The rain was not holding back at Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway- two rain delays lasted more than five hours. On top of all the rain, Sunday marked one of the strangest and most disappointing endings of any NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Although, the slippery racetrack did not hold back Carl Edwards from driving through the finish line with his first win of the season. Known for his celebratory back flip, Edwards pulled up to the finish line at the racetrack and climbed out of his window.
The race was delayed by almost exactly two hours at the start and once the most famous words of NASCAR were said, “let’s go racing boys,” the race began. Drivers made it to lap 124 before the rain started coming down again. This delay was even longer totaling to three hours and 18 minutes.
Rain has not been shy so far this season as the opening Daytona 500 race was stopped for almost six hours because of rain. The threat of rain forces the drivers to do their absolute best during every single lap because they don’t know when the next outburst of bad weather will take over.
With 77 laps remaining, a caution sent just about every driver on the track to pit road, but, Edwards’ crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, chose to leave his driver on the track. This was a risky move by the No. 99 car. But, it gave Edwards the lead on the restart with only 70 laps to go.
And, right before the white flag was thrown, those yellow caution lights came out again right near the 0.533-mile track. Unsure of what the caution was for, once again, the sky opened up and NASCAR officials had no other choice but to end the race while Edwards was leading the drivers. Still, nobody knew what the caution lights came on for and that definitely shook up drivers and teams.
NASCAR announced that someone in the flag stand accidentally leaned on a switch to trigger the lights in the room. NASCAR was forced to issue a full caution “because operation of the lights was comprised.” Human error was the cause of the official end of the race after 503 laps.
Right behind Edwards was Roush Fenway teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who finished second. Aric Almirola from Richard Petty Motorsports finished third as Ford drivers took the top three spots. This was exciting because the day before, the Ford team won the Twelve Hours of Sebring sports car race for the first time since 1969.
Yesterday’s race marked Edwards’ third win at Bristol and 22nd career victory. This was his first win of the season and with the new Chase for the Sprint Cup championship qualifying format, it is the race that will give ensure him a spot.
Because of the abrupt ending to the race, Stenhouse did not get the chance to race his teammate for the win. Many drivers were not pleased with the ending of the race according to sources.
Stenhouse said, “I was thinking that I would use the bumper if the opportunity was there. If you get the win, you’re in the Chase and you can let the rest take care of itself later. That’s what I was really thinking if we went back green. I was thinking about doing whatever I could to win.”
Almirola said, “It’s frustrating because I had one shot to race Carl for the lead, and these races are so hard to win. It was a great day for us, I’m not disappointed at all with third, but when you see it and you can taste it and it’s that close, you wonder what could have went different.”
Tony Stewart qualified 37th and ended up finishing with a season-best spot in fourth.
Marcos Ambrose finished fifth which resulted in both of RPM’s drivers finishing inside the top five.
Denny Hamlin, who took the pole, finished sixth followed by Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne of Hendrick Motorsports. Brian Vickers took ninth place and rookie Kyle Larson took the last spot in the top 10.
NASCAR fans have seen a whole lot of rain so far this season but it would be nice to see more racing.
The Auto Club 400 will take place this Sunday at 3:00 p.m. at Auto Club Speedway.