With stands that were filled to a fraction of their capacity, good ol’ Darrel Waltrip announced his decision to retire from NASCAR broadcasting. This was the final time we’ll hear “Boogity, boogity, boogity!” at one of the most famous tracks in all of NASCAR.
DW dropped the green flag on an all-Hendrick front row of Chase Elliott and William Byron that started 500 laps of often entertaining racing and saw 9 different race leaders. Elliott led 38 laps but then faded to 11th after contact and losing his power steering. Hendrick teammates Jimmie Johnson got another Top 10 finish, Byron struggled to finish 16th and Alex Bowman ended the day in 24th.
Byron got loose and initiated a wreck on the 3rd lap that sent Aric Almirola to the garage, thus ending his day and saw eventual race winner Kyle Busch get hit from behind and spun out.
One of the biggest surprises of the race came when Ty Dillon stayed out on old tires with Clint Bowyer during a caution near the end of Stage 1. Dillon and Bowyer traded paint and Dillon won the drag race for the Stage point. Bowyer had a decent car but he struggled to keep his car down at the bottom of the track hurting his chance to win. He did manage to finish 7th.
It looked like another Penkse win in the offing with Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Young Ryan Blamey (YRB) leading 146, 40 and 158 laps respectively. In fact, the race looked like it would be a 3-way battle for the win even with less than 30 laps to go. A caution on lap 22 sent the leaders onto pit road, which turned out to be the biggest mistake of the race. Kyle and Kurt Busch decided not to pit, leaving them on the front row with Team Penske with fresh tires but restarting in traffic.
Clean air is clean air, even at Bristol. Kyle Busch shot to the lead while Kurt pushed his car hard but he wasn’t as hooked up as his brother. Joey Logano did what he could, but with less than 20 laps to go he was a distant third. Blaney finished 4th while Keselowski finished 18th after being penalized for disobeying a command from NASCAR on where to line up.
Denny Hamlin led 11 laps and rounded out the Top 5 after, you guessed it, serving another speeding penalty. As I wrote last week, it would be interesting to see just what Hamlin could do if he could eliminate his speeding penalties.
I need to give a shout out to Paul Menard for running up front much of the day and finishing 6th. Daniel Suarez overcame a pit road penalty to finish 8th and Matt DiBenedetto ended the day in 12th after running in the Top 10 much of the race. Ty Dillon got his Stage point and finished in15th, one of the last cars on the lead lap. Chris Buescher ran well most of the day but had a tire issue late in the race that relegated him to 22nd. He looked like he was going to be able to manage a Top 10 or 15 at the least.
Kevin Harvick had one of the fastest cars on the track, but he started the day 4 laps down after serving a drive through penalty for failing inspection. Harvick was able to get his laps back and finish on the lead lap in 13th. That is some serious on track passing.
With the winner of the race looking like he had actually raced at Bristol, I would have to give this race a solid B+. It wasn’t “old” Bristol and we’ll never see that again. But there were two good grooves of racing, cars getting loose, contact, passing and while the race leader could get a bit of a lead in clean air, it wasn’t half the Texas straight away kind of lead.
I am hoping that Richmond offers more of the same.