After a marathon of a race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race finally came to a close on Sunday evening. Originally scheduled to start Saturday night, the drivers were only able to compete for less than 40 laps before the race was red-flagged due to rain. The rain persisted and NASCAR was forced to move the rest of the race to Sunday afternoon.
Or so they thought.
Continuous rainfall moved what was originally supposed to be a 1 p.m. ET start time on Sunday to several hours later, to the point where the race had to start in the late afternoon and go into the early evening.
Though rain did briefly stop the race once more, ultimately a Saturday night race turned into your typical mid-Sunday afternoon affair.
Did that at all take the “oomph” out of the race win for eventual winner Kevin Harvick?
“I don’t even care,” Harvick said. “I just won a trophy. I don’t care where it came from, what the situation is. I know he (crew chief Rodney Childers) likes the night race, but to see — for me to walk into the racetrack last night and see the crowd that you hadn’t seen in a few years and see the excitement back inside of the racetrack, it definitely felt like the night race used to. To come to Bristol is just different anyway when you come to the night race. I’m just glad we won.”
The Saturday night race at Bristol Motor Speedway is one of the most anticipated events each season, and particularly this year.
Bristol personnel polished the bottom of the racing surface and added a few layers of rosin in an effort to bring racing back to the bottom lane as it had been during the racetrack’s heyday. While the top lane still had some speed to it, the drivers were still able to utilize both lanes to make passes and race one another.
For Harvick’s crew chief Rodney Childers, however, this is a race he has been wanting to win for a long time, no matter which lane the racing groove was in.
“This is definitely a big win for me personally,” Childers said. “Like he [Harvick] said, it’s just one that has always meant a lot to me. I loved coming up here when I was younger, a place that I actually raced at, and just feel like I understand it better.
“It’s really awesome to see that bottom groove back and to be able to pass those lap cars on the bottom and that type of thing. Just a great job from our team all around. He mentioned that we’ve kind of circled this one every time, and we’ve had a good car every single time we’ve been here and just hasn’t worked out to our way I guess you could say at the end of it.”
This is the team’s second win this season, and Harvick’s second career victory at Bristol. Though their win at Phoenix International Raceway earlier this season already earned them a spot in the Chase – which starts in three weeks—it was important for them to hit their stride again just in time for the postseason.
“It’s all about confidence, and it’s all about momentum,” Harvick said. “I think we’ve been confident in our cars, just not confident in closing everything out, from myself, to is it ever really going to happen again, and I think that goes away tonight, and you get back into that — we know we have fast cars, knowing that you can win again, and it kind of happened that way for us in 2014 at Charlotte when we won, and it just kind of reinstilled that confidence of everything we know we can do, and it finally all just came together tonight. We’re three weeks from the end of the regular season, and I don’t think it could have come together at a better time.”
While Childers agreed with the importance of the timing of this race win, winning at Bristol makes the victory that much sweeter.
“I think the biggest thing is just being so close so many times,” Childers said of why Bristol means so much to him. “We finished second here with [Scott] Riggs in 2006 and come close to winning it. We finished second with Reutimann I think two or three times and was close to winning it. And then with Kevin here, we’ve been really fast every time we’ve been here and just had things happen that didn’t go our way. But I think the biggest thing is it’s just short track racing.
“That’s what I grew up doing. That’s what I love. Just racing here before, just a little bit of everything. I think it just has always meant a lot to me. Any type of short track race, it doesn’t matter if it’s here or Martinsville, my car chief said that going to victory lane, he said, we’ve got one more left, that’s Martinsville. I was like, no, we’ve got a lot more left. But Martinsville would be cool for sure.”
Richmond is also another short track that the team could realistically win at, which is the final race of the regular season. Regardless, Harvick, Childers, and the No. 4 team have been absent from Victory Lane for several months, a gap we aren’t used to seeing from a team who won the championship back in 2014 and was part of the Championship 4 last season. Now that they’re back where they belong, you have to once again put them at the top of the list of favorites with just a few races left before the Chase begins.
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