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

1 Comment

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

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Grosjean: ‘Unbelievable’ to score Haas’ best F1 qualifying result in Australia

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Romain Grosjean hailed Haas’ Formula 1 qualifying performance in Australia as “unbelievable” after picking up its best Saturday result since joining the grid.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation into F1 last year, with Grosjean leading its charge through its debut campaign.

Haas enters its sophomore year in 2017 looking to build on its eighth-place finish in the constructors’ championship, and made a strong start in Australia on Saturday.

While new driver Kevin Magnussen dropped out in Q1 following an error on his hot lap, Grosjean was able to take Haas into Q3 before securing sixth place on the grid for Sunday’s season-opener.

The result marks Haas’ best qualifying result to date in F1, beating Grosjean’s run to P7 ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix last November.

“It was quite an unbelievable qualifying session for us. It’s a shame that we didn’t get Kevin there, but the car is looking good, even better than what we’ve seen recently,” Grosjean said after the session.

“We’ve made some good progress over the weekend. There’s a lot more we can understand and analyze but, generally, it’s a great start for us.

“It’s always good to start with a strong qualifying session. It tells you that if you keep improving the car, you could be in a good place very soon. If that’s our baseline, and you can fight between sixth and 10th position, where it’s so tight, it would be great to be there most of the time and enjoy some good times.

“Tomorrow’s start is a big unknown. We’ve been practicing and some have been good, others not so much. Hopefully, we’ll get the first one right tomorrow.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Daniel Ricciardo frustrated to crash out of home F1 qualifying

Leave a comment

Daniel Ricciardo made no secret of his frustration after crash out of Formula 1 qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, resigning himself to a 10th-place start for his home race on Sunday.

Ricciardo entered the Melbourne weekend aiming to become the first Australian to finish on the podium at his home race since the event became part of the F1 world championship in 1985.

Despite struggling with the setup on his RB13 car on Friday, Ricciardo looked poised to claim a top-five grid slot for Sunday’s race, only to lose control of his car at Turn 14 in Q3 and end the session in the wall.

“That was a tough one today. I don’t crash into the barriers often and the last place I want to do that is at home,” Ricciardo said after the session.

“But I feel I crashed for the right reason, as I was basically pushing and trying to find the limit and these things happen, so let’s say I’m not disappointed by the approach, it was just more of a frustrating outcome, starting 10th instead of being under the top five.”

Ever the optimist, Ricciardo said the difficult qualifying will only serve as greater motivation to fight back up the order and give his home fans a result to celebrate on Sunday.

“I knew the crowds would have also preferred to see me further up the grid and it would have been nice to put on a better performance than that but tomorrow is where the points are,” Ricciardo said.

“It’s a chance to create a bigger headline if I have a good race so that’s what will motivate me to do better tomorrow. I made it a bit more difficult for myself but it’s going to be alright.

“To get a good start in the race will be the key. I saved a set of ultra-softs in Q2, I know that not everyone in front of me has, so maybe that gives me a chance.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Valtteri Bottas disappointed with P3 start for Mercedes F1 debut

Leave a comment

Valtteri Bottas came away from qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix feeling disappointed despite securing third place on the grid for his first Formula 1 race as a Mercedes driver.

Bottas joined Mercedes over the winter following world champion Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from racing, and made his first official race weekend appearance for the Silver Arrows on Friday.

The ex-Williams driver made a splash in qualifying by running teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel close, but was left to settle for third on the grid after finishing three-tenths of a second off the pole time.

“Third position is not ideal. In general I’m not happy with the result,” Bottas admitted after qualifying.

“But what I’m really happy about and proud about [is] what the team has done again with this car. I only saw a very small part of the preparation with the new car and the new era of Formula 1, and it’s really nice to see that all the work has paid off and we’re fighting at the very front.

“It seems to be very close this year, especially here. Myself I didn’t get any perfect laps in, so not that satisfied.

“Tomorrow’s the day that matters. It seems like in the race starts we’ve been quite strong. If we can keep that form I had in practice, and have a nice and clean race and get some really good points.”

Bottas’ best finish in Australia currently stands at fifth place in 2014 with Williams, with the Finn never qualifying any higher than sixth at Albert Park in his four previous attempts.

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Vettel: Front-row grid slot for Australia proof of Ferrari’s progress

Leave a comment

Sebastian Vettel believes that his charge to second place on the grid for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix acts as proof of the progress Ferrari’s Formula 1 operation has made over the winter.

Vettel arrived in Australia as one of the favorites to take pole following an impressive showing in pre-season testing, prompting three-time champion Lewis Hamilton to name Ferrari as the leading team.

Hamilton rallied in qualifying to take pole position for Mercedes, beating Vettel by two-tenths of a second, but the Ferrari driver managed to fend off Valtteri Bottas in the second Silver Arrow and clinch a front-row berth.

The result marked Ferrari’s best qualifying result since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Vettel’s and Ferrari’s last pole and victory in F1 – and the German was encouraged by the result.

“I think we have a good car. I think we are working well as a team,” Vettel said.

“Things are improving. Obviously it’s nice to see that things are working, the car is working. I had a mixed day yesterday, but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed that again today.”

Vettel conceded that he felt his final lap in qualifying could have been faster, but doubts it would have been enough to catch pole-sitter Hamilton.

“In the end I was not entirely happy with my lap. I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much,” Vettel said.

“But I think Lewis did a very good lap. I would have loved to, but I don’t think pole was up for grabs. Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday when we had practice.

“It’s been a big winter for us, lots of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last 12 months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger.

“Obviously everyone is pushing very hard and it’s not so easy to come here with a long journey to get to Australia, but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow.

“I think it’s the first good opportunity.”