Bristol Race Report
Rain played havoc with today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 from Bristol Motor Speedway. Not only did the wet weather delay the start by two hours and then cause a second lengthy delay a quarter of the way into the race, but it washed the rubber off the track challenging teams to keep up with the changing track conditions.
Joe Gibbs Racing brought three strong cars to the famed short track with Denny Hamlin earning the pole position during Friday’s qualifying session while Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch started third and seventh respectively. All three teams would also take their turn at the front of the field this afternoon, but when the checkered flag dropped Hamlin’s sixth-place finish would lead JGR, while separate accidents left Kenseth and Busch back in 13th and 29th respectively.
Hamlin earned the right to start his No. 11 FedEx Freight Camry from the pole after setting a track record during Friday’s qualifying session. He would have to wait through a lengthy rain delay before taking the green flag and would find the handling on his Camry loose shortly after the start. He would fall back to just outside the top five and was running eighth when the race was red flagged for over three hours due to rain. Hamlin would prove solid the remainder of the night, racing inside the top ten before taking the checkered flag in the sixth position.
Matt Kenseth started his No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota from the third position, but proved fast from the outset as he quickly drove up into second place. He would take his first lead of the day on lap 98 and held the lead until the rain returned forcing a red flag stoppage on lap 125. The race would be delayed more than three hours and when it restarted Kenseth would keep the lead for another 25 laps or so before giving way to the 41. A couple laps later while in traffic an accident in front of the No. 20 would force Kenseth to slow for the caution and the 33 car would hit him hard from behind. The damage was rather extensive but The Home Depot Husky crew would work quickly to keep Kenseth on the lead lap. That proved important because the damage to the rear of his car apparently did little to affect its handling as he charged toward the front once again. Amazingly, Kenseth was back to the lead on lap 285. On the day, he would lead a total of four times for a race-high 165 laps. A flat left rear tire would result in a near spin and contact with the wall just after the race went past lap 400 however and although Kenseth managed to keep the car on the track and on the lead lap he would fall back outside of the top ten before the next caution came out about 15 laps later. The 20 crew would change four tires and Kenseth remained on the lead lap through it all, but he wasn’t able to get back to the front and race with the leaders. He would go on to finish 13th.
Kyle Busch started his No. 18 Skittles Toyota from the seventh position and was steady through the first portion of the race battling inside the top ten before falling to 12th when the race was red flagged for rain on lap 125. Busch proved extremely fast following the more than three hour delay and was able to drive his way toward the front of the field over the next 50 laps. A tremendous pit stop by the Skittles crew would put Busch off pit road first and alongside the 15 for the ensuing restart. Busch would use an aggressive move to make his way to the lead and would hold the top spot for the next 73 laps. Shortly after giving up the lead Busch brought the No. 18 Skittles Camry down pit road with fears that a tire might be going down. The crew would change four tires and get Busch back out on the track but an untimely caution followed trapping him two laps down. He would take the wave around to get one lap back and was racing in position for the lucky dog when he would get loose and into the wall. Busch would bring his car down pit road for repairs but was several laps down when he returned to the track. He would go on to finish in 29th.
Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing won the race, followed by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Aric Almirola, Tony Stewart, and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top five. There were 12 cautions for a total of 95 laps and 20 lead changes among 12 different drivers.