Mike Bliss Finishes in the Top Spot in Weather-Shortened Nationwide Race
Ten laps into the Cup practice, the skies open and the rain poured down at Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. Unfortunately, the rains and wet track conditions also wreaked havoc with the Nationwide race, originally set to start after the finish of the Cup practice session.
After the rain ended and an extended stint of track drying ensued, the drivers were finally called to their cars, buckled in, and got ready to fire up their engines.
One of the most interesting pre-race activities was watching Kyle Busch sprint to his race car, instead of running away from the car or out of the track as is his usual custom.
After a quick kiss and hug from his girlfriend, Busch shook hands with one of the NASCAR officials and climbed aboard his number 18 NOS Energy drink race car. Busch unfortunately had to drop from the outside front row to the back of the pack due to an engine change.
After about an hour delay, those most famous words in racing were finally given by Bruce Schuetz and the drivers fired up their engines.
Carl Edwards had secured the pole position for the race and led the field to green. There were a few surprises in qualifying, with Michael McDowell securing the sixth starting spot.
Stanton Barrett, part-time Nationwide racer and Indy car racer, qualified his way into the show. Stuntman Barrett started in the 11th position.
Red Bull teammates Brian Vickers and Scott Speed also qualified well. Vickers lined up in the fifth position and Speed in the fourteenth spot to start the race.
Brad Keselowski faced the biggest challenge of the evening. Keselowski crashed both his primary and back up cars in practice and will start with a green race car, in addition to the green race track.
After finally getting out on the track, the drivers had to go single file to avoid the jet dryers, who were trying to get every patch on the track dry. The race started under the yellow for safety's sake, again in order to address the remaining wet conditions on the track.
At lap seven of 200, the Nationwide racers finally took the green flag and set sail for the series' longest race of the season. Carl Edwards led the first lap under green, while Greg Biffle and David Ragan battled for the second spot.
In the first lap, Kyle Busch raced his way from the back of the pack to pass nineteen cars. After threading the needle several times, Busch rocketed up high on the track to the twenty-third spot, all after only one lap of green flag racing.
After sixteen laps, Busch passed Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to secure the 10th position. Busch took it three wide to next move into the eighth spot.
On lap 23, Michael Annett hit the wall hard. His car filled with smoke, caught fire, spun, yet Annett was able to quickly and safely exit his race car.
After the first pit stop of the evening, many cars took two tires only in order to gain track position. Carl Edwards held onto the lead after his pit stop and Kyle Busch broke into the top five with his two-tire pit strategy.
Biffle had trouble on his pit stop, missing his pit by one stall. Biffle had to back up and ended up taking only fuel as a result.
Kenny Wallace did not pit during the first caution of the evening. His No. 28 Border Patrol car got some valuable television time, before giving up the lead to attend to his own pit service.
A real battle ensued between Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers. But after finally getting around Vickers, Kyle Busch then went on to snatch the lead from Carl Edwards on lap 41, after starting from the rear of the field.
Kyle Busch then set sail as his tradition, leading the race handily, with no pressure from second place Greg Biffle. Also having a great run in this race segment were Jason Leffler and Mike Bliss.
On lap 76, Steven Wallace was the first car in for a green flag pit stop. Unfortunately, Wallace's team did not get the second can of fuel into the car, which may cause him to have to come in again sooner than anticipated.
On lap 83, most of the leaders came to pit road for green flag stops. Biffle had another problem on pit road, stalling the car after his service.
Most cars on this stop eagerly took four tires. Carl Edwards also pulled a spring rubber and Kyle Busch made a wedge adjustment during their round of pit stops.
After all of the green flag stops, Kyle Busch cycled back into the race leader position again.
On lap 90, Justin Allgaier spun to bring out the caution. Although pit road was open, there were no takers and Kyle Busch remained the race leader, with Jason Leffler a close second.
David Gilliland received the "lucky dog" pass to get back onto the lead lap. Nineteen cars remained on the lead lap at this stage of the race.
At the halfway point, the leader was Kyle Busch, with Brian Vickers in second, Greg Biffle in third, Joey Logano in fourth, and Jason Leffler rounding out the top five.
On lap 106, Stanton Barrett grazed the wall. Unfortunately for Barrett, the race continued without a caution.
Greg Biffle's troubles continued to plague the No. 16 car. On lap 125, Biffle had to come to pit road with a tire down. His pit stop, with a four tire change, put him a lap down.
Surprisingly, Brian Vickers was able to wrest the lead away from Kyle Busch. After a four-tire change, Busch resumed the lead.
On lap 146, green flag pit stops started yet again, most likely making this the final stop of the evening. On this pit stop, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. reported a ploughing condition and appropriate adjustments were made to the car to address his issues.
With 50 laps to go, Steve Wallace spun trying to get on pit road. But Kevin Hamlin then proceeded to hit the wall and the caution flew.
Several drivers had not made their green flag pit stops so the running order was again shuffled. Joe Nemechek's No. 87 LubePros' sponsored car started smoking, most likely with engine problems.
NASCAR then had to sort out the running order, with Mike Bliss shown not only as the leader but also the only car on the lead lap. Bliss then proceeded to pit road under the yellow and took four tires.
With everyone having made green flag pit stops, most cars ended up being a lap down. Brendan Gaughan got the lucky dog pass, so in essence there were now two cars on the lead lap.
Kevin Harvick received a penalty for removing equipment from his pit stall, carrying the catch can for a pit stall or two. Harvick will have to start at the end of the line, which is long given those trapped a lap down.
Although Mike Bliss was the leader, a gaggle of cars started in front of him. All of those cars were on the tail end of the lead lap.
Michael McDowell reported that so much sand was put down to absorb the oil on the caution that it was "like a beach down the backstretch." Kyle Busch was feeling like he had been on the track so long that surely there must already be a winner for the Indy 500.
With 40 laps to go, Mike Bliss took the green flag as the race leader. Unfortunately, he had ten cars ahead of him on the lead lap and Brendan Gaughan right there behind him in the second spot.
With 36 laps to go, Brendan Gaughan and Mike Bliss were locked in a battle royal. Gaughan prevailed and this "rookie" driver took the lead.
But Bliss would not be denied the lead. He drove his car hard into the corner and took the lead away from Gaughan yet again.
On lap 32, the caution came out yet again, with rain drops falling on the track. With Mike Bliss in the lead, 12 cars were now on the lead lap, with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. benefiting from the lucky dog this time.
The jet dryers again took to the track to try to dry it out for the final laps of the race. Just when it looked like the cars were ready to take the track again, the rains began to fall again, this time requiring most of the plastic covers to come out on the cars.
Bliss climbed out of his race car, giving NASCAR every indication that he was the race winner. He gave owner James Finch his second win, the first being Keselowski at the Talladega Race.
At 11:27 PM, NASCAR called the race and declared Mike Bliss the winner. It has been 83 starts since Bliss' last win.
Brendan Gaughan dedicated his second place finish to his grandmother, who passed away recently.
The top five finishing order was as follows:
1. Mike Bliss
2. Brendan Gaughan
3. Kyle Busch
4. Brian Vickers
5. Joey Logano
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