NASCAR Cup Series

OBSERVATIONS: Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway

If there was an event to be used as the reason why NASCAR needs to add more short tracks to their schedule, the Food City 500 is that. After weeks of not being quite entertained as we would wish through the beginning of the season, Bristol Motor Speedway kept everyone’s attention all afternoon.

The reconfiguration caused the high line to become the only place for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but that wasn’t quite the case on Sunday. Track officials finally got the right traction compound as throughout the event, competitors were able to run high and low, with different drivers favoring each groove.

The result was constant side-by-side racing from the drop of the green flag, to the checkered flag, for positions throughout the field. It was also beneficial that NASCAR on FOX listened to the fan’s critiques from the past couple of weeks, not spending their time focused on the leader but rather showing each of these battles. 

Additionally, fans found themselves enticed by which driver would be the next to face adversity, whether on-track or pit road, and whether they would be able to fight their way back. The storylines enabled conversation throughout the event, with the right amount of intrigue.

It also helped that a single driver wasn’t able to cruise away from the field, either. While Team Penske was a dominant force with Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, neither of them easily cruised away from everybody. If it seemed that someone was going to be able to gain an advantage, they would catch just enough traffic to hold them up and reel the field right back in.

The race ultimately came down to a strategy call by Adam Stevens to leave Kyle Busch out late on old tires while most of the leaders came down pit road. Busch would then out-battle his older brother Kurt to a surprising victory, considering the damage sustained on a Lap 2 accident and the fact that he was unable to hold the field off on previous restarts while up front. 

The only negative from the day was the amount of fans in the grandstands at the track. You can preach all you want that short tracks should be on the schedule, but you also need to show that you’re willing to support them and that’s by putting butts in the seats. Certainly there’s other factors contributing to the attendance – hotel costs, food costs, weather, though no matter how you approach it, it’s not a good look.

NASCAR also needs to get their act together when it comes to putting cars inline for the restart, as that has become an issue for the third time this season. How hard can it be to put a field of cars two-wide evenly when timing and scoring electronically prints you a perfect order? 

Unfortunately, it cost Brad Keselowski big time as he was forced to serve a pass-through penalty late in the race rather than the top-five he deserved.


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By Ashley McCubbin

Currently the Executive Editor for Popular Speed, Ashley McCubbin also runs Short Track Musings, while handling media relations for OSCAAR. Currently living in Bradford, Ontario, she spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area taking photos.