NASCAR Barometer: Busch Grabs Eighth Bristol Win

NASCAR Barometer: Busch Grabs Eighth Bristol Win

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Kyle Busch overcame first-lap contact and damage to charge to the front, capitalizing on track position, to hold off older brother Kurt to grab his eighth Bristol Motor Speedway win and third victory of the season. No driver has the raw pace that Busch has shown in recent weeks, which is a warning shot to the rest of the field hoping to beat the team for the season championship. While the Penske Racing Fords continue to be the fastest machines on track, they cannot hold back the sheer will of Busch wrestling his car to the front. With contenders like Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. still floundering as they try to fix their ailments, the path looks clear for Busch to continue racking up victories en route to the summer stretch and ultimately the championship playoffs.

This week the series takes on another short track in Richmond Raceway. The race will be the first night race of the season and the third on a short track. Brad Keselowski and Busch have taken the two short-track wins on offer so far, but it was Kyle Busch that swept the two Richmond races last season. This week's event is also the last before a valuable week off where teams can take a breath and assess what work needs to be done in order to knock Busch off the throne when the schedule resumes.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch – Not much can keep Busch down. A first-lap crash that caved in his back

Kyle Busch overcame first-lap contact and damage to charge to the front, capitalizing on track position, to hold off older brother Kurt to grab his eighth Bristol Motor Speedway win and third victory of the season. No driver has the raw pace that Busch has shown in recent weeks, which is a warning shot to the rest of the field hoping to beat the team for the season championship. While the Penske Racing Fords continue to be the fastest machines on track, they cannot hold back the sheer will of Busch wrestling his car to the front. With contenders like Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. still floundering as they try to fix their ailments, the path looks clear for Busch to continue racking up victories en route to the summer stretch and ultimately the championship playoffs.

This week the series takes on another short track in Richmond Raceway. The race will be the first night race of the season and the third on a short track. Brad Keselowski and Busch have taken the two short-track wins on offer so far, but it was Kyle Busch that swept the two Richmond races last season. This week's event is also the last before a valuable week off where teams can take a breath and assess what work needs to be done in order to knock Busch off the throne when the schedule resumes.

UPGRADE

Kyle Busch – Not much can keep Busch down. A first-lap crash that caved in his back bumper couldn't even do it. By the early laps of the second stage, Busch was back inside the top five after pitting to fix the damage, and a late decision to not take tires gave him the track position he needed to snag his eighth Bristol win. His train could keep rolling this week, too. He won six times at Richmond and swept the two visits last season. Sunday's impressive drive could set him up for a dominating weekend in Virginia, which wouldn't be a surprise considering how fast he has been each time out this season.

Joey Logano – Logano was able to get ahead of his Penske Racing teammates to grab victory in the second stage on Sunday. The teammates had significant speed again on Sunday and raced at the front from the drop of the green flag. All three teammates decided to pit under the final caution and couldn't overcome the loss of track position to chase down the Busch brothers. Still, the team continues to show their strength, and they're learning lessons that should pay off in the playoffs later this year. Logano has two Richmond wins to his credit. He fourth, leading 92 laps in this race last season. Fantasy owners should expect Logano and his teammates to be at the front again this week, but will they end it on top?

Kurt Busch – Busch couldn't chase down his brother to even the score at Bristol. Instead, the elder pushed a little too hard in the closing laps and wound up watching Kyle take his eighth win at the circuit. Kurt, however, picked up his best finish of the season. The Buschs made the correct choice to stay out under the final caution, which enabled them to leap frog the Penske teammates to start out front. Enough cars made the same decision, and that gave Kurt what he needed to grab a runner-up finish. Kurt also trails his brother in Richmond wins two to six. His first year with Chip Ganassi Racing has been good so far, and it wouldn't be a stretch to envision him in Victory Lane for his third Richmond win this week.

Ty Dillon – Dillon did not pit during the final caution of the first stage and leveraged his track position to hold off Clint Bowyer by inches for the first stage victory of his career. That was also the first time he led laps this season, too. While similar circumstances didn't transpire to enable him to be at the front for the finale, his 15th-place finish was his third of the season so far. Sunday's stage victory will be a boost to this small team as they continue to work to capitalize when they can. Those two things will give them momentum as they roll into Richmond this weekend. Dillon's best Richmond finish was 20th last spring. His average finish at the track is 24.0 from four series starts.

DOWNGRADE

Kevin Harvick – Harvick just can't seem to get things rolling this season. His team failed inspection before Sunday's race, served a pass-through penalty on the opening lap and then suffered a loose wheel once things got underway. Needless to say, the afternoon did not start well for him. After a long 500 laps he was able to work his way forward to finish 13th, but those are not the type of finishes fantasy owners expect from the former champion. Harvick has three Richmond victories and took home two top-fives finishes from his two visits there last season, including a runner-up finish in the fall. He needs to fix the problems that are holding him back in 2019.

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex is another one of the perennial top contenders who hasn't gotten his 2019 season off to expected heights just yet. Truex had speed early in Sunday's race but dealt with a wheel problem in the final laps of the second stage and headed to the pits only to get a penalty for pitting when they were closed. He started the final stage at the back of the field and wasn't able to get things together to finish any better than 17th for a very disappointing afternoon. As a result, his streak of not winning on short tracks continues. He gets another shot this week in Richmond where he has led more than 100 laps in each of the last three races at the track.

Erik Jones – Bristol should have been a springboard to better results for Jones. Instead, Sunday afternoon was fraught with problems for the No. 20 team. Every time Jones seemed to get things going his way, another issue would crop up and knock him back down the running order. It was a very frustrating outing for them. Jones is fighting to stay in playoff contention, but with three finishes outside of the top 20 in the last five races, he is having to climb uphill to do it. Fantasy players shouldn't expect much improvement at Richmond either. Jones has just one top-10 and an average finish of 17.0 from four series starts at the short oval.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Stenhouse has been known to grab results on short tracks, but Sunday's race at Bristol was doomed from the start. Stenhouse was one of the handful of cars impacted by the opening lap wreck. The damage was to the nose of his car and he was even assessed a black flag when initial repairs on the hood were unsuccessful. The team ultimately made repairs that stuck, only to be forced to the garage later in the first stage with a mechanical issue. Stenhouse's Richmond resume includes one top-five and one other top-10. His 12 career starts at the track have given him an average finish of 19.8. He is battling to stay inside the playoff standings but will need a strong finish to overcome his Bristol stumble.

Aric Almirola – Almirola's afternoon lasted less than a lap last Sunday. The No. 10 machine started toward the front of the field after qualifying well, but was pushed into the outside wall on the opening lap by a loose car underneath. He pitted to make repairs, and his race officially ended when the team pushed him behind the wall and into the garage area. Until Sunday's debacle, Almirola hadn't finished outside of the top 10 this season since Daytona in February. It will be a challenge, but Richmond could be a good opportunity to quickly stop the skid. He has five top-10 finishes from 14 starts at the circuit including fifth last fall.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Matt DiBenedetto – DiBenedetto is becoming a must-play for fantasy rosters at Bristol. With an average start of 28.9 and finish of 20.6 at the track before last week's race, he was already on tap to add finish differential points to rosters. He did the same again on Sunday when he grabbed his best finish of the season and his second best at the track. He started 21st and finished 12th with impressive challenges inside the top 10 in the laps between. That was DiBenedetto's best race of the season so far, and he has another short-track opportunity this week, too. While his Richmond statistics aren't as good as Bristol's, fantasy owners would be wise to pay attention to how he practices in the lead up to Saturday night's race.

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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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