In A Nutshell: Friday night at Bristol, race contender Matt Kenseth got penalized for speeding on pit road. Forced to the back of the longest line, it’s a penalty that would have sent most Busch Series drivers’ nights to an early end at a track that’s unforgiving.
Kenseth’s reaction to the penalty? Drive like a man possessed.
Kenseth made his way through the entire field with ease, moving up to second place with a handful of laps to go. When he got to leader Kevin Harvick in the closing laps, Harvick was not about to give him the preferred bottom line; but that was all right with Kenseth, who simply worked with what he did have and made a bold pass of Harvick on the high side, driving right by what had seemed to be the fastest car and taking the lead for good. Kenseth held on for the victory in the Food City 250, while Harvick had to settle for second. Ron Hornaday followed his boss home in third, while Kasey Kahne and Jason Leffler completed the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Matt Kenseth. I thought I'd be saying Kevin Harvick, because it seemed he had the dominant car all night. Then again, if he'd really had the best car, Matt Kenseth wouldn't have come back from a speeding penalty and flat out run him down in the end. Fresher tires might have had something to do with it, but that's all part of the entire package of the race car, and older tires have won at Bristol before. For being able to not only catch, but also make a brilliant high side pass on Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth truly did deserve to win this one.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend
1) Wasn't this a little tame for Bristol?
Sure, there were cautions and spins and wrecks, but there was no flying equipment, no obscene gestures, no track equipment abuse, no track safety workers being dragged down the track while trying to stop raging drivers, and no fist fights. What fun is that?
2) Was the discrepancy with the pit road timing device a new thing?
Help me out, NASCAR, because I'm confused here. A number of drivers, including the winner, were penalized for speeding off of pit road but had trouble understanding how that could be when they were moving along with the rest of the traffic. During the Cup race, drivers were warned to stay above the yellow line through the turn exiting the pits because going below it tripped the timing device and gave a reading that showed the offender speeding. Now, the series has been using the timing system on pit road since last year, and has been to Bristol many times before. Was this something new, or has this been happening all along? How many drivers had to suck up a speeding penalty because of this in past races?
3) Does Denny Hamlin not like Busch regulars?
Hamlin was giving lessons on how to use the chrome horn at Bristol, knocking other cars out of his way left and right, and it just so happens they were mostly Busch regulars. I understand he was frustrated with his ill-handling car and traffic, but does he realize he is now on the “list” of every driver he hit? Maybe rookies like Burney Lamar and Danny O'Quinn won't say or do much about it, but he also spun out Johnny Sauter. Let’s put it this way: tooth extractions have been known to be less painful than the consequences for those who have crossed a Sauter. In a case of what might be poetic justice, though, Hamlin eventually got run over by fellow Cup regular Ryan Newman, who probably had the second highest total of cars run over during this race behind Hamlin.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:
Nice run for Jason Leffler, representing the Busch regulars as their highest finisher with a fifth place result. Doesn't anyone find it a little ironic that Jason Leffler, arguably one of the hard luck cases of the series, manages to get one of his best finishes of the year at Bristol, of all places?
John Andretti is the Raybestos Rookie of the Race for the eighth time this season after a 14th place finish in the Food City 250.
As far as points go, you can probably tell the engraving guy at the trophy shop to get his tools ready. Kevin Harvick now leads the championship standings by 519 points over Carl Edwards, who moves back up to second spot again despite falling further behind. Denny Hamlin slides back to third, after a late punt from Ryan Newman left him in 22nd and now trails the leader by a whopping 562 points. Clint Bowyer, J.J. Yeley, and Paul Menard stay fourth through sixth in points, with Menard remaining the highest Busch Series regular. Kyle Busch moves up one spot to seventh, while Greg Biffle drops to eighth. Johnny Sauter and Kenny Wallace still round out the Top 10 in ninth and tenth, respectively.
Buschwhackers in this race: 15
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 366 of 1126
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 6
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 189 of 260
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 24 of 26
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 in Busch Series point standings: 7
“I was trying the high side a little bit on the restarts just to see what kind of grip was up there, but I was trying to get high to get a run underneath him. Kevin is so good here that he knew that was coming, so he did a really good job of holding down the middle and protecting the bottom. I just figured I’d give it a try. Nobody was behind me and I didn’t have much to lose, so I figured I’d go for it.” Matt Kenseth
“We had an awesome car. The guys gave me a great car that would have easily been a Top 10 car, I think. I got tapped in the back, and I just kind of yanked back on the wheel and I had my hand against my cam-lock seatbelt and I unsnapped my seatbelt. It was just something freak. How many times does that ever happen in your career? It really happened on a bad night because we had an awesome car and I was racing in front of a lot of friends and family. But, you can’t take a chance riding around out there with no seatbelts.” Danny O'Quinn
Maybe it was a pure, 100 percent accident, I don't know. It's just getting run over from behind, and it's unfortunate because it absolutely destroyed that car. That's probably the hardest hit I've ever taken backwards into a fence. It's just unfortunate. We weren't even 70 laps into the race. It's crappy for my guys; it's crappy for me. We've had a terrible last three weeks, and we really didn't need this. We'll go to California, I guess." Todd Kluever
“The 4 car spun the 27 out, and, unfortunately, we were right in the middle of it. We were passing the guys on the outside and we had new tires, and I guess things got a little aggressive and caught us up in a wreck. But, that’s Bristol. That’s racing and that’s why I love this place; it’s so fun to race here.” Greg Biffle
Next Up: It's going to be a late night for those on the east coast, as the Busch Series travels to California Speedway for a Saturday night showdown under the lights. The Ameriquest 300 will air on TNT and MRN beginning at 10:00 PM ET.
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