BRISTOL, Tenn. - Trying to explain Bristol Motor Speedway to someone who has never walked through the gates of the world's fastest half-mile track can be extremely difficult. It is just one of those tracks that you really need to put on your bucket list to understand all that goes on not only on the track but around the facility as it really puts on a one of a kind show for those in attendance.
The first time I ever witnessed a green flag wave at the track to begin a race was when its capacity was around 54,000.
Yes, I have been making the twice yearly pilgrimage for quite a few years as the track never fails to deliver on the kind of close quarter racing that comes complete with plenty of banging and rubbing that makes for a very exciting 500 laps of racing
This year's edition of the Food City 500 was no different so I would like to share with you some high points of the weekend that actually began on Friday when the haulers unloaded and began preparing for qualifying and race day. Qualifying itself was fairly uneventful as drafting at this track does not come into play so cars did not play the cat and mouse games that we have been forced to watch at the larger tracks this season. Chase Elliott sat on the pole and once again showed flashes why so many people consider him as the prime candidate to carry the torch in the sport to the next generation of fans.
On Sunday morning, I witnessed Kevin Harvick's Stewart Haas Racing team's attempt to get its No. 4 Ford Mustang through pre-race inspection only to have it fail three times.
His inspection woes moved him from his 13th starting spot to the rear of the field and he had a crew member ejected because of the number of failed attempts. NASCAR didn't stop there as he was also forced to do a pass through penalty under green once the race began and the team will also lose 30 minutes of practice time at the next race. Even with all of the problems that he had to start the race that led him to at one point being 4 laps down, he ended up with a very hard earned 13th place finish.
If you are one of those fans that never miss a race either in person or on TV then you know just how difficult it is to pass Ryan Newman.
The Roush Fenway driver is known to have the "widest" car on the track when someone attempts to pass him. Ryan Blaney found out that Newman races hard for every spot when he got into the side of Newman that sent him up the track resulting with a brush against the outside wall with 72 laps remaining. The contact was not enough to deter Newman as a couple of laps later he recovered enough to give Blaney a hard nudge to show his displeasure with the move. Both drivers went on to record top-10 finishes as Blaney finished fourth and Newman crossed the finish line in ninth. It was Newman's best finish of the year and it was Blaney's fourth top-five finish in the last five races.
Kyle Busch's crew chief Adam Stevens made the call of the day when he elected to leave his driver out during the final caution with less than 25 laps remaining. Busch was in third behind Penske Racing teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski when they brought their Fords into their pits for new tires for the final run.
The move allowed Busch to inherit the lead for the race's final restart and his choice of the outside lane for the restart. Once the green waved, he never looked back on his way to his third win of the season.
Finally, the Bristol "buzz" word this weekend was the moving of the 2020 night race into the 10-race playoff portion of the schedule as the first elimination race. The move should once again make this race one of the hardest tickets to come by on the entire schedule as four drivers will be eliminated from the playoff hunt once the checkered flag waves.