On a day that Bristol was rough to most, Carl Edwards conquered the concrete en route to a dominating performance Sunday afternoon.
The No. 19 car started from pole and never looked back. Edwards was out front for a race-high 276 laps, over 130 laps more than his closest competitor. While clinching a birth in the 2016 edition of the Chase, he also posted his fourth top-five finish and seventh top 10 result. His triumph came in the defeat of his three teammates.
“There are so many different things happening out there,” Edwards said post-race. “Different guys are fast at different times. It’s a real testament to my team. They’ve been working so hard. This team is awesome. Dave [Rogers, crew chief] doesn’t quit, he can almost read my mind and tell me things exactly when I need them.”
This is Edwards’ first short-track victory as a part of Joe Gibbs Racing, but his fourth career victory at Bristol, the last one coming in this race two years ago.
After not getting off to a good start, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished in the runner-up position on Sunday. On the initial restart of the race, the No. 88 car had no power and as a result fell two laps down before he had even completed a lap.
Just passed halfway Earnhardt made his way into the top 10, where he would remain for the majority of the second part of the event. This is his third second-place finish of 2016.
“We got a lot of luck on the last several restarts,” Earnhardt said. “We didn’t have a good enough car to run in the top five today. Greg [Ives, crew chief] and the guys did a good job at getting our laps back. We had a dead battery at the start of the race. The car was about a 10th or 15th-place car.”
Kurt Busch led 41 laps on Sunday, bringing his machine home in third. It didn’t take long for the No. 41 car to get inside the top 10 after starting in 26th. He could get good restarts, but never clear Edwards. If we were to have got ahead of the No. 19 car, there is a chance that the five-time Bristol winner would have added to that number.
Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott finished a career-high fourth in Bristol. Right around halfway, the No. 24 car had a loose tire so crew chief Alan Gustafson called the 19-year-old in to pit, where the team would lose two laps.
“The guys brought a fast car here this weekend,” Elliott said. “I hated that we had a loose wheel, but that stuff happens. The guys did a good job having a good pit stop under green and only losing two laps. It gave us a shot to get one down and then back on the lead lap. We’re chipping away, just not close enough.”
Trevor Bayne rounded out the top five, in his first top-five finish since he won the Daytona 500 back in 2011.
Matt DiBenedetto and Clint Bowyer both finished inside of the top 10, giving them their best finish of the season.
There were 15 cautions for 102 laps at Bristol, but the most notable were the four cautions thrown for Joe Gibbs Racing drivers blowing right front tires.
It started on Lap 51, when Kyle Busch blew a tire in Turn Two, while running in third. His trouble continued on Lap 259 when he blew a second tire, this one ending his day.
The bad luck for Matt Kenseth continued on Lap 186 when he blew a tire while leading. Prior to the melted bead the No. 20 Toyota was out front for 142 laps. After fighting his way back up to third, he blew a second tire on Lap 324. The team decided to go behind the wall and fix the damage, resulting in a 36th-place finish, 40 laps down.
On Lap 410, Denny Hamlin added to the trouble-filled day when a bead melted on his machine. He remained on the lead lap and finished 20th.
Loose tires and tire failures was the theme of the 500 laps at Bristol, something that teams will need to address before returning in August.
Kyle Busch went into Sunday’s Food City 500 winning the last two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, but on this day he could barely make it past the halfway mark.
On Lap 51, Busch brought out the race’s first caution after melting a tire bead in the right front tire. At the moment of impact, the No. 18 car was running in third.
After having to go back outside of the top 30, Busch made his way back to the top 15 when Chris Buescher got into the rear of him on Lap 117. The JGR car spun to the inside and maintained his lead lap position.
On Lap 259, Busch’s day came to an end when he blew yet another right front tire, after melting a second bead.
“I have no idea,” Busch said of the reasoning he blew two front tires. “We just kept getting tighter on the long run. We had a really great car yesterday in practice and felt really good about things for today. We drove from the back to the front a couple of times today and showed what we were made of, but it doesn’t matter when you are in the garage.”
Coming into Sunday’s race at Bristol, Busch had five career victories at the world’s fastest half-mile. He will look to get back on track next weekend in Richmond, a track in which he has had a lot of success in the past.
After having an eventful morning in northern Tennessee, Denny Hamlin conquered final practice in preparation for the Food City 500 on Sunday.
Early in the session, the No. 11 Toyota posted a lap at 126.129 mph which is equivalent to just over 15 seconds on the stop watch. Hamlin was fastest in practice on Friday and will roll off the grid from the fourth position.
In the first session on Saturday morning Hamlin and Danica Patrick were involved in an incident heading into Turn One. The No. 11 car darted underneath the No. 10 machine and mistimed it, causing for both drivers to be confused.
“Man, I love Denny, but he makes a lot of mistakes behind me,” Patrick said. “I don’t know if he misjudged it or I was going slower than he thought, but I put my finger out the window and pointed him by. I had no intention to race him. I was not fast enough. I don’t know, but the guys are going to try and fix it.”
The only non-Toyota in the top five in final practice was Chase Elliott in second at 125.823 mph. The No. 24 Chevrolet posted his fastest time of the session as time expired, giving him confidence heading into his first event at the world’s fastest half-mile.
Just seconds before Elliott clocked off a hot lap, Martin Truex, Jr. had posted the second fastest time. He ended the session in third at 125.749 mph.
A duo of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates rounded out the top five. Pole-sitter, Carl Edwards was fourth quickest at 125.691 mph. Kyle Busch was fifth at 125.395 mph, after pacing the opening practice earlier on in the morning.
The fourth JGR Toyota and defending winner of this race, Matt Kenseth was 10th in the session, yet he was just over a tenth of a second off the fast lap.
The highest Richard Childress Racing car was Austin Dillon in 20th. His RCR teammate, Ryan Newman ran just over 100 laps, but only fast enough for 27th.
Sprint Cup Rookie Chris Buescher ran 104 laps, the most of the 40-car field. His hot lap was quick enough for 21st on the speed chart.
The Food City 500 is slated to begin shortly after 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, a race that has been rain delayed in each of the past two years.
Take Kyle Busch’s name out of NASCAR drivers potentially attempting “The Double” in 2016, which includes racing 1,100 miles in the same day, both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend.
However, it still remains a bucket list item for the Las Vegas native. It has been rumored that drivers such as Brian Vickers and even Busch’s older brother Kurt Busch could possibly race in the 100th anniversary of the event this year.
The elder Busch brother admitted a few weeks ago that his name was now off the radar after placing sixth in the event just two years ago for Andretti Autosport. On Friday, at Bristol Motor Speedway, the younger brother took his name out of the running as well, though the sponsors are all for it.
“The sponsor aspect, they’ve actually shown some interest in it and that was kind of fun for me to hear that there might actually be an opportunity there if I continue my relationship with them from the Cup side to the IndyCar side,” Busch said in a press conference.
Busch, 30, raised speculation on social media last month when he sent out a tweet saying “Always said when I win a Cup championship I’d give it thought.”
The reigning Sprint Cup champion is in the midst of a hot streak. He has won the last two Cup events at Martinsville and Texas and has also been triumphant in four of the XFINITY Series six races this year. It would make sense that this year would be the year to run the historical race in Indianapolis.
Busch admitted that it would be hard to persuade car-owner Joe Gibbs to let him run the event. One of the reasons that Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing following the 2008 season was because Gibbs was not for the veteran driver running extracurricular events.
Busch’s wife Samantha is not necessarily in favor of her husband running the event either.
“Joe's going to be the hardest one for sure," Busch explained. "Samantha is not necessarily a fan of it and I've talked to her about it a little bit and she's just like, 'I'll be there when the time comes, but don't tell me.'”
Busch has gone to Victory Lane at Indianapolis before as he is the reigning winner of the Brickyard 400.
For the second consecutive week Carl Edwards will lead the Sprint Cup Series to the green flag after winning the pole at Bristol Motor Speedway. On Friday afternoon, the No. 19 car posted a lap of 127.997 mph. that earned the Joe Gibbs Racing team the first starting position.
“This place is really complicated,” Edwards said. “My guys did a really good job making the car drive well on all different segments. You drive into the corner and these things just take off and slide. Dave [Rogers, crew chief] and everybody did a really great job. It’s really cool to get this pole.”
Edwards has three career wins at the world’s fastest half-mile, the most recent coming in this race two years ago.
Alongside Edwards is his teammate at JGR, Matt Kenseth. The No. 20 Toyota laid down a lap at 127.419 mph. which was .068 seconds off the pole winning time.
Kenseth won both the pole and the 500-lap event last spring, ending a 51-race winless streak. In all three rounds the No. 20 car was among the top five on speeds, which gives him confidence heading into Sunday.
“We were just a little off,” Kenseth said. “The first round we were pretty good. The second round we tried to make it better and got it a little too tight and in the third round we were just too loose. Overall, it was a great day and we’ll get a great pit spot to start.”
Breaking up the JGR parade in the top five was two-time Bristol winner Joey Logano. The No. 22 Ford was quickest in the first round, second in round two and finished third in the final round.
Denny Hamlin will begin Sunday’s event from fourth, after posting the quickest time in opening practice on Friday morning. Just behind him on the starting grid is the fourth JGR driver Kyle Busch.
The Toyota organization dominated Friday at Bristol, at a track where the four JGR drivers have a combined 13 victories.
Jamie McMurray was the first driver not to advance to the final round of qualifying and will start 13th on Sunday after having a top five speed in practice. Ryan Blaney is the highest starting rookie in 18th, with fellow Rookie of the Year competitor Chase Elliott just behind in 19th.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will start 20th on Sunday following a tight condition where the left front dragged through the center of the corner. The No. 88 Chevrolet was seventh in the opening practice session Friday Morning.
In the first round Ty Dillon hit the apron of the track coming off of Turn 2, spinning down the backstretch, sliding into the right rear of Landon Cassill’s No. 38 machine.
Cassill had already posted a lap and will lineup 28th on Sunday as opposed to Dillon’s 34th quickest lap. The contact left the No. 14 car with heavy right side damage just behind the front fender. NASCAR allowed the team to change four tires after flat spotting the original tires on the Chevrolet.
Every team made the event as there were 40 cars for 40 positions. The Food City 500 is slated to begin shortly after 1:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon.