There are ways to describe Sunday’s action in Bristol, but to do it justice one would need a blow-by-blow analysis of most of the competitors to figure out what happened, and how it happened. Let us begin with what we know.
We know that Carl Edwards had one of the most dominant cars on the day. So did Matt Kenseth, while Kurt Busch (third) and Kevin Harvick (seventh) gave Edwards some company up front. Still, it was Cousin Carl who persevered, at the beginning, in the middle, and right to the end when he was putting some distance between himself and the field. Wheels that went straight, tires that kept inflated, walls that did not bite him, and the speed to see him lead a majority of the 500 laps allowed him to gather up his 26th career victory, his fourth at Bristol. That we know.
What happened to his Joe Gibbs teammates is a little tougher to analyze. All four entries started in the first five positions, but 20th by Denny Hamlin was the best the rest could do after he sustained some damage in a pit road collision. Kenseth led for 142 laps, but the snake came back to bite him yet again this season. While running first, he lost his right front but found the fence. When he found it again later on, for the same reason, he was done in 36th. It could have been worse.
Kyle Busch had been making a habit of winning lately, after consecutive triumphs at Martinsville and Texas. He took the drama out of it early, losing his right front and slamming the wall just 50 laps in. Sixty laps later, he got tagged from behind by Chris Buescher and went for a spin. Seventy laps further on, he got a pit road penalty. Seventy laps later, he lost another right front, found another fence, and finally put the car out of its misery, finishing 38th. Maybe too much camber angle proved to be the culprit.
Some had bad tidings, but good results. Dale Earnhardt Jr. could not even get up to speed on the green flag lap to start, and was down two laps in no time. At least he did it with 500 laps to go, and due to some good fortune popped up in the end to run second. Even Junior thought he had, at best, a Top 15 ride. Chase Elliott had a tire issue, fell back to 31st by the 200th lap, but was fourth when they waved the checkered. Then there was Joey Logano. He finished 10th, despite an early green flag stop for a vibration that got costlier when their tire rolled away in the pits to sit even one behind Elliott at the time.
Not enough great days for some others this season, but a few had one on Sunday. Trevor Bayne and Matt DiBenedetto were fifth and sixth at Bristol while Clint Bowyer had a Top Ten. Not so for Kyle Larson, as he dropped from third to a good 60 laps in arrears when his track bar broke. Cars seemed to get into trouble, rise out of the ashes, only to have their hopes dashed later on. Danica Patrick was 29th on Lap 200, fourth on Lap 275, and by Lap 435 she was barely in the Top Thirty. The Danica Line at Bristol was 27th, just one back of Austin Dillon and one up on Cole Whitt.
On Sunday, there was no Big One, just a bunch of nasty Little Ones. However, as Talladega promises to do on May 1, that short track in Tennessee messed with people, including the minds of fans trying to keep track of the comers and goers, the heartbreakers and the heartbroken. It was not a boring 3.5-hours.
Before they get to Alabama, they have a Sunday date in Richmond. Despite all his woes this year, Kenseth remains just five points out of a Chase place. Another win, like the one he celebrated last autumn at Richmond, would for all intents and purposes lock him into the championship hunt. Up to now, Kenseth has run well but always waiting for that black cloud to roll in to ruin his day. A single win and he is back to rainbows and blue skies. Funny, blue skies is exactly the weather they are calling for this Sunday.