Bristol Motor Speedway is a stop everyone looks forward to, whether it’s the night race or not. Sunday was circled on calendars across NASCAR nation as the one to watch.
It was also known as the one that may not happen. The days leading up to the race were filled with depressing forecasts. Many displayed ‘100%’ next to rainy cloud icons. It turned out to impact attendance greatly; the stand were bare once we went racing after the first rain delay.
Yes, “the first” rain delay. Just wait.
The field has made it 129 laps, with a special competition caution at lap 50, when the rain appeared again. When it rains, it pours, and this time was no exception.
Can we all collectively say, “UGH!” right now? Okay, good.
It was a long, tedious rain delay, one filled with Fox filler material and awkward interviews. When the allotted TV time ended at 6 p.m. ET, it was announced that the race would be shown on Fox Sports 1 once it resumed. Fox Sports plans on airing some NASCAR events on FS1 next season, so it was a preview of sorts.
Fans were outraged, many not getting the channel. The upset was understandable, but that’s something to discuss with the network provider. Nothing is more annoying than seeing people tweet their frustration to the official Fox Twitter account. The person behind the account is a paid PR person; they can’t do anything about executive decisions such as moving the broadcast to a different channel. NASCAR fans, your passion is admirable, but it needs to be toned down for the sake of others.
The race finally resumed around 7 p.m. ET, giving us a rare Spring night race at The Last Great Coliseum. Under the lights? Drivers worried about rain showers popping up? This was bound to be interesting.
In the end, ‘interesting’ was a humongous understatement. The racing was better than ever, a breath of fresh air. Passing, lead changes, three-wide; it was almost too much to handle.
Some insane moments from the event included Timmy Hill plowing into Matt Kenseth’s back end while under caution. That somehow helped Kenseth get back into contention until tire issues plagued his comeback.
Near the end of the race, Kevin Harvick suffered from a tire rub. He ended up in the wall, yet drove his car back to the garage, where it proceeded to catch on fire.
Even before the rain delay, something was off; Alex Bowman’s battery fell onto the track, ruining the rookie’s day. How does that happen?
Speaking of rookies, one showed up, along with a few younger drivers. Kyle Larson was competitive all night, securing a 10th-place finish. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Aric Almirola finished in the top three, duking it out late in the race.
If you want to talk about surprises, though, look at fourth place, and you’ll find Tony Stewart. Smoke has risen and found his Happy Place, which is a good thing considering the rest of Stewart-Haas Racing was stricken with problems. (Also, every time you ask him how his leg feels, Taylor Swift writes another song. Don’t bring it up again.)
The winner, you may ask? Carl Edwards, who pulled off a top-five finish last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, kept the momentum going with help from crew chief Jimmy Fennig. The No. 99 team decided to stay out through two cycles of pit stops, which sounded like a questionable thing to do. It turned out to be a stroke of brilliance.
Edwards was putting on a clinic, and it was three to go when the caution lights around the racetrack flicked on. When people asked NASCAR what the caution was for, all they received in return were shrugs. NASCAR later explained that a flag person leaned on a switch and turned the lights on. The flagman then reacted. Oops.
As they rode around, preparing for a green-white-checkered, the clouds opened up yet again. Rain pelted the track, and the race was called. The abrupt ending couldn’t overshadow the amazing racing, though.
Point Standings after the Food City 500
1. Brad Keselowski (–)
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-10)
3. Carl Edwards (-11)
4. Jeff Gordon (-12)
5. Jimmie Johnson (-20)
6. Joey Logano (-22)
7. Denny Hamlin (-23)
8. Matt Kenseth (-25)
9. Ryan Newman (-38)
10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (-41)
11. Kasey Kahne (-42)
12. Greg Biffle (-45)
13. Austin Dillon (-46)
14. Kyle Busch (-52)
15. Marcos Ambrose (-55)
16. Jamie McMurray (-63)
FAN REACTION: As mentioned before, fans were less than thrilled that Fox Sports 1 took over race duties. As mentioned before, cut them some slack; we should be thankful they stuck with the rain delay as long as they did.
However, all of NASCAR nation can agree on one thing: Bristol was bizarre, having a 2012 Daytona 500 feel.
Under the lights? Drivers worried about rain showers popping up? Random cautions due to electronic malfunctions?
For the most part, it was a successful day, and Carl Edwards was a successful racecar driver.