The second race at Bristol of 2016 will be known as The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race that wasn’t. Mother Nature reared her ugly head once again this season, forcing the race to be postponed from Saturday evening to Sunday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The race was red flagged due to precipitation after 49 laps on Saturday evening. When the monsoon ensued, NASCAR was forced to postpone the event to Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. ET. However, the bad weather stuck around for a few more hours, and the green flag finally flew just past 4:30 p.m. ET. There was only one caution for rain for the remainder of the race that lasted for about 10 minutes. Other than that, it was vintage Bristol racing with a vintage Bristol winner.
Kevin Harvick earned his second victory of the season (Phoenix) after leading 128 of the 500 laps at the half-mile short-track. He made the decisive pass on eventual third-place finisher Denny Hamlin with 70 laps remaining, and didn’t look back. It was Harvick’s second career win at BMS and first in over a decade (2005). It was also Stewart-Haas Racing’s first win as an organization at “The Last Great Colosseum.”
“We should have won a lot of races this year, but we just had things not go our way,” Harvick told CNBC in victory lane. “We made mistakes, or whatever the case may be. But, to get back into Victory Lane here at Bristol feels really good.”
After starting 24th, Harvick quickly made his way through the field and was inside the top five in no time. It was clear early that he was one of the cars to beat.
“Qualifying in the back kind of motivates me. It’s kind of exciting,” Harvick told reporters in the media center following the win. “I like to pass cars.
“We’ve had some good cars here over the last few years, and we knew we had the performance that we needed to have in the cars pretty much every week,” he went on to say. “And it’s been one of those deals where things have just not gone exactly right. But to have the win now and just try to get that momentum before we get into the Chase and get things rolling is really what we needed.”
The win on Sunday was also the first at the track for Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers.
Harvick also had an untraditional celebration. His longtime friend and owner, Tony Stewart, did celebratory burnouts with him on the frontstretch as the driver of the No. 14 paid tribute to the fans that stuck around for an extra 24 hours at the small-town track in Tennessee. Stewart was relegated to a 30th place finish due to mechanical issues.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came home with a career-best second-place finish. He was running a special paint scheme, a tribute to his friend Bryan Clauson, a former XFINITY driver who passed away in a Sprint Car wreck.
“It just wasn’t meant to be today. We made our car a lot faster throughout the race and came from two laps down to get back on the lead lap,” Stenhouse Jr. told CNBC.
The driver of the No. 17 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing was racing in the high groove for most of the final 200 laps. However, the talk of the weekend was a substance called VHT, or rosin. The speedway put down 18 additional inches of the sticky, grippy substance on the bottom lane prior to the NSCS race. It worked extremely well as drivers and fans alike were thrilled with the multiple grooves being back at one of the most famous tracks in all of NASCAR. Two lanes, great racing and the “old” Bristol.
The aforementioned Hamlin came home third, with the winner of the Food City 300 (NXS race this weekend) Austin Dillon finishing fourth and Chris Buescher rounding out the top five. Buescher, who won at Pocono in surprising fashion, is now solidly inside the top 30 in points with three races remaining until the playoffs begin.
Polesitter Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, AJ Allmendinger and Joey Logano rounded out the top ten when the checkered flag flew on Sunday evening as well.
Jeff Gordon finished in 11th place. Gordon said he will not race next weekend at Michigan due to “a prior commitment,” and if Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still sidelined, Alex Bowman (raced the No. 88 at New Hampshire) will be behind the wheel.
Some other notables include Chase Elliott in 15th, Danica Patrick in 22nd and Ryan Blaney in 35th, sporting the Virginia Tech colors. Martin Truex Jr. (23rd), Kyle Larson (24th), Ryan Newman (28th), Brad Keselowski (33rd), Matt Kenseth (37th) and Kurt Busch (38th) were all involved in an accident late in the race.
Kyle Busch, who was the dominant car along with Harvick, ended up finishing 39th after a part failure in the rear of the car forced him to spin out. The car was undamaged, until Justin Allgaier, who stepped in to drive the No. 46 car for Michael Annett, made contact with the No. 18 Toyota. Busch had some harsh words for Allgaier upon exiting his car.
“The real idiots out there are the driver and spotter of the No. 46. I’ve been wrecking for half a lap and they just come on through and clean us out,” he told CNBC. “That’s stupid, so I don’t know – frustrating day. Let’s go home.”
Next week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series head to the Irish Hills of Michigan at Michigan International Speedway. The XFINITY Series will be at Road America for more road course racing. I’ll be at MIS, and can’t wait to keep you guys updated!