Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol TN — April 7, 2019
Driver’s at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend have been talking about grip. Not the white knuckle grasp that most will have on the steering wheel. But, the way their tires grip the surface of the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. You would think with an eight-inch spoiler sticking up on the rear deck lid their race cars would be glued to the track. With 750 horsepower at their disposal, the cars are so fast the downforce is dissipated somewhat.
Chase Elliott(9) won the pole, with a speed of 131.713. Even he was not immune to the occasional loss of grip, brushing the wall during practice on Saturday.
#BuschPole winner Chase Elliott makes slight contact with the wall during final practice at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Posted by NASCAR on Saturday, April 6, 2019
The traction compound NASCAR frequently uses was applied to the lower groove of the racing surface. They call it “Bristol Bite” here. By the end of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday, the corners were showing a lot of rubber worked in from top to bottom of the 28-degree banking.
Honoring a Legend
NASCAR Hall of Fame Driver and Fox Broadcaster Darrell Waltrip will drop the green flag at the start of the Food City 500 today. The invitation to start the race was extended to Darrell during a press conference Friday. The winner of 12 races at Bristol, including an incredible run of seven in a row, took the opportunity to discuss his pending retirement from the Fox broadcast booth at the end of the network’s NASCAR coverage this summer.
What better place to make the announcement than at the track he virtually owned during his driving career. Darrell, sitting next to wife Stevie, discussed how hard it would be to step away, but, that the time was right.
500 laps around the “The Last Great Colosseum” consists of 266.5 miles. Stages are 125/125/250 laps. It’s an accomplishment to just survive the battle. If you win they give you a trophy and a gladiator’s sword. In keeping with the Colosseum theme. Fans can sit anywhere in the bowl-like grandstands and cheer their favorite chariot racer in one of the best venues to watch a NASCAR race.
Kevin Harvick(4) drops to the rear of the field after failing pre-race inspection three times and has to serve a drive-through penalty after the green flag waves. It does not take long for things to get wild. Aric Almirola(10) gets into the wall on the backstretch of Lap 1. As the field checked up, Kyle Busch(18) spun with some contact from Ryan Preece(47).
The early caution was a huge benefit to Harvick as he only lost one lap serving his penalty on pit road. Almirola suffered heavy suspension damage and ended up taking his car behind the wall and out of the race.
Chase Elliott jumped out to a big lead on the restart and began lapping traffic early. Preece started the 2nd incident of the day cutting a tire running directly in front of the leader. As Elliott braked to avoid the disabled car of Preece, Corie LaJoie(32) ran into the back of the pole winner turning him around in the middle of the front stretch. Elliott avoided hitting the wall and returned to the track after service to his car replaced flat spotted tires.
Denny Hamlin(11) took over the lead from Elliott until he was passed seven laps later by Erik Jones(20), the Byron, Michigan native. Ryan Blaney(12) charged to the front and grabbed the top spot when Jones was forced to pit with a tire going down. As the field stabilized Clint Bowyer(14) settled into 2nd, with Joey Logano(22) in 3rd, his teammate Brad Keselowski(2) 4th, and Jimmie Johnson(48) 5th.
Bowyer made a late run and passed Blaney with eight laps to go in Stage 1. Immediately after the pass for the lead Daniel Hemric(8) spun, with a little help from Ross Chastain(15). The race restarted with two laps to go in the Stage with Bowyer and Ty Dillon(13) on the front row. Dillon inherited the spot when driver’s in front of him chose to pit. The race to the green and white checkered flag went to Dillon as he and Bower banged doors repeatedly to the finish. It was Ty Dillon’s first Stage win ever.
Stage 1 Results
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||2|
* Ford Mustang Drivers
After the stage ending pit stops Keselowski assumed the lead, with Logano 2nd, Johnson 3rd, Kyle Busch 4th, and Blaney 5th. Keselowski led for 15 laps, turning over the top spot to Logano who quickly pulled away from the field.
Between the two Team Penske drivers, they led every lap of Stage 2. Logano putting all but 16 cars at least one lap down.
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Mustang Drivers
Erik Jones recovered from his Stage 1 tire issues that put him 3 laps down. He received the free pass at the end of Stage 2 to get him back on the lead lap.
The Final Stage
Blaney, out of the pits first after the stage ending caution pit stops, led the pack to the restart. Logano, restarting next to Blaney, dropped in behind his other teammate in 2nd.
Shortly after the restart, NASCAR displayed the caution for debris on the track. When the race went back to green and the leaders settled into position the running order remained the same. Blaney, Logano, Bowyer, Kurt Busch in 4th and Elliott in 5th.
Erik Jones continued to battle back towards the front. After starting the Final Stage in 18th at the tail of the lead lap, Jones was about to move into the top 10 when he again experienced a tire issue. Pitting on Lap 320 he went back to 2 laps down.
Teammates Fight it Out
Blaney held the lead despite repeated attempts by Logano to pass him. While Logano may well have had the faster car, Blaney fought off every challenge until Logano squeezed past on Lap 354. With the top two cars fighting it out, Bowyer drove to their bumpers and joined the fray. He also passed Blaney and began to stalk Logano.
Trapping Logano behind a lapped car, Bowyer made the pass for the lead in Turn 2 on Lap 374. By the time Bowyer returned to the start/finish line the caution was displayed for debris on the track. This gave everyone a chance to pit for fresh tires and a full tank of Sunoco Race Fuel. 15 cars remained on the lead lap.
Restarting with 118 laps to go Bower led with Kyle Busch beside him on the front row. A short side-by-side battle ensued with Busch winning out and taking the top spot for the first time in the race. Bowyer ran 2nd, Logano 3rd, Blaney 4th, and Kurt Busch 5th. In a great run for Chris Buescher(37), he ran in 6th with 100 laps to go.
With a car that seemed to improve the longer it ran, Bower passed Kyle Busch with 91 laps to go. Logano jumped on the opportunity to slide past Busch.
With 86 laps to go Kyle Larson(42), William Byron(24) and Truex got together down the backstretch bringing out the 9th caution of the day. Everyone pitted for fresh rubber and the fuel that would carry them to the finish.
Kyle Busch and Bowyer again paced the field, this time with Busch the leader. Bowyer spun the tires on the restart as Busch drove off into Turn 1 followed by Keselowski and Logano. Battling for position Blaney and Ryan Newman(6) got together, not enough to crash but when Elliott got a piece of them he cut a tire. Lucky for Elliott, Bowyer also cut a tire and scraped the wall in Turn 2 bringing out another caution.
With laps dwindling down the battles for position among the leaders are getting intense. Kyle Busch again brings the pack to the line followed by Keselowski, Logano, Blaney, and Kurt Busch. No one times a restart better than Kyle Busch, especially when he’s in the lead. He shot off into Turn 1, but his lead was short-lived. Both Keselowski and Logano closed the gap and passed with 55 laps to go. They quickly pulled away.
With 31 laps to go Logano gave Keselowski and little bump in Turn 1 and took the lead away from his teammate. Then Larson hit the wall bringing out a late caution with just 22 laps to go.
Logano pitted from the lead, as did most of the top 10. The Busch brothers stayed out. The race to the finish lined up with Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez(41), Paul Menard(21), Keselowski, Newman, Bowyer, Logano, Austin Dillon(3), and Blaney.
The gamble to not take tires paid off for Kyle and Kurt as they finished 1-2. Logano used the fresh rubber to work his way back to 3rd. Keselowski was black flagged by NASCAR for not obeying orders from the scoring tower and finished 18th, 1 lap down. Blaney took 4th and Hamlin ended up in 5th.
With six Mustangs in the top 10, Ford Performance should have been celebrating. But they were left to think about what could have been. A possible 1-2-3 sweep by Team Penske was doomed by a late call to pit road.
Next week the Series stops at another short track, Richmond Raceway, for a Saturday night shootout. After the Easter break, April finishes up at Talladega on Sunday the 28th.
Results of the Food City 500 from Bristol Motor Speedway
|17||19||Martin Truex Jr.||-1||499|
|33||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-105||395|
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||232||0|
|13||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.*||183||0|
|Playoff Cut Line|
*Ford Mustang Drivers