BRISTOL, Tenn. — The Busch brothers will get to renew their sibling rivalry when the green flag drops for the Food City 500.
The brothers have not exactly seen eye-to-eye, but they have not had much turmoil on the track in recent years.
“It was tough going years ago obviously for a few times, but lately I guess we’ve been racing each other a little bit better. … [We] just keep trying to make sure that we have those good battles and make sure that they’re clean battles and not ugly ones,” Kyle said.
Or as Kurt put it, their relationship has aged like a fine wine.
“I can now walk up to him and say, ‘Yeah, I let you have it,’ and he’ll giggle,” Kurt said. “He’ll actually laugh, and yet I knew that I didn’t quite hit a perfect lap and if I’m going to get beat by somebody when I don’t hit a perfect lap, I’d rather it be my little brother.
“Yet at the same time, it stings.”
They raced each other for a stage win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Kyle prevailed.
“He knows when there is speed to be gained on the track every moment, so to start alongside of him is great,” Kurt said. “But it’s going to be an all-race battle just like it was last week, and I hope we’re there at Lap 500 to give him a run for his money and get the win this week.”
Kurt’s team appears to have improved this year after a 2017 in which he won the Daytona 500 but then didn’t have a great year at Stewart-Haas Racing.
“It’s definitely good to see those guys having good equipment — although it’s not good to see those guys having good equipment,” Kyle said. “They’re a force to be reckoned with. … It’s certainly fun to be 1-2 with the bro and hoping that the rest of SHR doesn’t keep catching up.”
Here’s how the lineup breaks down for the 500-lap race Sunday:
1. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota): As good as Busch is at Bristol, this is just his second pole at the track in 26 career Cup starts.
2. Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford): This is Busch’s fifth top-10 start in 2018.
3. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford): Keselowski has finished 18th or worse in his past four Bristol races.
4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford): Stenhouse never had a top-5 starting spot at Bristol before Friday.
5. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske No. 12 Ford): Blaney still has to be thinking it was cool to win the Xfinity race last week at Texas on the same day his father, Dave, won a sprint-car race at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway.
6. Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet): Larson is sporting a nasty bruise on his upper right arm from a hard hit at Texas, which he said was around 44-45 Gs. Last year, Larson led 272 laps at Bristol but didn’t win either race.
7. Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford): He typically runs respectably at Bristol but hasn’t had a top-10 in his past six starts.
8. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet): He hasn’t raced at Bristol in nearly three years. He did finish 20th in April 2015 driving for Tommy Baldwin.
9. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford): Second-best starting spot of McDowell’s career. He started sixth at Talladega in October 2014.
10. Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford): This will be Logano’s 14th consecutive top-10 starting spot at Bristol.
11. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet): Every week that Byron makes the final round of qualifying, it should be considered a win. That is a solid accomplishment for a rookie.
12. Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota): He’s wearing a brace on his left thumb after a Texas crash resulted in a fracture where a ligament or tendon pulls off a piece of bone.
13. Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota): He led 260 laps and finished second in the race last August. He also won the Xfinity race a year ago. He will be a factor Sunday.
14. Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford): He was second in this race a year ago. He’ll have confidence from the win at Martinsville last month.
15. Kasey Kahne (Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Chevrolet): A little heated in-car radio chatter from Texas appears to have not hurt the results.
16. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet): Kenny Francis is filling in as interim crew chief for the suspended Alan Gustafson.
17. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet): He won this race a year ago. Have things ever changed so much in a year for Johnson? To make matters worse, he cut a tire in qualifying and will have to start at the rear because he has to change that tire.
18. AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet): The team fixed the car after slapping the wall in practice, so this is a solid starting spot compared with the rear of the field if they went to a backup.
19. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford): Crew chief John Klausmeier did not attend Friday’s practice and qualifying after the birth of his child earlier in the week. Tony Gibson filled in and will be here all weekend, but Klausmeier is expected for practice Saturday and the race.
20. Darrell Wallace Jr. (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford): An eighth-place finish last week at Texas was a big deal as this team looks to find its footing.
21. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet): He has never led a lap in a Cup race in eight starts at Bristol.
22. Chris Buescher (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 37 Chevrolet): He finished fifth at Bristol in August 2016, his only top-20 finish in five starts.
23. David Ragan (Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford): Ragan is seeking his first lead-lap finish of the season.
24. Matt DiBenedetto (Go Fas Racing No. 32 Ford): Made it to the second round of qualifying for the second time this year.
25. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota): A victim of going out early in the opening session of qualifying. It’s a typical spring result for Hamlin at Bristol, where he has an average finish of 18.7 over the past three spring races.
26. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota): Should be fun seeing Truex and Hamlin try to make their way to the front. They might not need strategy to get there.
27. Ross Chastain (Premium Motorsports No. 15 Chevrolet): If you told him prior to qualifying that he would start in a row behind Hamlin and Truex, he probably wouldn’t have believed you.
28. Gray Gaulding (BK Racing No. 23 Toyota): If you told him prior to qualifying that he would start in a row behind Hamlin and Truex, he probably wouldn’t have believed you.
29. Landon Cassill (StarCom Racing No. 00 Chevrolet): Finished 13 laps down at Texas. He’s hoping to be more competitive at Bristol.
30. Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet): Newman hasn’t had a top-10 finish since Daytona.
31. Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet): McMurray probably thought his luck had gotten better after he finished third at Texas. But no such luck.
32. Ty Dillon (Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet): Enjoyed his first top-20 finish (13th) of the season at Texas.
33. Trevor Bayne (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford): Not a happy homecoming starting spot for the Tennessee driver.
35. DJ Kennington (Gaunt Brothers Racing No. 96 Toyota): Has completed 98.43 percent of the laps in his three starts.
36. Reed Sorenson (Premium Motorsports No. 55 Chevrolet): Getting his third start of the year.
37. Harrison Rhodes (Rick Ware Racing No. 51 Chevrolet): Rhodes was 22nd, but 15 laps down at Texas.
38. Chad Finchum (Carl Long Motorsports No. 66 Toyota): This is the Knoxville driver’s Cup debut. He has 13 career Xfinity starts. He won a K&N East race at Bristol in 2016.
39. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet): Harvick didn’t take a qualifying lap after a crash in practice left him with a backup car for the race, meaning he would start at the rear.