NASCAR Barometer: Busch Completes Second Bristol Sweep

NASCAR Barometer: Busch Completes Second Bristol Sweep

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

For the second time in his career, Kyle Busch won all three NASCAR national series races in the same weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver overcame pit issues in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity series races, and then came from starting deep in the field to command the top spot in the Monster Energy Cup series race Saturday night. He battled pole-sitter Erik Jones all night and held off the rookie driver after taking the lead in a three-way battle with Matt Kenseth. He didn't look back from there, and celebrated another sweep in Victory Lane.

Just two races remain before the playoff field is set. Teams will have this week off before tackling Darlington Raceway in the Labor Day weekend classic, and drivers like Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, and Clint Bowyer will be looking for any advantage they can find as they watch the window to enter the championship race close.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch – Busch came from behind to force his way into the top spot and claim the first stage victory Saturday night in Bristol. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was gunning for another perfect weekend at the track after winning both the truck and Xfinity races on Saturday but wasn't able to start at the front of the field. In the end, his starting position didn't matter, he was locked on to the front of the field, and once past Erik Jones he held on until the finish. Busch picked up

For the second time in his career, Kyle Busch won all three NASCAR national series races in the same weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver overcame pit issues in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity series races, and then came from starting deep in the field to command the top spot in the Monster Energy Cup series race Saturday night. He battled pole-sitter Erik Jones all night and held off the rookie driver after taking the lead in a three-way battle with Matt Kenseth. He didn't look back from there, and celebrated another sweep in Victory Lane.

Just two races remain before the playoff field is set. Teams will have this week off before tackling Darlington Raceway in the Labor Day weekend classic, and drivers like Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, and Clint Bowyer will be looking for any advantage they can find as they watch the window to enter the championship race close.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch – Busch came from behind to force his way into the top spot and claim the first stage victory Saturday night in Bristol. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was gunning for another perfect weekend at the track after winning both the truck and Xfinity races on Saturday but wasn't able to start at the front of the field. In the end, his starting position didn't matter, he was locked on to the front of the field, and once past Erik Jones he held on until the finish. Busch picked up his second win of the season with the effort and his second weekend sweep at the short Bristol bullring. Busch won at Darlington in 2008 and hasn't finished lower than 11th at the track since 2010.

Matt Kenseth – Kenseth grabbed his third stage victory of the season in Saturday night's race and came home third for another top-five finish this season. The points that come along with those mid-race bonuses could come in especially handy for him since he is holding one of the few remaining playoff spots for nonwinners. However, winning the stage came with the gamble of not pitting for fresh tires, which left him behind at the start of stage 3. He made it even worse when he was caught for speeding on the stop, too. Kenseth has been pretty successful at Darlington. He won at the track in 2013 and has four top-10 finishes from the last five starts.

Erik Jones – Jones scored his first career pole in the Cup series at Bristol. He held onto a top position to finish the first stage in second behind Kyle Busch and exited pit road in first immediately afterward. He and Busch battled back and forth throughout the night, but Jones couldn't chase down the champion in the final laps and settled for second position. As the race cycled through its stages, Jones never left the frontrunners. He continues to demonstrate the kind of moves necessary to be in position to win at the end of these races, and that eventually will lead to victory. He has never visited Darlington in Cup equipment, but he did finish sixth in his lone Xfinity appearance at the track.

Kyle Larson – After making his way back into Victory Lane at Michigan, Larson may have rediscovered the form that was so successful for him earlier this season. He may not have been one of the fastest cars Saturday night in Bristol, but he held station in the top five throughout the night in a performance that bodes well for his championship chances. The team's slump appears to be behind them, and the confidence and swagger is back. Larson has finished in the top 10 in all three of his Darlington starts, and even led 45 laps there last season before finishing third. This driver should produce another points haul for fantasy owners in next week's race.

Denny Hamlin – Bristol Motor Speedway has typically been a productive place for Hamlin, and that was case again Saturday night. Hamlin was one of the few drivers who remained a threat for the victory throughout the entirety of the race, and his pace in practice should have clued fantasy owners into his potential early in the weekend. He came up short in the end, but it was an encouraging performance for a driver who hasn't been one of the dominant guys through the season but should be a viable championship threat. Hamlin won at Darlington in 2010, and his worst finish at the circuit was only 19th. He scored four top-five finishes in the last five races there, and his competitiveness should carry through to next week's event.

DOWNGRADE

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex ran inside the top five through the first half of Saturday's race but had to pit due to a loose wheel just as the green flag waved following a caution period. On that stop he also suffered an infraction that forced a drive-through penalty that dropped him even farther behind the competition. It wasn't a memorable night for the No. 78 compared to his domination throughout the season, and now he looks to improve at Darlington to regain some pre-playoff momentum. Truex won last year's race at Darlington and has been one of the fastest cars all season. Fantasy owners will have to monitor how he and the team recover from failing to fulfill their potential at Bristol.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski was the first driver to encounter problems Saturday night in Bristol. The Penske Racing driver had a flat left-front tire just a few laps into the race and was forced to come from behind after that. He spent much of the race four laps down to the leaders following the incident and was never able to recover. He ultimately finished the race in a disappointing 29th position. The Penske Racing teammates feed off of one another and both are in the doldrums at the moment. Keselowski hasn't won at Darlington but he started the race from pole in 2015 and has consecutive top-10 finishes heading into next week's race. A win would go a long way to boost the organization ahead of the playoffs.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Stenhouse was the second driver to suffer tire problems Saturday night. The Roush Fenway Racing driver is aiming to improve his form prior to the playoffs, but he's running out of time to get things right. Even after working to overcome the tire issue, he was caught speeding on pit road in another huge mistake that would cost him dearly in the playoffs. He has yet to finish inside the top 10 at Darlington and only has a best finish of 18th, which he achieved twice including last season. While Stenhouse has two wins this season, they both came on restrictor plate circuits, and he hasn't offered consistent value to fantasy players on other types of tracks.

Austin Dillon – A snap spin sent Dillon up the track and into Jeffrey Earnhardt just before the finish of Saturday's second race segment. The impact put Dillon immediately behind the wall and out of the car, which took him out of the rest of Saturday night's race. While Dillon shouldn't dwell on the result because he already has the win needed to qualify for the playoffs he, like Stenhouse, should be focusing on eradicating any rust he and the team may have that could impede their progress in the knockout format. Darlington should be a good sign for fantasy owners to judge how well this team can pull together to overcome. Dillon has two top-15 finishes from three races at the track.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Trevor Bayne – Bayne is the biggest surprise for the second consecutive week. The Roush Fenway Racing driver not only scored consecutive top-10 finishes at Michigan and Bristol, but he got Bristol's after coming back from a blown front tire and contact with the wall. Bayne is enjoying Roush's return to form, and his mature approach to race craft is paying dividends in top finishes. Fantasy owners should have taken notice of him earlier this season, because Bayne's consistency at this point in the year is paying off for those who have taken the plunge. Bayne's best Darlington finish is only 35th, however. He'll be poised to score a career-best finish at the track, which will be good news for fantasy owners.

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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.
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