Chris Buescher tried to turn Friday night’s Food City 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway into a fuel mileage race, last pitting on lap 130 and hoping to go the last 170 laps on his final tank of fuel. The strategy failed when a yellow flag with five laps to go sent the race into extra laps with a green-white-checker finish. Instead, Kyle Busch got by him in the extra laps to take the win, while Buescher ran out of fuel and wound up 11th.
“It’s unfortunate,” Buescher said. “I’m really upset. It was a really good day for our Roush Performance Tindol Ford Mustang. We just needed the track position. We were faster than a lot of guys we were racing around all day, and once we got track position, we showed we could run away from these guys. We had the speed, but it wasn’t meant to b. I’m glad we took the chance.”
The win was Busch’s eighth at Bristol in Xfinity Series competition. It was also his 150th career-victory across all three NASCAR national series — Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck. He latest win came after 89 laps led in the race that was scheduled for a 300-lap distance but was extended to 302 laps by the green-white-checker attempt. That tally didn’t give Busch most laps led honors, though. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin, led 106 laps, matching the number of laps led by Buescher before Buescher ran out of fuel. Hamlin finished third, while Kyle Larson took runner-up honors.
“I wasn’t sure if they (Buescher and the No. 60 team) were going to make it on fuel and, obviously, they cut it close, a little too close,” Busch said. “I just can’t say enough about everyone from Monster Energy and everyone who works on this program for us.”
Hamlin started the race on the pole, with Busch next to him on the front row. Four Sprint Cup Series regulars competed in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race, with Kevin Harvick starting third to join Busch and Hamlin for a Sprint Cup one-two-three on the starting grid. Larson, the other Sprint Cup regular in the race, started seventh.
Busch and Hamlin combined to lead all but one lap before Buescher was one of only two drivers to stay out during the fourth yellow flag that came on lap 192 to take the race lead. That one other lap was led by Harvick when he temporarily got by Hamlin on lap 125 for one lap led.
Once Buescher took the lead with the pit strategy of staying out, he didn’t relinquish it until running out of fuel in the final two extra laps. He did, though, have to hold off Busch through three restarts before the final, fateful eighth restart.
Series regulars Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez rounded out the top-five. Finishing sixth through 10th were Brian Scott, Chase Elliott, Harvick, Regan Smith and Brendan Gaughan. With his fifth-place finish, Suarez claimed the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus as the highest-finishing driver among the four drivers qualified for the Bristol bonus.
“I didn’t win it; we won it,” Suarez said. “We are a great team. Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing — all these guys who help to put this program together, I’m very, very thankful for them. All the hard work looks like it’s paying off. I’m very happy.”
He also made himself eligible to race for another Dash 4 Cash bonus at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on Sept. 5. The other three drivers racing Suarez for the bonus at Darlington will be Dillon, Scott and Elliott by virtue of being the other three highest-finishing Xfinity Series championship-eligible drivers.