[media-credit name=”Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR” align=”alignright” width=”252″][/media-credit]After the morning downpour stopped and the track quickly dried, the green flag flew at Bristol Motor Speedway. Here is what was surprising and not surprising in the 52nd running of the Food City 500.
Surprising: With Brian Vickers ride-less as of last season, it was most surprising to see the ‘Sheriff’ back in town, leading 125 laps and finishing fifth in his first race back in the 2012 season.
Vickers was back, this year behind the wheel of the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. Vickers will share the No. 55 ride for a select number of races with veteran Mark Martin for the remainder of the season.
“It felt really good when we were out there leading,” Vickers said. “It would have been awesome to hold onto that, but it’s the first time back so I can’t complain.”
“When it’s your only one, you have to make it count,” Vickers continued. “What an exciting day.”
Not Surprising: It was not surprising to see the Blue Deuce, with 28 year old Brad Keselowski behind the wheel, again “close the deal” at Bristol Motor Speedway. This was team owner Roger Penske’s tenth win with the Blue Deuce at BMS.
This was also Keselowski’s first win of the 2012 season and his fifth victory in 93 Cup Series races. He led a race and career high 232 laps.
“I’m thrilled to death to be in Victory Lane,” Keselowski said. “I knew this Blue Deuce was fast enough to win.”
“This car here, a brand new car that Penske built, everybody back in the shop did a phenomenal job,” Keselowski continued. “I knew we had a shot at winning and we closed the deal.”
Surprising: It was surprising to see so many good cars collected in a wreck so early in the race, in fact on lap 24. That early melee involved Kasey Kahne, Kevin Harvick, Marcos Ambrose, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch on the front stretch going into Turn One.
The driver of the No. 5 Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet, Kasey Kahne, was the most upset by the incident.
“My Famer’s Insurance Chevrolet was the fastest car here,” Kahne said. “It’s disappointing to have that good of a car and be out that early. I had an awesome and I have nothing to show for it.”
While Kyle Busch, the driver of the No. 18 Doublemint Toyota, shared Kahne’s frustration, pounding his fist on the car in the garage, his crew chief Dave Rogers was a bit more philosophical.
“It’s short track racing,” Rogers said simply. “I think the No. 5 (Kasey Kahne) got messing with the No. 78 (Regan Smith). Or maybe the No. 78 got messing with the No. 5.”
“However you want to look at it, we got caught up in it,” Rogers continued. “It was just racing.”
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Kellogg’s Ford Fusion, was also surprisingly philosophical about the early wreck, taking full advantage of the situation to also put in a plug for his sponsor.
“I was feeling good this morning and had my Frosted Flakes,” Edwards said. “We all saw it and were on the brakes but Kasey’s (Kahne) car came up across the race track and ruined our day.”
“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.”
Not Surprising: No one is ever surprised when the calm, mild-mannered Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Ford, has a good run at Bristol. So, not surprisingly, Kenseth, with his methodical approach, scored a runner up finish in the Food City 500.
This was Kenseth’s 17th top-10 finish in 25 races at Bristol Motor Speedway. It was his second top-10 finish in 2012, putting him third in the point standings.
“Overall, I was pretty happy with my car,” Kenseth said. “The last 15 laps of the run, we were better than Brad (Keselowski) was.”
“Then we started that last run and got out in the lead and got air in the nose, plus we picked up something, and I just got too loose,” Kenseth continued. “I knew that I wasn’t going to have enough traction to hold him off.”
Surprising: In addition to Brian Vickers having a triumphant return, it was surprising how well the rest of the Michael Waltrip Racing team fared at Bristol. In fact, all three MWR drivers, Martin Truex, Jr., Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers, scored top-five finishes, the first time the team has ever placed so well overall.
“I’m so proud of the team,” Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, said. “We were all up front all day long and this just says a lot about everything that everybody at MWR has done over the off season.”
“Heck of a day for MWR.”
Not Surprising: While it seemed that A.J. Allmendinger was just about to find his groove, starting on the outside pole in his No. 22 Pennzoil Dodge, and leading laps early in the race, it was not surprising that his luck ran out yet again.
The ‘Dinger and his team struggled to keep up with the ever-changing Bristol track, finally finishing the race in the 17th position.
“The car was very good early,” Allmendinger said. “But then it got real loose.”
“We lost track position,” Allmendinger continued. “We never got it tightened up for the rest of the race. Not the finish we wanted to have after starting out so strong.”
Surprising: While the young season has borne witness to teammates tangling on the track, it was surprising to see Hendrick Motrosports teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. get into it in Bristol.
After a fierce back and forth battle for position, the driver of the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet nicked the left rear tire of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet with his tail pipe.
Gordon tire went down and he went for a spin, ending up in the wall. After spending time in the garage for repairs, Gordon finished a miserable 35th, relegating him to 23rd in the point standings.
“Just hard racing here at Bristol,” Gordon said. “Junior got underneath me and when he got into me, it looked like the tail pipe just caught the left rear tire and cut it down.”
“I knew it immediately and I tried to keep it off the wall but there was no chance,” Gordon continued. “Hate it for this team.”
Earnhardt, Jr., on the other hand, salvaged a 15th place finish, even with a pit road speeding penalty toward the race end. Junior dropped two spots in the point standings, currently sitting in sixth.
“I’m sorry about that,” Junior said after the incident. “Well, at least they won’t have to talk about me and Mark Martin anymore.”
Not Surprising: After the craziness of the start of the 2012 season, including the infamous Daytona jet dryer experience for one of the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing pilots Juan Pablo Montoya, it was not surprising to see both EGR teammates finally pull off good finishes.
Jamie McMurray, driving the No. 1 EGR McDonald’s Chevrolet, scored a seventh place finish, while teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, behind the wheel of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet, came in eighth.
Both Earnhardt Ganassi Racing drivers had their best runs of the 2012 season to date.