“I’m sure he’s mad at me,’’ Larson said of Busch. “I doored him a couple of times there in traffic because I knew he was going to try close the hole on me. I just thanked him for racing me with respect and racing me clean. He had a couple of times to dump me or move me out of the way and he didn’t. I had fun. Just wish I was a better restarter here.’’
The exchange was brief. Neither driver was in a good mood after seeing their chance of victory go away on the final restart with three laps left at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Busch, seeking his fifth consecutive national series NASCAR victory, was second on the final restart but struggled and had no chance to win and placed second. Larson, who led, was passed by Jones on the outside and fell to third at the checkered flag.
“When I go to the gas, it just stumbles, falls on its face and doesn’t accelerate,’’ Busch said about his restarts. “I didn’t even have a chance. Jones cleared me by the time I got to Turn 1. That’s how bad it was. Both cars the class of the field didn’t win the race.’’
Larson was frustrated he lost the lead late.
“I’m restarting as the leader, there’s no reason I should lose,’’ he said after his fourth runner-up finish in this series at this track. “I slowed down too much in the center of the corner and ran too low and Erik got around me. I didn’t think the top would be that quick for that first lap. Just mad at myself.’’
Larson managed a brief smile when discussing his battle with Busch throughout the race, especially in traffic. At times, they weaved inside, outside and through the middle to get around slower cars while racing for the lead.
“It was super intense in traffic,’’ said Larson, who had a left rear tire rub the last 25 laps. “It was a lot of fun. It’s always fun when you get to race Kyle, especially here at Bristol. He’s as good as it gets on a track like this. I feel like I’m right there with him. I’ve just got to get better.’’