BRISTOL, Tenn. - Kyle Larson was well aware something was missing when he took the checkered flag in Friday night’s Food City 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
That something was Kyle Busch.
Starting from the pole, Busch led the first 69 laps of the race but slammed the Turn 3 wall on Lap 70 — the eventual result of a brush with the Turn 2 wall on Lap 66 — and exited the race with a broken front suspension.
Larson took over after that and rolled home with the win in overtime, with Xfinity Series leader Christopher Bell close behind.
But Larson would rather have beaten Busch at the finish as well.
“I wish he could have been in the field,” Larson said after the race. “He checked out that one run, but I was closing on him there at the beginning.
“I felt like Bell was just as good, if not better than Kyle. It was good to battle Chris and still get the win.”
Larson and Bell are long-time competitors in open-wheel events on dirt, and Larson is looking forward to his rival’s ascension to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series — perhaps as much as Bell is.
“It’s going to be fun,” Larson said. “I feel like it’s been the Kyle and Kyle show at a lot of these places, but with Chris’s driving style, I feel like it’s going to be the Kyle, Kyle and Chris show at a lot of these places, especially at Bristol.
“I’m excited for him to get his Cup opportunity, whenever that might arise. It’s always fun racing Chris and Kyle.”
ROUSH FENWAY’S NO. 60 CAR TRYING TO OUTLIVE APPARENT “CURSE”
You have to feel sorry for crew chief Mike Kelley, who is tasked with preparing the No. 60 Roush Fenway Ford for a trio of young Xfinity Series drivers — Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Ty Majeski.
No matter which young gun is driving the No. 60 Mustang, the car can’t seem to avoid trouble, often through no fault of the drivers.
Cindric was behind the wheel in the season-opening race at Daytona and crashed out in last place after 10 laps, the first of eight DNFs for the No. 60 this season. All told, the car has sustained damage in 17 of 22 races and has finished on the lead lap just seven times.
Majeski owns the best finish in the car this year, a seventh at Iowa, but that came after he crashed out in his first three races in the 60.
On Friday night at Bristol, with Briscoe driving, bad karma (or maybe it should be “carma”) once again struck the star-crossed Mustang. Racing side-by-side with Ross Chastain, Briscoe washed up into Chastain’s car and nosed into the inside wall, ending his race after 142 laps.
“I just got racing with the 4 (Chastain) really hard,” Briscoe said. “I’m all for hard racing, but it’s just frustrating when he lets four guys in a row go. We were faster than him and just kept hitting on him and hitting on him. I just kept trying to pass him on the inside.
“I could never clear him, and I just got tight underneath him and drove up the race track a little bit and got my right-front up into him and spun out and hit the inside wall. It’s definitely frustrating.
“I hate it for all the 60 guys. They’ve had to work on a lot of race cars this year. I felt like we had decent speed tonight and maybe could have contended for a top-10, but the day got cut short.”
Given the history, perhaps it’s time to do what you do when an old girlfriend won’t stop calling — change the number.
The most striking aspect of Martin Truex Jr.’s question-and-answer session with reporters on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway was that the reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion’s status for 2019 is still in limbo.
With the announced departure of sponsor 5-hour Energy, Furniture Row Racing has open inventory on the hood of Truex’s No. 78 Toyota, which also receives support from NASCAR perennial Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats and Auto-Owners Insurance.
Truex is in a contract year and has yet to re-sign with Furniture Row, which in turn has yet to re-up its manufacturer deal with Toyota.
Asked to estimate the percentage chance he will return to Furniture Row next season, Truex replied:
“That’s hard to put a number on. Honestly, I really don’t know. I think in another week or two I’ll have a better answer for you. Better percentage — right now, we need sponsorship, and that’s as simple as it gets.
“It’s hard to say. Is there a 50 percent chance we get that in a couple weeks or 100 percent chance or two percent? I don’t know. I can tell you that everything is based upon that.”
It’s clear, though, that Truex would prefer to remain with team owner Barney Visser and crew chief Cole Pearn, even though rumors of other options already have begun to circulate.
“I’m starting to hear rumors,” Truex acknowledged. “That’s kind of how it works in this sport. I’ve been in this position before. I’ve got a great team — Barney has done a lot for my career.
“It’s something we all want to keep going and just need a little bit of time to let the dominoes fall into place and see if we can keep it going. And, if not, I have to figure it out from there.”
— NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.