Ever since Bristol Motor Speedway’s track surface was redone, the philosophical style of racing has changed. No longer do drivers simply bump and run all day to their hearts’ content, causing a dozen or so wrecks along the way. Nowadays, racing at Bristol more resembles action at Dover, if Dover were a much harder track to pass at. However, one thing has not changed. In order to win, one must be able to run the low line and minimize wheelspin exiting the corners.
Brad Keselowski could do both of those relatively easy.
On Sunday, Keselowski started fifth and stayed up front all day. However, being up front nearly got him wrapped up in the big crash of the day on Lap 24. Keselowski was right behind Kasey Kahne and Regan Smith when they collided on the frontstretch. The resulting wreck wrapped up Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Marcos Ambrose and Carl Edwards as well.
Keselowski chose to go with a fuel-only stop at Lap 42 during the first yellow to put himself near the head of the group that chose to pit. From there, the race was effectively an exercise in being able to control wheelspin on the bottom lane in the turns and making passes.
Making passes on-track was a lot more important on Sunday than in typical Bristol races because Sunday’s event featured a series of long, green-flag runs. There were only 49 laps of caution during the race. 22 of those laps were during the first yellow very early in the event (due to overnight and morning rains, that yellow also served as a competition caution).
As a result, those would put themselves up front coming out of the competition caution stayed up front for much of the race. Outside pole-sitter AJ Allmendinger chose to stay out under the caution to take the lead. He would be joined by Martin Truex, Jr., Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Brian Vickers, Jeff Burton and Jamie McMurray.
Allmendinger staked out to a decent advantage over the pack, while Vickers moved up quickly in his first start of the season. When Allmendinger encountered lapped traffic, Vickers, Earnhardt, Jr. and Burton caught up. Vickers’ car was able to handle better on the inside, which allowed him to eventually take the lead.
After the second yellow, a long 200-plus lap green flag run began. During that time of the race, Keselowski came to life. He moved up the order at a methodical pace, picking drivers off one by one.
Keselowski passed Vickers for the lead on Lap 217 and was rarely challenged for most of the rest of the race. Matt Kenseth was able to take the lead on Lap 348 due to a bad lane choice on the restart by Keselowski. However, Keselowski stayed in touch with Kenseth and pounced on Lap 390 to take the lead back. From there, Keselowski was unchallenged on his way to his second consecutive win at Bristol.
After the race, Keselowski was very pleased with his day.
“Today my team certainly delivered,” Keselowski said. “My guys, they made it happen today. I told somebody before the race, This is the best race car I’ve ever had in Cup. It showed off today. Hopefully we can have more cars like this and we’ll win more races and continue to move the needle forward.”
Second-place finisher Kenseth was pleased with his finish, but felt that his car needed just that little bit more in order to take the fight to Keselowski.
“Overall, I was pretty happy with my car,” Kenseth said. “When we started that last run [and] got [in] the lead, air on the nose, we picked up a big piece of Bear Bond or something. I got too loose and knew I wasn’t going to have enough traction more than likely to hold him off..”
Michael Waltrip Racing had one of their best-ever races on Sunday, placing all three of their drivers in the top-5. Truex was third, followed by Clint Bowyer and Vickers.
Burton held on for sixth, while McMurray was eighth. Juan Pablo Montoya was eighth, while Jimmie Johnson had a quiet run to ninth. Paul Menard rounded out the top-10.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series travels back out west to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California for the Auto Club 400. Coverage is scheduled to start at 2:30pm EDT (11:30am PDT) on FOX.
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