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Bristol

A lengthy rain delay moved the finish of the Food City 500 under the lights. (Photo: Getty Images)

Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to the early part of the NASCAR season.

The season-opening Daytona 500 had to endure more than a six-hour rain delay. Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol fared only a little better with wet weather causing a three hour and 20 minute intermission.

But the good news in both cases was once the conditions improved the racing was fantastic.

The opening 38 laps of last month’s Daytona 500 were a single file procession. But after the long rain delay the rest of the event turned out to be one of the best races in recent history. Cooler track conditions and the impending threat of more bad weather seemed to be two of the main reasons for the change.

This year’s first trip to Bristol experienced a similar fate.

While the opening 100 laps or so were okay, things changed dramatically when the green flag reappeared a few hours later.

Two and three-wide racing were the order of what turned out to be the second night race of the season. The intensity level was off the charts as was the entertainment value.

Unfortunately, there was more inconvenience for everyone in Bristol, not the least of which were the hearty fans that turned out and stuck around for the finish.

But while it may seem small consolation for all that endured the aggravation of the finicky weather, it sure turned out to be a heck of a show.

  • Outside of Team Penske, the Ford camp came into the weekend looking for something good after a mediocre start to the season. Things could not have gone better. In addition to Carl Edwards scoring his first victory of the season, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose all finished inside the top five. While it was odd to see Roush Fenway Racing struggle last week at Las Vegas, a 1.5-mile track the organization has been so strong on throughout its history, Sunday’s rebound was just what the team needed. Now the question is can the Blue Oval brigade keep it going next week with a return to intermediate track racing at Auto Club Speedway.
  • Stewart-Haas Racing was also under fire heading to Bristol. But there should be some smiles back at the shop Monday morning even though there were mixed results. Tony Stewart will no doubt be grinning all week after he was able to post a fourth place finish Sunday, by far his best performance of the year. Kevin Harvick ran well again but mechanical issues ended his night. Kurt Busch was solid until he got caught up in an incident with of all people his brother Kyle. Unfortunately it’s hard to find a silver lining for Danica Patrick, who started her weekend with a practice crash and endured another accident during the race before ramming Clint Bowyer on her way out of the pits later.
  • Many predicted (myself included) another Kyle Busch sweep this weekend, a prediction that looked good after his third straight Bristol Busch Series win on Saturday. But Busch, who was forced to a backup car after a practice crash, really never clicked in the Sprint Cup Series main event before finally exiting in an accident. It was a mixed bag for the Joe Gibbs Racing team, which saw Denny Hamlin finish in the top 10 but Matt Kenseth, who led a lot of laps, battle through accidents and mechanical issues to 13th.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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