The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers weren’t able to compete in Bristol on Sunday due to rain-filled weather, but that didn’t stop them from putting on a fantastic show once they finally hit the track on Monday afternoon.
Kyle Larson led the field to the green flag for the Food City 500 after earning the pole due to the cancellation of qualifying on Friday. Larson already came into the event as the favorite, evident by the fact that he has proven that he can run the outside lane better than most everyone else at almost any track. But it became obvious early on in the race that Larson wasn’t going to have as smooth of a day out front as everyone expected.
Despite leading the first 202 laps of the 500-lap event, the Elk Grove, CA native battled ill-handling conditions whilst trying to hold off some strong competitors. Martin Truex Jr., who had been stalking Larson for quite sometime, was able to wrestle the race lead away. That battle for the lead never calmed down however. It seemed to be a never-ending dogfight for the front position throughout the entire duration of Monday’s race. Larson and Truex Jr. continually ran up front, but they were evenly matched against the likes of Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and others. Running up by the wall, down low, or what have you; drivers were able to find speed almost anywhere they went on the half-mile track, meaning no one was ever able to break out as the dominant car.
The caution flag came out on Lap 385 for an incident involving Kyle Busch, halting the exciting action. Busch suffered his second tire failure of the day, extending a rash of emotions between himself and Goodyear that have lasted for quite sometime.
“We had our issues and we were trying to march our way back up towards the front and get there and thought we were doing a good job of that and trying to be conservative with the tires because obviously they can’t make it through a full distance for us for some reason,” said Busch, who wound up with a 35th-place finish.
Busch’s incident set the front runners-up for another exciting dash for the race lead. For about 30 laps, multiple cars laid it all out on the line battling for the top spot. Johnson, Logano, Truex, Larson and others put on a mesmerizing display of two and three wide action as each tried to fend each other off from the lead. But for Larson, his battle for the victory would shortly get a whole lot tougher.
During a caution flag period around Lap 425, Larson got caught by the NASCAR police for speeding on pit road and had to restart at the back of the back. Larson apologized over the radio knowing that it was going to be on his shoulders to get back up to the front.
The last few handful of laps of the 500-mile event saw a continuation of the exciting door-to-door racing. Kevin Harvick had managed to get to the race lead, but with 20 laps remaining wasn’t able to hold off NASCAR’s active 7-time champion. Johnson was able to power his way to the lead and never looked back. The El Cajon, CA native captured his 82nd-career Monster Energy Cup Series victory, and his first at Bristol Motor Speedways since 2010.
“This track has been really difficult for me over the years,” said Johnson after the race. “Huge credit to Mr. Hendrick and the place he lets us work. My guys nailed their pit stops all day long. This track has always been very racy. Now that we can run two or three-wide, we can put on a heckuva show.”
After starting ninth, Clint Bowyer was able to bring home an impressive second-place finish – another step in the right direction for the driver who continues to ride a near 5-year winless streak.
“It’s called racing,” said a disappointed but up-beat Bowyer after the race. “Been that way my whole life, since I was about five years old. You know, I mean, you struggle and struggle and struggle for a year and a half here, and hell, next thing you know you’re being greedy about second; you know what I mean? That’s just the way racers are wired and the way it’s always been. Having a ton of fun and working hard and seeing the results is gratifying for this race team.”
Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Logano, Larson, Chase Elliott, Truex, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Denny Hamlin rounded out the rest of the top-1o finishers.
Larson, who had sped on pit road, was able to work his way back up for a decent sixth-place finish. The driver of the No.42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet was excited about how great the racing was on Monday.
“I don’t know what more you could ask out of this place,” stated Larson. “This is the best track we go to, most exciting place, and I love coming here.”
Monday’s race was met with rave reviews from the fans and media alike. The short-tracks continue to showcase spectacular racing, and next week NASCAR heads to another one at Richmond International Raceway for what should be another action-packed Monster Energy event.