NASCAR Barometer: Busch Sweeps Back-to-Back Weekends

NASCAR Barometer: Busch Sweeps Back-to-Back Weekends

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Despite not having the fastest car throughout Saturday night's race, Kyle Busch was able to run away from the field in the Duck Commander 500 after the final restart of the race. It was Busch's fourth straight NASCAR national series win, and the second weekend in a row in which the defending Sprint Cup champion swept the races at the track. The race's other top contender was Martin Truex Jr., who made a poor decision to stay out on old tires in the final caution periods. Had Cole Pearn and Truex come to the pits for fresh tires, we might have seen Busch battle a third contender in the final miles instead of driving away from the field.

Additionally, Saturday's Duck Commander 500 was a race full of incidents on pit road. Teams and drivers struggled with penalties and mistakes that disrupted otherwise solid performances on the track. Some drivers recovered from those pit road issues while others just continued to sink. Jimmie Johnson was one of the fastest cars in the race until contact exiting pit road. A number of drivers either missed lug nuts or had loose wheels that required extra stops to fix, while others were penalized and kicked to the back of the field. It was a race where if driver and team simply remained mistake free, they had a chance to score a top finish. Rest assured that trend won't continue next week at Bristol Motor Speedway.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch – Yet again Kyle Busch

Despite not having the fastest car throughout Saturday night's race, Kyle Busch was able to run away from the field in the Duck Commander 500 after the final restart of the race. It was Busch's fourth straight NASCAR national series win, and the second weekend in a row in which the defending Sprint Cup champion swept the races at the track. The race's other top contender was Martin Truex Jr., who made a poor decision to stay out on old tires in the final caution periods. Had Cole Pearn and Truex come to the pits for fresh tires, we might have seen Busch battle a third contender in the final miles instead of driving away from the field.

Additionally, Saturday's Duck Commander 500 was a race full of incidents on pit road. Teams and drivers struggled with penalties and mistakes that disrupted otherwise solid performances on the track. Some drivers recovered from those pit road issues while others just continued to sink. Jimmie Johnson was one of the fastest cars in the race until contact exiting pit road. A number of drivers either missed lug nuts or had loose wheels that required extra stops to fix, while others were penalized and kicked to the back of the field. It was a race where if driver and team simply remained mistake free, they had a chance to score a top finish. Rest assured that trend won't continue next week at Bristol Motor Speedway.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch – Yet again Kyle Busch battle his way to Victory Lane. Saturday night's victory was his fourth consecutive NASCAR victory and his second weekend of sweeping track wins. Busch has come alive in 2016, and it looks like there isn't much that will stop him. He didn't dominate Saturday's race, but pieced together the fastest machine in the final miles to stretch out a comfortable win after the last restart. Busch is now the second multirace winner this season in the Sprint Cup, and next week he visits one of his top tracks. He has five Bristol wins in Sprint Cup, but only two top-10 finishes in his last five races at the track. Somehow, it doesn't seem like that last stat will worry him, though.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex lead for practice sessions for Saturday's Duck Commander 500. He tracked down and passed Carl Edwards shortly after the competition caution and then commanded the next segment of the race. The No. 78 was the fastest car on track through the majority of the race, but the decision to stay out on old tires in the final restarts of the race may have cost him the victory. Truex simply didn't have the grip to hang on, and was forced to settle for a sixth-place finish on what should have been a victorious night. Truex has just two Bristol top-fives and hasn't finished better than 20th there in the last two seasons.

Matt Kenseth – Things started to break Kenseth's direction last week. He suffered numerous bouts of bad luck in early races this season but started catching breaks in Texas. In fact, one break cycled him to the front of the field due to the timing of his stop and a fortunate caution period. Unfortunately, his bad luck returned late in the race when he was forced back to pit road after his rear wheel wouldn't sit flush during a stop under caution. He battled back to an 11th-place finish, which shows he's capable of winning one of these weeks, but he must overcome the small problems. Kenseth won the spring Bristol race last season for his fourth victory at the track.

Jimmie Johnson – A slow pit stop during Saturday night's competition caution caused Johnson to get bottled up exiting pit road. He collided with Kyle Busch and damaged his own car's nose. Johnson had been the fastest car on track prior to the contact, but fell down the order afterward. Things got worse for Johnson when another stop just as a caution came out caught him a lap down and then an additional extra stop to retighten lug nuts dropped him completely behind. Still, the No. 48 team doesn't give up, and he battled back to record yet another top-five finish. Performances like Saturday's could make the difference in the championship Chase. Johnson's lone Bristol win came in 2010, but he does have three consecutive top-fives there ahead of this week's race.

Carl Edwards — Edwards led the field to the green flag from pole position Saturday night and immediately began to control the race in the early laps. Unfortunately, he was the victim of a tire problem with just over 100 laps remaining, which forced him into an unscheduled stop and out of the lead pack. He worked back into the mix until after the final restart where Busch and the leaders pulled away. His finishing position was seventh on an interesting night. It wasn't the finish the team wanted but was his fourth straight top-10 finish heading into the Bristol race weekend. Edwards has three Bristol wins on his resume, including this race in 2014, and led more than 70 laps in both races at the track last season.

DOWNGRADE

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – The top 2016 performer from the Roush Fenway Racing stable has been Stenhouse, but bad luck ruined what could have been another top-10 finish for the No. 17. Stenhouse was driving a reliable and mistake-free race in a machine with the speed to confidently book him a spot in the top-10, but Austin Dillon's late crash caused Stenhouse some fender damage. The team spent a number of laps under caution making repairs in the pits and Stenhouse never recovered. He finished in 16th place as the last car on the lead lap. However, things could get better quickly. Stenhouse has been a fan of Bristol with three top-10s from six appearances.

Brian Vickers – After a strong outing in Martinsville two weeks ago, Vickers stumbled at Texas. The No. 14 locked his rear wheels entering pit road, tagged the rear of another car and picked up a commitment cone violation. The night of disappointment wasn't over, unfortunately. Vickers was one of the many cars caught in Austin Dillon's spin on the back of the track, which caused significant damage to the No. 14 car. It was a disappointing finish to what was an otherwise encouraging substitute performance. Nothing has been confirmed for Vickers yet for the remainder of 2016, but he said before Saturday's race that he's open to almost anything and could even be tracking down a ride for May's Indy 500.

Kevin Harvick – Harvick was hit with a speeding penalty on pit road and also had loose pit equipment on the stop. The infractions put him at the back of the field with just over 100 laps remaining in the race. He did a tremendous job rebounding from those issues and still claimed a top-10 finish, but one wonders what would have been had they not happened. The team is one of many that had missteps on pit road Saturday night, and that difference was likely what cost the No. 4 another chance at victory. Next week is a fresh start, however, and Harvick has had an up and down career at Bristol. He won at the track in 2005 but can always be considered a contender if the team remains mistake-free.

Greg Biffle – Biffle's Saturday night ended against the wall late in the race. The No. 16 leveraged a new car to begin improving his finishing record last season in Texas, but was bitten by the track this year. While the Roush Fenway Racing organization has taken strides to a more competitive direction this season, Biffle hasn't capitalized. The veteran driver still seems to be behind the competition, despite showing competitive pace and handling in preseason testing. Biffle only has two top-10 Bristol finishes in the last nine races, and his finishes so far this season don't indicate that he'll be able to pick up his next one this week. This team needs to find improvements quickly.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Chase Elliott – Elliott drove a consistent and mature race Saturday in Texas. The No. 24 was competitive throughout fuel runs and was faster as the race went on. At various times, the rookie was capable of racing with (and passing) the cars inside the top five. More performances like the one he delivered Saturday night will enable Elliott to contented for wins when circumstances allow. This type of race craft isn't normally a trait rookies possess, but Elliott is already showing signs of bigger and better things. He has never raced at Bristol in the Sprint Cup but did finish in the top 10 there in all four of his Xfinity series races.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Pennzoil 400 and Bahrain Grand Prix
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks selections for the Pennzoil 400 and Bahrain Grand Prix
NASCAR DFS:  Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube
NASCAR DFS: Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube
NASCAR Xfinity DFS: The LiUNA!
NASCAR Xfinity DFS: The LiUNA!
Pennzoil 400 Preview: West Coast Swing Begins
Pennzoil 400 Preview: West Coast Swing Begins