In A Nutshell: Bristol Motor Speedway is like Survivor on wheels, and today it was Carl Edwards who stayed out of trouble and found the front when it counted. Edwards was among the leaders all day, but almost saw his win slip away when a NASCAR glitch caused confusion on whether or not the pits were open during a late race yellow flag. Edwards took the cautious approach and stayed on the track, a decision that could have proved to be his undoing if NASCAR hadn't corrected the error by letting everyone pit and resume their previous positions on the track. Given the chance to stay up front, Edwards made the most of it, cruising to the win over Roush Fenway teammate Matt Kenseth. Kyle Busch had another good week, recovering from two in-race spins to finish third, followed by Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer to round out the Top 5.
Who Should Have Won: Anyone in the Top 5. Take your pick. These five guys ran up front the entire day, so it was pretty obvious the winner was going to be among this group. Edwards got there when it counted but Kenseth, Busch, Newman, or Bowyer could have just as easily been the one standing in Victory Lane. Those five drivers combined to lead 264 of a possible 300 laps, sticking together like glue during the final third of the crash-filled event.
Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend
1) Who decided on these start times?
Can someone explain to me why the Busch races keep starting around 3:00 PM ET? Is it a television thing, or a track schedule thing, or someone's bonehead idea to increase viewership? If it's that last thing, I fail to see how that works. Having a Busch Series race start in the middle of a Saturday afternoon is not beneficial to viewers who now have their entire Saturday messed up if they want to watch the race. It's too early to do much beforehand, and the race ends too late to do anything afterwards. Add to that the fact that many of these Busch races are becoming glorified Cup practices in the eyes of fans, and I don't see how that lethal combination is doing the series any favors.
2) How would you have fixed the pits open fiasco?
Give NASCAR credit; they admitted that they made a mistake and had a miscommunication. The pits were supposed to be open and that was the word over the radio, but the flag and light people didn’t get the message, waving them closed while keeping the pit light on red even while drivers dove down pit road. That caused mass confusion, as some drivers pitted and others stayed out thinking the pits were still closed. Because it was a NASCAR mistake, the sanctioning body decided to come up with the only fair solution they could; they allowed everyone to pit if they wanted to and then reset them in the order they were running when the caution came out. Sure, some guys were going to try to capitalize on the mistakes of others who did not pit, but it wasn't fair to make those guys pay for NASCAR's problem, either. As far as I am concerned, it was a good call. NASCAR technical issues should never be allowed to affect the possible outcome of a race, and if that means we back up and reset the field to fix the problem, so be it. Kudos also to Mike Helton for gracefully taking some ribbing from Rusty Wallace about NASCAR perfection in the booth afterwards.
3) Hurry up off the air?
There you have it. During the years since ABC/ESPN was ousted as a broadcast partner, one of the complaints of fans has been the lack of post-race coverage when an event runs late. Often, fans would point out that ABC/ESPN would never do that. Oh, yeah? Not only have they done so in the past, but they did it again, without hesitation, during this Busch race when the ABC network ran late. We're not talking monumentally late here, either; the news was on by 6:03, and the race broadcast was scheduled until 6:00. They couldn't spare ten minutes to let us see Carl Edwards do his back flip?
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:
You can tell it was Bristol just by looking at the stat sheet. The race was slowed 12 times for caution for a total of 103 laps; that's a full 1/3 of this 300 lap race. The race also included a red flag for a three-car crash on lap 36 involving Marcos Ambrose, J.J. Yeley, and Jason Leffler, as well as a two-lap rough driving penalty handed out to Johnny Sauter.
It's getting tough to figure out who the highest finishing non-Cup driver is anymore, but Scott Wimmer is the likely candidate this week, finishing ninth while driving what will predominantly be a part-time Busch Series schedule. David Ragan took Raybestos Rookie of the Race honors with a 13th place result.
Meanwhile, Carl Edwards' win was good for keeping him atop the Busch Series points standings. He now leads Kevin Harvick by 197 markers; Harvick remarkably remains Edwards’ closest challenger despite only competing in five of six events. Behind the top two, Kyle Busch moves up one spot to third, 248 points behind the leader. Dave Blaney slides back one position to fourth, while Matt Kenseth moves into fifth with his solid Top 5 run. Juan Pablo Montoya takes over sixth place in points, while Marcos Ambrose slides back one to seventh after his wreck. Greg Biffle, Mike Wallace, and Bobby Hamilton, Jr. round out the Top 10 with six Busch races complete.
Buschwhackers in this race: 20
Starting spots taken by Buschwhackers YTD: 128 of 256
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10: 9
Buschwhackers finishing in Top 10 YTD: 49 of 60
Races won by Buschwhackers YTD: 6 of 6
Buschwhackers ranked in Top 10 in Busch Series points standings: 7
"I'm really proud. For a kid to be on the pole for the first time here at Bristol - a track that I've won at nine times - one of my home tracks, I really love coming here. For Steven to grab that pole - pretty special for the family." Rusty Wallace on son Steven starting 1st
"I think that you put so much pressure on running in the Cup Series, your eye kind of gets off the purpose of being out here. And that's because you enjoy it and that's why you do it. So when you get back in the Busch Series, there's no pressure for points. You've got a great race car. And you can just have fun. These guys are fun to race with, most of them being a lot younger. They're a lot of fun and they've got a lot of zeal. So it's pretty exciting to race out there with them." Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
"We had a great car and started in the Top 15 there and thought we had a good shot at running strong all day and got collected in a wreck on a restart. We came in and worked real hard and fixed everything, came back out and got collected in the next wreck on a restart. It's just a tough day." Brad Keselowski
"It was probably a little too clean. If I would have rubbed a little more, I might could have picked up a few more spots there at the end." David Ragan
Next Up: The Busch Series gets a weekend off next week; look for a return to action just before Easter at Nashville Superspeedway. Coverage of the Pepsi 300 begins Saturday, April 7th at 3:00 PM ET on ESPN2.
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