by Ryan Isley
Bristol Motor Speedway may be a short track, but the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race there this weekend was not short on storylines.
These are just a few of the top stories from the Food City 500:
Through rain, sleet or snow, NASCAR finishes the race:
The race took just over 26 hours to complete, as the weather in Tennessee just refused to cooperate. What was supposed to start as a 2:00 pm ET start on Sunday was moved up to 1:00 pm because of impending weather. Once the drivers took the green flag, the race was stopped on multiple occasions due to rain. With NASCAR just trying to get through the first two stages (or 250 laps of the scheduled 500) for the race to become official, Mother Nature had other ideas. The final stop for rain on Sunday came with just 45 laps remaining until the halfway point and NASCAR was not able to save the track enough to continue the race.
The remainder of the race was then moved to Monday at 1:00pm ET, which Mother Nature again didn’t agree with. After a delay to start on Monday, the cars finally got rolling under caution a little after 1:30pm and ran 12 laps under caution before the green flag finally dropped. The weather finally gave the drivers some time to actually race, until rain (and possibly some sleet) again started to fall and the race was put under caution at lap 391.
Once the race went green again at lap 400 (even as some drivers were telling NASCAR the track wasn’t ready), the rain stayed away long enough to run the final 100 laps. It wasn’t long after the checked flag flew that the skies again started spitting a mix of rain and snow.
Kyle vs. Kyle
The two top lap leaders in the race were both named Kyle, as Kyle Larson paced the field for 200 of the 500 laps and Kyle Busch led 117 laps. The two drivers alternated the lead over the last 119 laps, with Busch holding the lead three times and Larson leading twice.
The most important lap of course, was lap 500, which was led by Busch. The 32-year-old took the lead from his younger counterpart with just six laps to go. Larson had gotten a little loose and moved up the track, which allowed Busch to get right on his rear bumper. Once Busch was there, he was able to move Larson out of the way and take the lead on the low line. Larson had one last chance to pass Busch but was never able to get close enough to execute.
This wasn’t a new concept for Busch and Larson at Bristol. The two drivers have also battled for the win three times in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track, with Busch winning all three and Larson finishing second in each of those races. Larson was well aware of the history between the two drivers and his frustration showed after the race when talking to Matt Yocum on FOX after the race.
“I hate that I didn’t win,” Larson told Yocum. “It was another one at Bristol. I fell like every time I race here I almost get a win. I have been by Kyle about every time I race here too so that gets frustrating after a while.”
Young guns blazin’
I wrote just this past week about how the older drivers in the MENCS weren’t ready to let the young drivers come in and take over just yet. Well, some of those drivers made their presence known this week at Bristol.
As mentioned earlier, Larson led the most laps of anyone. It was the second straight spring race at Bristol in which Larson has led the most laps and didn’t win. In the 2017 race, Larson led 202 laps before Jimmie Johnson eventually won.
Ryan Blaney led 100 of the first 117 laps before being collected in a wreck while leading the race. With the cars of Chris Buescher, Trevor Bayne and Harrison Rhodes crashing ahead of him, Blaney had nowhere to go and was eventually hit by Rhodes. The damage was enough to end the race early for the 24-year-old.
Alex Bowman picked up his first career MENCS top-5, finishing 5th. Bowman, who started 8th, ran a solid race for 500 laps and even found himself as high as 3rd in the last stage.
Bubba Wallace led his first career laps in the MENCS, as he led the last five laps before Larson and Busch took over the lead for good. With Brad Keselowski leading after a restart on lap 366, Wallace chased down Keselowski and moved him up the track to take the lead. Wallace held the lead for five laps before being passed by Busch.