. Busch nipped Larson to the finish line by 0.023 seconds, making it the second closest ending in a Nationwide race at this 0.533-mile, high-banked oval.
"I just did everything I could to try to protect the momentum," Busch said. "I knew the 70 car (the lapped car of Brad Teague) was going to be slow off of the top, so I figured maybe I would have enough off of the bottom to beat the 32 (Larson) to at least my quarter panel. I guess it all worked out. I don't know how close it was, but maybe it was too close."
Busch led the most laps with 156. He took the lead for the final time after passing Kevin Harvick with 64 laps to go.
Larson had not been a factor in this race until the last 50 laps. He gained on leader Busch and second-place Harvick before the final caution came with 35 laps left. During the caution, Harvick gave up his position when opted to pit for new tires while the other front runners remained on the track.
Larson ran in second for the final restart with 27 laps to go.
"I was pretty happy that Kyle (Busch) went to the bottom on the last corner, because it was going to give me one more shot to get by him," Larson said. "I kept the fenders on the car all day, but I had to use them up coming to the finish line to try to beat Kyle."
Larson, who is driving the No. 32 car for Turner Scott Motorsports this year, made headlines last month when he was caught up in a horrifying crash during the final lap of the Nationwide season-opener at Daytona International Speedway. He flipped around and sailed into the catch fence along the frontstretch before coming back down on the track. Dozens of spectators in the grandstands were injured from flying debris. Larson was not hurt during the incident.
Larson finished 13th at both Daytona and Phoenix before placing 32nd at Las Vegas, where he was involved in a late-race wreck.
"Battling Kyle Larson, a young kid like that, he's got a lot of talent," Busch noted. "He's going to make a name for himself. Well obviously, he already has made a name for himself. I think he's got a lot going for him."
In the August 2011 Nationwide event at Bristol, Busch beat his then Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano to the finish line by just 0.019 seconds.
"I don't like making them close, but it's more exciting for the fans," Busch said.
Busch extended his Nationwide record of career victories to 53. Two weeks ago at Phoenix, he snapped his 18-month, 24-race winless streak in the series. Busch also moved into a tie with Harvick for most Nationwide wins at Bristol.
Busch will also start on the pole for Sunday's 500-lap Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol. On Friday, he broke a decade-old track qualifying record here with a lap at 128.709 mph. Busch has won five Sprint Cup races at this track as well.
Brian Vickers, who is Busch's Nationwide teammate at JGR, finished third, while Sam Hornish Jr., the current points leader and last weekend's race winner at Las Vegas, took the fourth spot. Harvick was fifth.
Regan Smith, Chris Buescher, Justin Allgaier, the pole sitter, Parker Kligerman and Brian Scott completed the top-10.
Elliott Sadler, who won at Bristol one year ago, suffered engine failure in the early going and wound up finishing 36th. Sadler has finished second in the Nationwide point standings the past two years.
"It's a tough deal," he said. "I really wanted to run the whole race here. This puts us in a whole, but we have a lot of racing left to do this season."
Hornish holds a 22-point lead over Allgaier, as the series heads west again next weekend to Fontana, Calif.