Busch to backup and fleet Front Row

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Kurt Busch will join Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick at the rear of the field Sunday when the Food City 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is scheduled to begin.

Busch, a five-time winner at Bristol Motor Speedway and second-fastest during Friday’s qualifying, spun and damaged his No. 14 Ford with less than five minutes remaining in Saturday’s final practice.

The damage was severe enough to warrant bringing out the team’s backup entry, thus forcing Busch to give up his front-row starting spot and move to the rear of the 39-car field.

“I had 45 laps on the tires and was trying to get to 50,” Busch said. “The setup changes dramatically with air-pressure builds and the VHT changing, so I was just trying to do as much research as I could.

“The lap times were really good in the car and then, boom, there’s just no forgiveness right now with how many variables there are.”

Busch had posted the fourth-best time in the session and had completed 69 laps.

Harvick hit the wall Friday during practice and the team chose to roll out the backup No. 4 Ford and prep it for Saturday practice instead of attempting to rush it into action for qualifying. He was 16th and 24th, respectively, in Saturday’s two practices at the 0.533-mile track.

Front Row Motorsports drivers Michael McDowell and David Ragan continued to log impressive laps Saturday at BMS. Ragan led the final practice while McDowell was fifth.

McDowell qualified ninth Friday, Ragan 23rd.

“Everybody knew coming in here that Bristol has been a really good track in the past for (Front Row),” McDowell said. “… They’ve had good speed in race trim and qualifying trim, so it’s been a really solid weekend.”

McDowell is the newcomer at FRR, joining the organization after being released by Leavine Family Racing at the end of 2017.

“He works really hard off the race track studying and really understanding what the cars and the track are going to do so he can make better educated decisions,” Ragan said of his teammate. “That only pushes me to be better and I think on the race track he’s real aggressive.

“We have a little different driving style, so it is unique to look at his information and look at ours, and then along with the Roush Fenway team, we can critique ourselves.”

Front Row has a technical alliance with the two-team Roush Fenway Racing organization.

NASCAR officials announced the start of Sunday’s race would begin at approximately 1 p.m. due to the likelihood of rain in the region (NOAA.org lists chance of precip at 100 percent for race day).

The race was originally scheduled to begin shortly after 2 p.m.

Ryan Preece won Saturday’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at BMS and the $100,000 bonus as the opening race of the four-race Dash 4 Cash program.

Preece, driving the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota is chasing points in the XFINITY Series but isn’t running the entire schedule. His next start is scheduled for Daytona in July.

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