There is no other track on the circuit like Bristol. When NASCAR makes the trip to Tennessee, one thing is for certain, something big will happen.
Sunday afternoon, that was no exception. For 500 laps, the top drivers in the Sprint Cup Series had to deal with the concrete chaos at Thunder Valley. In the end, a familiar face went to victory lane, using strategy and smart driving to get the checkered flag.
That being said, let's talk about my race reactions for the Food City 500.
Right away, the first thing I will say is that streaks are meant to come to an end. For Bristol, it saw it's own streak finish when the green flag dropped. For the first time in over a decade, Bristol did not sell out.
Yes, you heard me right. Bristol DID NOT sell out. This came as an utter shock to me. Seeing bare grandstands at this track is like expecting the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament to lose early. But then again, look at what happened to Kansas last night, so anything is possible.
It's just incredible that a track that has sold out for 23 consecutive races had to face the reality that it could not fill its grandstands. I guess the streak had to come to an end sometime, and this race was that time.
Now, onto the actual race. Talk about another great day for the Penske Racing organization. Atlanta winner Kurt Busch was the dominant car once more all afternoon. The No. 2 was out front for over half the laps and was the driver everyone was chasing the entire race.
He ran smart, ran hard, and found himself in great position to win two straight—but it was not meant to be. The final pit stop wasn't what made the difference. Sure, he went from first to sixth as other teams took two tires, but he found himself on the outside lane, which proved to be the better lane to restart in.
Unfortunately, he didn't get the breaks he needed—in regards to the traffic—to get back to the front. Instead, it was another driver who took four tires going to victory lane.
That driver was Jimmie Johnson.
It took 17 races, but the No. 48 car finally found victory at Bristol. It didn't come without some hard driving, but Johnson made all the right moves when it mattered the most.
Starting fifth on the final restart, he got a huge jump over two of the Roush cars in front of him. He quickly moved to second and began chasing down then leader Tony Stewart.
But with the No. 14 just taking right side tires, it was just a matter of time. Johnson made the move high, and it was all over at that point.
Johnson smoked the tires all the way around that concrete track and even up the ramp into victory lane. This was the one track that he wanted to win at badly—other than a road course. The only tracks left on his resume that he has yet to win at are Infineon, Watkins Glen, and Homestead.
My guess is that by the end of this year, at least one of those tracks will be off the list.
Finally, my next race reaction is more about another end of an era. Today was the last race for the rear wing. It's ironic because in 2007, it was this race that was the first for the current Cup car and the introduction of the rear wing.
Now, the wing era has come full circle.
After all the complaints by the fans, the crews, and especially the drivers, no longer will they have to deal with that wing.
Next week at Martinsville marks the return of the spoiler. Something that I personally am looking forward to.
What difference will it make? Will the drivers feel a difference? Will crew chiefs make different adjustments to compensate for the new addition?
All those questions will be answered come 1 p.m. next Sunday.
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