The question isn't whether Kyle Busch will win at Bristol Motor Speedway -- it's how soon, if ever, someone else will find a way to keep him out of Victory Lane.
First off pit road after stops under caution on Lap 429 of Sunday's Jeff Byrd 500, Busch held off pole-sitter Carl Edwards and defending race winner Jimmie Johnson to win his fifth consecutive race in NASCAR's top three national series at the .533-mile short track.
Busch's victory Sunday was his 20th in the Cup Series, his first of the season, his second consecutive at Thunder Valley and his fourth in the past five races there. Busch capped his second consecutive weekend sweep at Bristol, having won Saturday's Nationwide Series event.
Last August, Busch became the first driver to win three national series races at the same track on the same weekend when he claimed victories in the Truck, Nationwide and Cup series.
The issue wasn't decided, however, until Busch pulled away from Edwards after a heated battle that followed a restart on Lap 464 of 500. Clint Bowyer's blown engine on Lap 458 had necessitated the 10th caution of the race, which set up a 37-lap green-flag run to the finish.
Edwards finished second for the second time in four races this season, and Johnson finished third, also for the second time in 2011. Matt Kenseth was fourth and Paul Menard fifth. Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman completed the top 10.
Busch said winning the race off pit road on the final stop was the decisive factor.
"It was a great pit stop there on that last run down pit road," Busch said. "They gave me a great job there so I get out and have track position I wanted and the lane I wanted to restart in [the outside].
"That gave me a little bit easier job, instead of having to pass some of those guys. It would have been interesting, for sure. Carl tried to make it interesting -- he gave me a little bit of a shot there. But I kept it straight somehow this year, didn't have any fallback from 2008 [when Edwards won after moving Busch]."
Edwards decided to bide his time, rather than try to bump Busch out of the way as the two raced in close quarters after the final restart. Edwards thought he would have an opportunity -- and perhaps another caution -- in the closing laps. He was wrong.
"I thought we'd be better matched with him," Edwards said. "I thought I'd be able to race with him harder for those last 15 to 20 laps, but he took off, and I was a little loose off [the corner], and I just couldn't get back to him to race. But while we were racing for the first couple of laps after the restart, it was a blast. If I would have known that was the only shot I was going to have, I might have raced a little harder.
"We were running so hard at that point in the run, I don't know that you could really bump a guy and just move him. You might cause a big wreck. You might wreck yourself. Jimmie was right behind us. I thought maybe it would give him the win, so I figured we'd let it calm down and we'd just race. It ended up that the fastest car at the end won the race. Hindsight is 20/20, but that's the way it panned out."
Kurt Busch took over the series lead by one point over Edwards. Kyle Busch gained eight positions to sixth in the standings, and Johnson jumped five spots to seventh. Despite finishing 11th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. gained one position to ninth in points.