Friday, Jan 21

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).

Carl Edwards will start from the pole position in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday evening with a time of 14.602 seconds, equalling the previous track record. This is Edwards’ 21st pole in his career. This is also his fourth time at Bristol to start from the pole.

 "We didn’t make a mock run. That tells you how great of teammates I have. They’re so fast and they helped us a lot, so we’ll start where we started earlier this year. Hopefully we can put STANLEY in victory lane, but this is going to be a heck of a race. Those are fast laps. That’s a lot of fun. Just proud of my guys – they worked really hard. We rolled the dice and it was fast," said Edwards post-qualifying. 

The first round of qualifying started under partly cloudy conditions. After spinning earlier in practice off turn four, Greg Biffle spun off of turn two during this round of qualifying. NASCAR allowed for Biffle’s team to change their flat spotted tires because they were not on a competitive lap at the time of the spin. Denny Hamlin set a new track record at 14.573 seconds around the half-mile concrete oval. Clint Bowyer also spun trying to hit the throttle early to improve on his time from earlier in the session. At the end of the session, Hamlin was fastest at a speed of 131.668 mph, Kyle Busch was second at 131.003 mph, Joey Logano was third at 130.221 mph, Matt Kenseth was fourth at 130.168 mph, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-five at a speed of 130.123 mph. The top-26 in this opening round posted times of under 14 seconds around the track. No drivers were sent home. Some notable drivers did not advance to the second round including Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (p25), Tony Stewart (p27), Jamie McMurray (p28), Bowyer (p31), and Biffle (p34).

 

At the beginning of the second round, shade was creeping onto the concrete oval. Hamlin was the fastest in this round with a speed of 130.295 mph, Kenseth was second at 130.300 mph, Martin Truex Jr. crept into the top five in the third position at 130.247 mph, Blaney was fourth at 129.842 mph, and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five at 129.833 mph. Some notable drivers who did not advance to the third round were Austin Dillon (p13), Kurt Busch, (p14), Jimmie Johnson (p16), and Kevin Harvick (p24). Chris Buescher, who is trying to make the chase, qualified 12th in this round to advance to the final round. 

 

The third round of qualifying saw shade increase. The session started out with Chris Buescher being the first car on track. However, Edwards ended up on top at a speed of 131.407 mph, Hamlin will start second at a speed of 131.200 mph, Ky. Busch was third at a speed of 130.931 mph, Blaney was fourth at a speed of 130.637 mph, and Kenseth rounded out the top five at a speed of 130.619 mph. 

 

The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race will be on NBCSN beginning at 7:30 pm eastern on NBCSN. Performance Racing Network will have the radio broadcast beginning at 7 pm eastern. 

 

After the final off weekend of 2016, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the Tennessee and Virginia state line to the the .553-mile Bristol Motor Speedway for the prestigious and historic Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race. This is the 22nd race of the 2016 season with only four races remaining until the Chase for the Sprint Cup. 40 cars have entered into competition, which means no drivers are going home. 

 

Matt Kenseth leads all active drivers in the box score for Bristol Motor Speedway. Kenseth will be the driver to watch this weekend. He has an average start of 12.1. His average finish at Bristol is 13.7. Kenseth will be on of the drivers to watch this weekend. 

 

Bristol Motor Speedway is a high-speed concrete oval. Drivers will go around the oval within 15 seconds for 500 laps. Between the spring race and now, Bristol Motor Speedway underwent some change. In an effort to make the bottom groove the “preferred” lane, a sticky substance was placed to help add rubber to the track, and a tire machine was run, just like at Kentucky Speedway, to help facilitate grip for drivers to race in. 

 

This will be the 56th annual night race at Bristol. 48 drivers have won a pole with Joey Logano being the youngest at 19 years old and Harry Gant being the oldest at 54 years old. There have been 42 different race winners at Bristol with Kyle Busch being the youngest at 21 years of age, and Dale Earnhardt with the oldest at 48 years of age. 24 races have been won from the pole position with Carl Edwards being the last one to do so back in the spring of 2016. Charlie Glotzback holds the long-standing race record set back in 1971 at a speed of 101.074 mph. In 2015, Denny Hamlin set the qualifying record at 131.407 mph. 

 

Bristol Motor Speedway provides its own challenges, and many drivers are looking forward to returning. 

 

“Every single one of us is going to go as absolutely hard as possible. There’s never a plan to back off or go easy or anything like that, other than if you are saving fuel out there on a strategy at the end of the race. You always go as fast as you can, all the time,” said Danica Patrick.

 

 “I think the most challenging aspect of Bristol is just how difficult it is to transition through from the straightaways to the corners, back to the straightaways and have your car setup in order to do all that. Sometimes you can be really loose getting in or you can be really tight in the middle – you just seem to never be able to get a good-flowing car that works well there. Drivers have to do a lot of manipulation on the race track with their car in order to try to make the best of it,” said Kyle Busch.

 

“I always look forward to racing at Bristol. Bristol is one of my favorite tracks and it will be extra special this weekend to honor Bryan by running his 2008 Fastenal paint scheme. We’ve had a lot of success at Bristol in the past so hopefully we can be patient and be there at the end. As Bryan would say, hopefully we will “parked it” in victory lane,” said Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have only two practice sessions on Friday at 10 am and 12:30 pm. The first practice session can be seen on the NBC Sports App, NBCSports.com, and certain CSN markets. The second practice session can be seen on the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com, but can be seen on tape delayed on USA Network at 1 pm. Qualifying will be at 5:30 pm on USA and Performance Racing Network. The race Saturday night will begin on NBCSN with a pre-race show beginning at 7:30, and Performance Racing Network will have radio coverage at 7 pm eastern. 

The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series have completed their first trip to the .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway. Here are five takeaways from the Food City 500 and the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300:
 
·      Heat Races: Back in January at the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, NASCAR announced that the NASCAR Xfinity Series will participate in heat races in the Dash4Cash events in 2016. This was a great first run of this style format. However, the heat races need to be worked on because there was no excitement in the heats. Qualifying should not happen when we use this format. There were no eliminations which made the races lackluster. In order to divide the field into the two heats, NASCAR should use the average speed of practice to divide the field or have slips of paper in a hat labeled 1 or 2, and whatever number you draw, that is your heat. I know this is the first run of this format, but it is obvious something needs to change to add more drama and excitement. We need the “Norm Benning Moments”. 
 
·      Tires: The tire combination used at Bristol has not changed. Goodyear needs to try to bring softer tires. Drivers were complaining that the tires were making it hard to pass. In the Food City 500, we saw couple of drivers who had melted beads when they wrecked. That is not a Goodyear issues, but a setup issue. It is not a tire problem when only a couple of drivers experience problems.
 
·      Old vs New Bristol: This ever going debate continued into the weekend. For me, they are both the same. The only difference between old and new Bristol is the racing line. In Old Bristol, drivers would race the bottom lane and the top lane would be hard to pass. New Bristol has the same idea, but the racing groove is on the high lane. Drivers say that the racing is better on “new” Bristol. Does our debate come from how many wrecks were experienced on each configuration? Honestly, that seems to be the issue. 
 
·      Matt Kenseth: Matt cannot seem to catch a break this season. He is always running up towards the front, but something always happens to where he cannot finish where he started. The other Joe Gibbs Racing cars have won a race, leaving Kenseth as the only driver to not have done so. Hopefully, the tide will turn for Kenseth and his JGR team so that Coach Gibbs will have all four of his cars into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
 
·      Solid Finishes: The Food City 500 saw some unfamiliar names in the top-10. Trevor Bayne, who finished fifth, had his best career finish since he won the 2011 Daytona 500. Matt DiBenedetto, who finished sixth, has an amazing story and created a new career best finish at Bristol. Clint Bowyer, who finished ninth, has struggled throughout much of the season with HScott Motorsports. Short tracks should now be considered the great equalizer, just like plate tracks. Martinsville also had some new names in the top-10. Will Richmond provide the same?
 
 
What are your takeaways from the events at Bristol Motor Speedway?
 
Erik Jones wins the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 and the first Dash4Cash event for the NASCAR Xfintiy Series at Bristol Motor Speedway. Jones was able to spoil the Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson Show on the final restart. Jones becomes the first NASCAR Xfinity regular to win this season. He also is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Xfinity Series Chase. This is Jones’ third victory in 33 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts. Jones was able to win from the pole position. Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Larson, Austin Dillon, and Justin Allgaier. ‘
 
An emotional Erik Jones explains how he ran his race at Bristol. “It was a great day overall for us. We started off the race really good, and as the race went on we got shuffled back there to third, then on a restart back to fifth It’s funny to think back to those little moments where you’re racing people so hard that those little spots we gained at the end of the day were really what made it happen on that last restart. Pretty proud of all these guys. We’ve grown a lot since Daytona to get to this point, and to get a win here. Beating the 18 and the 42 was a really big day for us, and pretty cool to be the first Xfinity regular to get a win.”
 
An unhappy Kyle Busch explains his top-five run at Bristol. “I don’t know. Our car was one of the best, if not the best there on that one long run where Larson got by me. That was the race. I don’t know why, but I was getting too tight. On pit road, I was hoping my guys could get it back for me, but we didn’t. You can’t pass here. It used to be a racetrack you could race around three-wide and pass, work traffic really well, and have some fun. Now, it is just frustrating, aggravating. 
 
A disappointed Kyle Larson, who led the race high of 94 laps, explains his performance at the .533-mile oval. “It was pretty fun. I was too loose in the heat race, but it was nice that we had that little break to make adjustments. We probably got ourselves a little too tight for that first run, but that’s still really good long run speed. It really hurt my short run stuff for maybe 10 to 15 laps. Had a lot of fun up there through traffic. I was able to get past Erik (Jones) for the lead, and then probably led like a lap or two when Kyle (Busch) got by me. I just followed his tracks through lap traffic. We got into some really heavy lap traffic, and I jumped to the bottom and he got pinned on the outside, then I got to the lead. That last run where he (Busch) was quite a bit better than where I was. I was doing all I could to stay calm and patient. He ran me really clean. I didn’t want to see that caution because I knew I could probably hold him off in traffic. I knew I was tight on the short runs. I still should’ve won, but I did a really bad job on that restart. I did a really poor job those last three laps. I’m pretty disappointed in myself, and probably won’t forget about this one for quite awhile.”


In the first 50 lap heat, Erik Jones won and led all the laps. The caution flag failed to fly in the heat. Jones and Allgaier would become the two drivers from the first heat to be eligible for the Dash4Cash prize.
 
In the second 50 lap heat, Austin Dillon won and led all the laps as well. The caution flag also failed to fly during the heat. Joey Logano had problems that followed him into the heat where his car was popping in and out of gear. For the main, Logano had a bungee cord on hand if the problem persisted. Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez were the two drivers who became eligible for the Dash4Cash Prize. 
The first heat race saw an average speed of 121.047 mph, time of race of 00 Hrs, 13 Mins, 16 Secs, and a margin of victory: 0.831 Seconds. The second heat saw am average speed of 120.977 mph, a time of race of 00 Hrs, 13 Mins, 15 Secs, and a margin of victory: 1.414 Seconds. The main event saw an average speed of 93.829 mph, the time of race was 01 Hrs, 08 Mins, 10 Secs, and a margin of victory of .416 seconds. There were three caution flags for 23 laps. There were 10 lead changes among four different drivers. 
 
Daniel Suarez holds the points lead over Erik Jones by six points, followed by, Justin Allgaier (-8), Elliott Sadler (-10), and Brandon Jones (-19). Inspection from Bristol Motor Speedway was all clear with the cars of Erik Jones and Justin Allgaier being taken back to the Research and Development Center. 
 
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will head to the Richmond International Raceway for the Toyota Care 250, the second installment of the Dash4Cash.
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