Kevin Harvick lived up to an old nickname of “The Closer,” taking command in the second half of the race and leading the final seventy-one laps to notch his second victory of the season. The race ended some twenty-three hours after it originally started on a Saturday night, when just forty-eight laps were run before rain moved in and pushed the event to a late-afternoon green flag on Sunday. Kyle Busch started third and was dominant throughout the first half of the race, leading 184 of the first 250 laps. But what appeared to be a broken part on the suspension of his Number-18 Toyota sent the car spinning across the track. Contact from Justin Allgaier ended Busch’s day with a thirty-ninth-place finish. Harvick entered the fray soon after, charging from his Number-24 starting spot to grab his first lead at Lap-286 of five hundred. Harvick ran consistently among the top five the rest of the way, passing Denny Hamlin seventy-one laps from the finish and never looking back to record his thirty-third career win – loosening Joe Gibbs Racing’s tight hold on short-track competition in 2016. Before Bristol, J-G-R had won all three races run on ovals less than one mile in length … Harvick’s margin of victory over runner-up Ricky Stenhouse Junior was two seconds with Hamlin finishing third, Austin Dillon fourth and rookie Chris Buescher fifth.
“Mother Nature” was the only one able to slow Kyle Busch down Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway as he stormed to his forty-ninth career Truck Series win. The start of the race was delayed two hours by rain but once the green flag flew, Busch did too. He started from the pole, led throughout the first stage, won Stage-2 and closed the night by leading the final thirty-seven laps. Busch’s ride was not completely without a challenge. He was tagged with a speeding penalty on pit road at the end of the second stage and restarted at the rear of the field. It took him less than fifty laps to track down race leader Matt Crafton and when he did, Busch drove off to his third win of the season in seven starts. Crafton started sixth and led twice for ninety laps en route to his runner-up finish. John Hunter Nemechek came home in third place with rookie Grant Enfinger and Ben Rhodes completing the top five. This is Busch’s fifth Truck Series victory in “Thunder Valley,” easily topping the track’s win list … Wednesday’s race produced just six lead changes among four drivers: Busch, Crafton, Rhodes and Austin Cindric. There were five cautions for thirty-one laps … With just two races remaining in the regular season, there are three drivers battling for the final two playoff spots. Rhodes comes out of Bristol with a seventeen-point lead over Ryan Truex, who carries a nine-point edge over Enfinger in the fight for what would be the final post-season berth.
Bristol Motor Speedway will be celebrating the silver anniversary of their partnership with grocery chain Food City on Sunday… The partnership for the race entitlement is the second longest running in NASCAR, following the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway that began in 1985… The inaugural Food City 500 event was won by the late Alan Kulwicki in his championship season… Two drivers are tied for the most Food City 500 wins, each having four a piece: Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon… Gordon won his in consecutive years from 1995-1998… One of the annual celebrations centered around the event that is sure to be bigger on this anniversary is Friday’s Food City Race Night… The event is held at Bristol Motor Speedway’s hospitality area… It features live music, food sampling, show cars, racing simulators, and driver autograph sessions…Tickets are available for $5 in advance at selected Food City locations and benefits local charities.
The next stop for NASCAR is Bristol for Sunday’s Food City 500, eighth round of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series… Sunday’s winner will have to get directions to find victory lane, Bristol Motor Speedway is moving it to the track’s frontstretch from its traditional roof-top location between turns three and four. The idea is to bring the celebration closer to the fans attending the race in a move similar to those earlier this year at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Martinsville… The Busch brothers, Kyle and Kurt have an added incentive to win on Sunday. Kyle and Kurt Busch each have five wins at “The Last Great Colosseum.” A win by either would break the family tie for “Best Busch Brother at Bristol” and move them into the top of the list of most wins at Bristol Motor Speedway by active drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series… Kyle Larson holds the points lead headed into the weekend on the strength of one win and five second place finishes in the first seven races of the year. Larson is in good company since the only other drivers with five or more second place finishes within the first seven races of a season are: Kevin Harvick (six in 2015), Dale Earnhardt (five in 1987), Bobby Allison twice (five in 1972 and 1979), and Cale Yarborough (five in 1974).
Team Penske’s Joey Logano kept a hard-charging Kevin Harvick in his rear-view mirror throughout the closing laps, winning under the lights in “Thunder Valley” for the second year in a row. Logano kept the Number-22 Ford in front over the final sixty-three trips around the Tennessee half-mile in posting his third win of the season and the eleventh of his career. The margin of victory was twenty-two one-hundredths of a second over Harvick with pole sitter Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer completing the top five … Kyle Busch led a race-high 192 laps and finished eighth in his bid for a weekend sweep after winning the X-FINITY Series race the night before.
Four Sprint Cup Series races remain in the regular season and five spots on the The Chase Grid are still open heading into Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops N-R-A Night Race in Bristol, Tennessee. Twelve drivers have been victorious thus far in 2016: Matt Kenseth, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Junior, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher. All are within the requisite top thirty of the standings with the exception of Buescher, currently just three points below the cutoff … Assuming he will climb into the top thirty over the next four weeks, that leaves a maximum of four post-season spots available based on the point standings. Jamie McMurray holds a thirty-point lead over Kyle Larson, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, in the fight for what would be the final “playoff” spot. In this year’s first race at Bristol on April 17th, neither McMurray nor Larson cracked the top ten, but McMurray had the better of it – finishing thirteenth, twenty-two spots ahead of his teammate … If the Chase began today, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon and rookie Chase Elliott would hold the three other spots. Any driver who hasn’t yet won but reaches Victory Lane in one of the next four races would qualify for the post-season, provided that driver was among the top thirty in points, and would reduce the number of spots available based on the regular-season standings.
Next stop for NASCAR is Bristol for Sunday’s Food City 500, eighth race of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series and the second of six short-track races on the schedule. Matt Kenseth is the defending winner. Last year, Kenseth started from the pole and also went to Victory Lane – becoming the first driver to win the track’s spring race from the Number-1 starting spot since Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace in 1999 … The burning question this weekend? Can anyone cool off a red-hot Kyle Busch? The reigning Sprint Cup champion has back-to-back weekend sweeps – winning the last two Cup Series races, a Camping World Truck Series event at Martinsville Speedway and last weekend’s X-FINITY Series race in Texas. Busch has seventeen Bristol wins across NASCAR’s three national series: five Sprint Cup victories, eight in the X-FINITY Series and four Truck Series wins.
NASCAR haulers will roll into Bristol Motor Speedway today as preparations continue for the weekend’s Sprint Cup/X-FINITY Series doubleheader. The first on-track action will come with Sprint Cup Series practice at 11 a.m. (ET) on Friday with a pair of X-FINITY Series sessions to follow … There are seven Sprint Cup Series drivers who have signed up for double duty this weekend in “Thunder Valley” – Aric Almirola, Kyle Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Joey Logano, who is the defending winner of Saturday’s Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300. Busch has won seven of the last eleven X-FINITY Series races run at Bristol including three in a row during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
With Busch’s victory last weekend in Texas, Toyota has taken over the top spot in the Sprint Cup Series manufacturer standings – holding a two-point edge over Chevrolet heading into Sunday’s Food City 500 in Bristol, Tennessee. Toyota also leads the X-FINITY Series standings in the chase for the Bill France Performance Award while Chevrolet tops the manufacturers in the Camping World Truck Series, posting two wins through the first three races.