Kyle Busch winning his 2nd straight race and his 7th victory at Bristol wasn’t the only headline gaining “traction” at the world’s last great Colosseum.
Yellow flags are always expected in the half mile but this year brought 13 in a race that was delayed, postponed and delayed again because Mother Nature has refused to let go of winter type weather. Monday featured a sport where it seemed all but locked in for the race favorite (Kyle) Busch but was challenged the entire time by an ill-handling race track, ever-changing because of that weather. At the end of Day 2, the best car may not have won the race, but the best team/driver with the best strategy did win. Let’s take a look.
Stage 1 Winner: Brad Keselowski
At the start of the race, the tandem of Busch squared held the top two spots because of great qualifying runs, but older (Kurt) Busch had to fall to the rear at the start along with heavy hitters Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson because he had to climb into a backup car.
The first caution of the day was flown a few laps in due to Michael McDowell getting loose on the green track that was treated (for the first time) with PJ1 or traction compound on the lower groove of the path to try to compensate for the lack of grip after the rain washed most of the rubber away.
LAP 50 – Red flag brought out for the 1st time presumably for weather. The race resumes after running ten pace laps, but at lap 61 Ricky Stenhouse may or may not have been bumped and loosened to unveil the race’s 4th yellow flag.
In what would be the most disappointing event of the first stage; on lap 118 Ryan Blaney, who led most of the race was caught up in lap traffic got bumped and caused a five-car chain reaction that essentially caused Blaney’s car to not be the same the rest of the race ending his bid for a win at the short track. There was such a show of support for Blaney he took to Twitter this morning to thank everyone
I’ll tell ya it makes me feel good all the positive stuff y’all said the past 20 or so hours. Means a lot. Thanks for being great people.
— Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) April 16, 2018
END – Brad Keselowski and crew took a gamble after the lap 118 caution to skip the pits and run the race on older tires, a risk that proved to earn him the stage win.
Stage 2 Winner: Brad Keselowski
On lap 155 Trevor Bayne in a solo effort brings out the 7th caution of the race getting awfully loose and narrowly missing the wall.
Lap 165 NASCAR flies the red flag yet again this time for the rain. There was some discussion on whether the first red flag was presented because of weather but no definitive answer as of this article being published, was determined. Eric Jones was the leader at this point.
Raced was resumed to only be yellow then red flagged and postponed until today for conclusion with Kyle Larson at the point to start the race.
The new day brought the same rain and a minor delay to start the race Monday afternoon. By the end of the stage it was a familiar face taking the checkers, Brad Keselowski.
Final Stage Winner: Kyle Busch
The final stage of the race brought a first for one budding fan favorite, Bubba Wallace, he led his first lap in a MENCS race, during the race his team quoted his reaction.
Cool as 💩 says @BubbaWallace about leading.
— Richard Petty Motorsports (@RPMotorsports) April 16, 2018
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) April 16, 2018
With 109 laps to go the yellow flag was brought out yet again albeit briefly for rain. After restarting and rolling on the green flag, the grooves started to come in and the rubbing and bumping began as drivers jockeyed for the best position they could muster.
Another storyline that was being followed during this final stage was that NASCAR allowed the teams an extra set of tires because of the crazy conditions endured during the weekend with the track. The problem was Goodyear had not yet delivered the tires at the (re)start of the race. With 47 to go the tires were mounted for all teams (a stipulation implemented to make it fair). The frenzy to collet those tires mimicked that of children running after the ice cream truck in July.
After pit stops during the 13th caution, caused by the the previous stage winner “breaking” something in his machine. The only thing breaking was the left front tire being worn down. The final laps were to be ran under green. Kyle Busch bumped and ran his way to the front like man that has been there 6 times before. On his way to the front was a familiar face, Kyle Larson who seemingly is always a bridesmaid, never the bride at Bristol. Busch took the checkered flag in front of Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman to round out the top 5.
Busch (365 points) leads the standings after this race by 59 points over second place Joey Logano and following closely behind Logano is Kevin Harvick with 290 points.
Next week the series heads to Richmond for another short track on a shortened week. Remains to be seen if Kyle Busch can continue his dominance on the short tracks.