Kyle Busch wins seventh career Nationwide race at Bristol, record 16th triumph there overall

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Its official name is Bristol Motor Speedway, but the .533-mile bullring might as well be renamed Busch Motor Speedway going forward.

In his 20th NASCAR Nationwide Series start at BMS, Kyle Busch earned his seventh win – his third in a row and sixth in his last eight NNS starts there – in Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300.

Busch now has a record 16 career wins at Bristol across all three of NASCAR’s major series — Nationwide (seven wins), Sprint Cup (five) and Camping World Trucks (four) — the most total race wins by a driver at a single track in NASCAR history.

Busch led 119 laps and easily cruised to victory, finishing 1.441 seconds ahead of runnerup Kyle Larson.

Busch pulled away from the pack following the final restart with nine laps remaining in the event, but no one could mount a serious challenge as each lap clicked off.

“We really had to change our car a lot today,” Busch said. “This car was awesome. A couple of those guys got close. (Matt) Kenseth was really fast, lightning fast much of the day, and I was having a hard time catching him. I just bided my time a little bit better than he did, and he got stuck.

“It’s always fun to win at Bristol. It doesn’t matter whether they’re cheering or booing. Hopefully, we can sweep the weekend. … What we accomplished today was pretty good.”

Only three drivers led the race: Matt Kenseth led the most (179), Busch (119) and Larson (two).

But seven Nationwide wins is only scratching the surface of just how dominant the younger Busch brother continues to be at Bristol, without question his most successful race track across all three of NASCAR’s professional touring series. In addition to his seven NNS wins, he also has 13 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes at Bristol in NASCAR’s junior circuit.

In the Camping World Trucks Series, Busch has eight starts, four wins, five top-5 and six top-10 finishes at Bristol.

And come Sunday in the weekend’s main event, the Food City 500, Busch will be going for his sixth Sprint Cup win in 19 starts. He also has eight top-five and 12 top-10 Cup finishes in NASCAR’s premier series at Bristol.

Kevin Harvick finished third in Saturday’s race, followed by Ryan Blaney and Kenseth. Sixth through 10th were Ty Dillon, Brendon Gaughan, Trevor Bayne, Chase Elliott and Regan Smith.

Smith barely held on to his points lead in the NNS standings. He leads Trevor Bayne by one point, is eight points ahead of Ty Dillon, 13 points in front of Chase Elliott and 16 points ahead of Elliott Sadler.

Also of note in Saturday’s race, rookie Cale Conley finished an impressive 11th in his first career NNS start.

Drivers Ryan Reed and 18-year-old Ruben Garcia Jr. (making his second career NNS start), wrecked out in the latter stages of the race.

Here’s the finishing order in Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway:

1 Kyle Busch
2 Kyle Larson
3 Kevin Harvick
4 Ryan Blaney
5 Matt Kenseth
6 Ty Dillon
7 Brendan Gaughan
8 Trevor Bayne
9 Chase Elliott
10 Regan Smith
11 Cale Conley
12 Landon Cassill
13 James Buescher
14 Brian Scott
15 Dylan Kwasniewski
16 Chris Buescher
17 Elliott Sadler
18 Jeremy Clements
19 Joe Nemechek
20 Ryan Sieg
21 Timmy Hill
22 Will Kimmel III
23 Jamie Dick
24 Dakoda Armstrong
25 Mike Wallace
26 Mike Bliss
27 Eric McClure
28 Derrike Cope
29 Joey Gase
30 Josh Wise
31 Ryan Reed
32 Jeffrey Earnhardt
33 Ruben Garcia Jr.
34 Kevin Lepage
35 Kelly Admiraal
36 Tanner Berryhill
37 Matt Carter
38 Carl Long
39 Matt DiBenedetto
40 Blake Koch

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‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’

Photo: Chris Estrada, NBC Sports
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NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”