Kyle Busch chasing BMS history, Chase Elliot seeking more victories as NASCAR Cup Series heads to BMS
This weekend Kyle Busch heads to Bristol Motor Speedway, a track he has playfully called "My House" over the years, with a quest to make some more history. Across the garage, young Chase Elliott, who has shown promise at Bristol but has yet to get a win there in the NASCAR Cup Series, is anxious to start a winning streak of his own following his triumphant victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway Thursday night.
Both NASCAR Cup Series stars will be battling to hold the coveted Bristol Motor Speedway Gladiator Sword in Victory Lane after the checkered flag falls for Sunday's Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500. The 60th running of the iconic BMS Spring Race will be delivered to racing fans across the United States and around the world via television and radio, with live coverage Sunday starting at 3:30 p.m. on FS1 and PRN.
It seems every time the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing machine comes to The World's Fastest Half-Mile, he is chasing a new milestone. This time he is trying to tie NASCAR Hall of Fame member Rusty Wallace's record of six Food City 500 victories. If Busch, who has won the last two Food City 500s, can earn his sixth Spring Race title here, then he will add those wins to his three Night Race trophies and also join an exclusive trio of NASCAR legends who are nine-time winners at the Last Great Colosseum, including Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Cale Yarborough. Darrell Waltrip holds the record for most BMS Cup Series victories, with 12.
In order to get the job done, Busch and the other 39 Cup stars who will start the race will have to do so without practice and qualifying. Busch, who owns 22 NASCAR victories at Bristol combined from all three of NASCAR's top series, always likes his chances at the iconic Northeast Tennessee short track.
"With the success we've had over the years, I feel really good about going there," Busch said to local Tri-Cities media members on a teleconference earlier in the week. "(In practice) we make a lot of adjustments when we get there and we're fine-tuning a lot of different things. We're just being nit-picky about a bunch of it to make sure we have a fast race car.
"You definitely have to understand some of those adjustments during practice is a big deal and we won't have that, so we just have to get after it right at the start of the race. I know our guys are up to the task and hope we can have a good car and have it with enough adjustability so we can make the right changes and have a shot at the win there."
And this time around at BMS due to the COVID-19 restrictions, there won't be fans in the grandstands. Two-time and defending Cup Series champ Busch won't be getting the support he usually does from his Rowdy Nation crew. At the same time, he won't be hearing from his haters either.
"It's going to be way different," Busch said about no fans at Bristol, where the grandstands are positioned pretty close to the action. "Getting back to the race track is what all of the drivers have been striving for. The iRacing was something fun to do to keep the show going, but nothing is like getting on the real track. We certainly miss our fans. They're the ones who drive our sport and bring the passion. Right now, we're trying to put on a show and allow the fans to watch it from the safety of their homes. When the fans get back, they will be booing just as loud as normal."
Meanwhile, Elliott, who has one pole, three top-fives and four top-10s at Bristol during his career, heads to Thunder Valley riding a wave of momentum after his Thursday night victory at the Alsco Uniforms 500 in Charlotte. The win for Elliott came at a great time after a couple of weeks of bad luck on the racetrack had been frustrating for the second-generation driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
Two weeks ago at Darlington he was running strong and got clipped by Busch in the closing laps and crashed out of the race. This past Sunday at CMS, during the famed Coca-Cola 600, Elliott was the runaway leader with two laps to go but a late caution bunched the field back up. His team decided to pit and he came up just a little short in the overtime green-white-checkered restart as Brad Keselowski claimed the win.
With those recent memories fresh in mind, he held his breath in the closing laps Thursday night.
"I was just waiting for the caution to come out, to be honest with you," Elliott said in his post-race interview. "I thought either the caution was going to come out, I was going to break something or I was going to crash. Just after the last couple of weeks, I just thought surely it wasn't going to go green until the end. Just glad it did and glad we're hopefully back on the right path."
He hopes that path finally leads him to the Winner's Circle at Bristol, where Elliott's best three Cup Series runs have resulted in third, fourth and fifth place finishes. Two of those top-fives have come in his last three visits to the tough all-concrete high-banked half-mile bullring.
"Bristol's such a cool place," Elliott has said. "I love going there. I really love the area. And the race track, the vibe there, it speaks for itself. I love racing there. It would be amazing, to get a win at Bristol. It's such a cool track. If you can win a race at Bristol, that's definitely one, you know, you gotta' earn those.
In addition to Busch and Elliott, there's a loaded field of the best stock car racers in the world also looking to take home the trophy Sunday afternoon. Other top contenders include past multi-time Bristol Cup Series winners Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, and a mix of BMS hard-chargers like Clint Bowyer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Erik Jones and Austin Dillon and several BMS fan-favorites, such as Matt DiBenedetto, Bubba Wallace, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney.
After Sunday's milestone 60th running of the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500, the rising stars of the sport including Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Noah Gragson, Ross Chastain and Harrison Burton, to name a few, will be battling for victory under the lights at the Cheddar's 300 presented by Alsco on Monday night. The NASCAR Xfinity Series race begins at 7 p.m. and will air on FS1 and PRN.