The first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series race of 2019 was a strange affair for an unofficial start to the season. Paul Menard led over 50 laps of a race that ended 20 laps short of the scheduled 75. There were multiple rain delays, and a lot of single file cars. Even when it seemed as though this would be the cleanest clash in histroy almost every car ended up wrecked.
Menard Started on the pole, thanks to his crew chief drawing the number one spot the night before. While he wouldn’t maintain the lead on lap one, courtesy of Kyle Busch, Menard would find himself back into the lead where he would remain for the vast majority of the race.
Within a few laps the cars were already single file as drivers were not eager to challenge one another. It also appeared difficult for drivers to make moves without side drafting or taking advantage of the air passing over the cars. With everyone lined up on the outside it was not advantageous for anyone to be moivng in and out of line.
The first caution flag flew on lap eight when a light rain began to fall. After a short red flag the cars were back on track. As with the first start of the day the cars quickly assembled into a single file line and ran accordingly around the outside of the track. This continued until lap 25 when all but a few cars darted to pit road before a scheduled competition caution.
Following the competition caution the drivers again filed into line on the outside with Menard out front as the Ford drivers proceeded to dominate the day of damp and less than exciting competition for another dozen laps before rain began to fall again.
NASCAR was successful in their attempt to dry the track for racing as the rain subsided once more. The cars returned to the track runing another dozen laps before rain again threatened the racing action. With 20 laps to go Jimmie Johnson made a move to the inside of Menard on the back stretch. As he narrowly side drafted Menard the two collided sending Menard sliding sideways in front of the entire field.
Only three drivers made it thourhg unscaved as the caution car brought only six running cars around the track and back down pit road as the rain came back harder than before.This would be it for the event as the track would be lost to the downpour. A controversial finish that would be debated for several reasons as some would contest that Johnson’s number 48 Chevrolet went below the yellow line to complete the pass for the lead.
NASCAR would declare Johnson the winnner as the track was lost. They would also go on to state that Johnson’s pass was legal because he was forced below the yellow line by the out of control Wood Brothers Ford. While not the start ot the season most people wanted it seemed most dissapointing for Menard. Kurt Busch would finish second with Logano third, Blaney fourth, and Bowman fifth.
The cars will return to the track to compete this Thursday, February 14th, in the Can-Am duels at 7 and 9PM ET to set the full line-up for the Daytona 500.