It was a tale of two days for Roush Fenway’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Xfinity Series teams this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 from Bristol Motor Speedway was not the best race in 2017 for Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed and Darrell Wallace Jr.
In qualifying early Saturday Morning, Reed qualified 24th and Wallace Jr. qualified 14th. However, both drivers had to start in the rear of the field. In pre-race technical inspection, NASCAR found an unapproved splitter mount on both the cars.
For Reed, the first stage of the race was his last. After dropping to the rear of the field to serve his penalty, he began to make strides towards the front. Due to a tight handling race car in the early stages, Reed was put a lapped down by the leaders. Reed never had the chance to make a pit stop to fix the issue.
Reed’s day ended on lap 79 of the 300 lap event. The right front tire blew sending Reed into the wall. Reed also suffered a sprain to his wrist as he did not let go of the steering wheel in time before contact was made. Reed and his team deemed the car as unrepairable to finish 38th
“It was a tough day altogether, starting in the back,” said Reed. “The balance wasn’t very good and we went a lap down early. We were trying to fight through it, but had a tire go down and that ended our day. We’ll move on. We’ll go to Richmond, which is one of my favorite tracks, and rebound. The good thing about getting a win at Daytona is that buys you some insurance in case you have some days like this, so we’ll rebound. I’m really proud of everyone on the Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang. It’s a tough group mentally and physically, so we’ll persevere.”
After getting out of the car, Reed though his wrist was fractured. However, He went to social media to confirm it was just a sprain.
Ohh and wrist is all good. Just a little tight. ??— Ryan Reed (@driverRyanReed) April 22, 2017
For Wallace Jr., his day ended with 40 laps remaining ending his streak of five consecutive sixth place finishes.
In the first stage, Wallace Jr. worked his way towards the top-15 after starting from the rear. He improved over 20 positions in the stage, but went a lap down to the leaders due to a long green flag run. Wallace finished 15th in the first stage.
The second stage saw Wallace Jr. fighting to get his lap back that he lost in the first stage. Wallace Jr. battled Matt Tifft for that free pass position through much of the second and third stage. However, an accident on lap 259 that damaged the left rear of the car regulated Wallace Jr. to a 33rd place finish, tying his worst finish of the season at Daytona.
“It’s just an unfortunate day,” said Wallace. “I was just fighting hard for the lucky dog. We were put in the back for some circumstances we’ve got to get straightened out, but we were trying to make the most of it. We were fast. We were so fast there with our Leidos Mustang. It’s just unfortunate. We were clawing ourselves out of that lap-down spot and just ran out of time and ran out of luck.
The Food City 500 provided Roush Fenway’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., with the best luck of the weekend for the organization. Both drivers ran up front most of the day and ended up with top-11 finishes.
Bayne started in the 12th position due to qualifying being cancelled on Friday. Bayne maintained a top-20 position throughout much of the first stage. As the track rubbered up, Bayne began to experience a tight handling race car towards the end of the stage. Bayne finished the stage in the 15th position.
The second stage Bayne continued to work on his handling working his way up into the top-10. Bayne held off Stenhouse Jr. towards the conclusion to score two points by finishing in the ninth position.
The third stage saw Bayne going from tight conditions in the middle of the corners and loose on corner entry. Bayne was on and off in the top-10. Using the top lane, Bayne gained track position to finish in the 11th position to score his sixth top-15 finish of 2017.
Just like Bayne, Stenhouse Jr. ran up front throughout much of the race and scored a ninth place finish.
Stenhouse was almost going to a backup car after contact with the wall in the only practice session on Friday, but the team repaired the car to full glory for the race.
Stenhouse held onto a position in the top-20 throughout much of the first stage. while battling a loose car. Once the loose condition was treated, Stenhouse marched his way to the front of the field. Stenhouse worked his way towards the top-10 at the conclusion of the second stage.
Stenhouse used the high lane to work his way up to seventh, but ultimately ended up in the ninth position in the Food City 500.
RIDGEWAY, Va.— Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch had at it during Sunday’s running of the STP 500.
In the second stage of the race, that ran from laps 130 to 260, Busch was setting a blistering pace lapping the field up to 17th position.
Early in the stage as Busch was about to lap Stenhouse Jr., but Stenhouse did not help but put on a fight with Busch. Stenhouse was not happy with Busch and was going to let him know it the next chance he got.
The opportunity for Stenhouse came on the final lap of stage two. Stenhouse was able to get to the bumper of Busch. Busch went higher than normal in the fourth turn because he was running a lane above where the rubber was being laid down. Stenhouse went low on Busch sending him up the racetrack. Stenhouse was able to get his lap back, and give Chase Elliott the stage win and playoff point.
After the race, Stenhouse mentioned that he had to do it for his team and sponsors to stay on the lead lap.
However, Busch had a different story to tell after the conclusion of the race.
“I actually was rolling into Turn 3 and was kind of going higher out of my way in order to let the 17 back by and give him the lap. That was my intent, and then he just drove through me. It cost me my spot to the 24, so I was hoping the I could rn off the corner side by side with the 17 and keep the 24 at bay and just keep my nose in front of his and be able to score the segment, and I was trying to be a nice guy, but nice guys don’t finish first,” said Busch.
Busch mentioned that he felt disrespected by Stenhouse as he was banging him (Busch) into the corners. Busch also mentions that this incident will come back and bite Stenhouse at a later date.
“You’ve just got to remember race car drivers are like elephants; they remember everything.”
Busch finished second in the STP 500, while Stenhouse Jr finished 10th.
Kevin Harvick holds off weather and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to win the almost 24-hour long Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, and Chris Buescher rounded out the top-five. Harvick started from 24th to win today’s race. This is Harvick’s 33rd victory in 561 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series started.
“We should have won a lot of race this year, and we’ve just had things not go our way, made mistakes, or whatever the case may be, but to get back in victory lane here at bristol feels really good. We’ve had some good cars here the last few years. And to have Busch Beers on the car, we’ve had some crap luck with these guys on the car. Just really happy for Busch Beers and Jimmie Johns, and really proud for all these guys on the 4 team,” said Kevin Harvick in post-race victory lane interview.
“Just frustrating. Starting sixth on that last restart with him (Harvick) starting on the front row was tough. We were going to have to get everything perfect. It took me a minute to get the top going, but I wanted to give up there, but I remembered we had Bryan Clauson’s tribute car here. The guys dug deep to make our Fastenal Ford a lot better. We really wanted to park in victory lane for his whole family, friends, and fans. We were just a little bit short. I thought we were matching lap times there at the end; I just needed a restart or to start a little bit closer. I am definitely happy with how the weekend ended,” said second place finisher, Stenhouse Jr. post race.
Despite the race was delayed due to lightening in the area, the race began shortly after 9:00 pm eastern on Saturday night. Drivers were debating on whether to run high or on the bottom, but the lower groove prevailed at the beginning of the race. After getting the race underway for 31 laps, rain returned to the Bristol area bringing out the caution and ultimately the red flag. As the track dried, the engines refired shortly after 10:40 pm eastern. The red flag was displayed for 1 hour 24 minute and 4 seconds. While the cars were on the track and the jet dryers were finishing up drying pit road, the rain returned on lap 47. The race was postponed shortly after 11:20 pm eastern, and was scheduled to begin at 1 pm on Sunday. However, when 1 pm came on Sunday, rain was still a factor, delaying the even more. The red flag was lifted shortly after 4:30PM (EST). Green flag racing resumed on lap 58. When the race resumed, drivers were on the high and low lines trying to gain positions. The first half of the race was a dominating performance and a blistering pace set Kyle Busch, who lead 184 of 250 laps in the opening portion of the race.
Just as the race crept past halfway, the caution flew for debris. Busch continued his early dominance from the first half of the race into the second half. Tony Stewart, who had a terrible qualifying effort at Bristol, ended behind the wall to fix the tire vibration issues, but did return back on the speedway. The bottom and high line began to equalize in the second half of the race. Teams began to play cat and mouse on pit road in an effort to restart on the outside line. After dominating most of the are, Ky. Busch reported that the rear-end housing might be broken, but ended up crashing before heading to the garage. Unlike the first half of the race, cautions were breeding cautions. Weather brought out a caution on lap 433, but cars were brought onto pit road with 54 laps remaining as the red flag delayed. After a brief timeout the red flag was lifted after 6 minutes, 47 seconds. The end of the race went business as usual. The second half of the race was dominated and ultimately won by Harvick and the 4 team.
Overall, the 56th annual Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway say 20 lead changes among 8 different drivers. Ky. Busch led 256 laps, the most laps led, before getting caught up in an accident. The caution flag flew nine times for a total of 106 laps. The red flag was displayed three times all for weather. The average speed of the race was 77.968 mph. The official time of race was 3 hours, 25 minutes, and 5 seconds. The margin of victory was 1.933 seconds.
Harvick continues his reign as the point leader. Brad Keselowski is 27 points behind, Kurt Busch is 70 points behind, Carl Edwards is 73 points back, and Joey Logano rounds out the top five behind 78 points.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup grid has shifted some after today’s race. Buescher has raced his way into the top-30 and points, shifting the grid to only four spots remaining in the next three races. Ryan Newman is currently in the 12th spot on the grid. Because of Beuscher’s run, Kyle Larson was bumped out of the Chase.
The next race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to the Irish Hills of Michigan for the second time in 2016 for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Alex Bowman will be in the no. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy at Michigan if Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not medically cleared to race due to concussion-like symptoms. The Pure Michigan 400 will be on NBCSN and Motor Racing Network beginning at 2:00PM (EST).
The last time the Cup Series ran at Dover, Harvick led 355 laps en route to securing a Chase birth into the second round of the Chase. On Friday, it was a lap of 165.145 mph that secured the pole for the No. 4 car. Had that lap been ran in qualifying it would have set a new track record.
"That definitely changes your approach," Harvick said of the possibility of rain. "That's what the forecast looked like all week and we just decided to come with qualifying trim."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will line up second after having one of his better practices of the year. At a lap of 164.707 mph it will be his best start since he was awarded the pole at Daytona last summer. The qualifying for that event was also postponed due to rain.
"Hopefully we can get some practice in tomorrow and work on the race setup a bit," said Earnhardt.
The Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards will start alongside in Row 2. Each driver has a victory on the concrete at Dover and both have already clinched a spot in the Chase this season.
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. will round out the top five, running a lap in practice at 163.815 mph.
The other two JGR cars will lineup inside of the top 10, Denny Hamlin in sixth and Matt Kenseth in 10th.
Chase Elliott is the highest starting rookie in 13th. While fellow Rookie of the Year competitor Brian Scott was the only driver to make a race run in practice. He will start 17th on Sunday.
10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson will start from 21st, with Joey Logano alongside in 22nd. Other notable drivers starting toward the rear are Jamie McMurray 24th, Danica Patrick 31st and Tony Stewart 34th.
There are two practice sessions on Saturday to prepare for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. Johnson is the defending winner of the event.