Rain and racing. It is not a good mix but Bristol held out and went under the lights for the Food City 500 and the fans that hung in there saw a really good race full of what makes Bristol such a thing.
It is short track racing in a bowl and they mixed it up nicely. Bumps, spins and tangles put some in the garage and everyone that crossed the finish had some kind of battle damage.
The race started a bit late and went 22 laps before a caution and rain during clean up put the covers on and Penske team mates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski in the garage.
Several hours later the lights were coming on and the laps were being run. At the end of the day, or night, it was Matt Kenseth crossing where he started… In front. Other contenders and front runners were caught up in accidents that put them either off the pace or off the track completely.
Kevin Harvick, out front for a lion’s share, saw his run stop quickly when he caught the aftermath of a Jeb Burton spin which was set off by a touch from Jimmie Johnson. Harvick’s #4 Chevy was heavily damaged and out of the run.
Stewart-Haas team mate Kurt Busch was also putting in a run for the front but a late race pit for fresh tires put him in 6th on the restart and with 8 laps to go was suddenly stopped when Carl Edwards lost it running with Gordon near the front. Busch and the #41 had no place to go but into Edward’s #19.
The remaining Stewart-Haas drivers, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, managed to roll out with top 10 finishes.
Jimmie Johnson, despite damage and being well in the back at one point, managed to get back to second place with team mate Jeff Gordon right behind. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Ryan Newman filled the top 5.
Bristol was a boost for many in the field. Danica Patrick continues to run well with this top 10. It was Stewart’s best finish this season. Matt Kenseth has his first win since 2013. Gordon also needed a good run with not so hot performance in his last full season. Newman in the top 5 was a good run following the penalties for his team over tire handling issues.
There was also drama around the #11 and Denny Hamlin. The weather, the starting and stopping or just luck put him in a painful situation with a stiff neck. The long rain delay saw no real relief and the decision was made to put Xfinity driver Erik Jones into the #11 which he had never driven and was set, of course, for Hamlin. Jones finished 26th in his Sprint Cup “trial by Bristol fire” debut.
Now the focus rolls into Richmond. The scheduled night race of the Toyota Owners 400 is ramping up. The Xfinity series runs the night before. Some of the drivers will also be rolling out Thursday night in South Boston for the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown with the area’s top late model locals.
Hamlin should be loosened up and ready for his big charity event at SoBo and Richmon for the weekend.