Takeaways from Bristol: The race took two days but it was certainly entertaining

Kyle Busch leads Trevor Bayne and Kurt Busch (41) during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race, Monday, April 16, 2018, in Bristol, Tenn. Kyle Busch won the rain-delayed race. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

Welcome to the 2018 season and welcome back to our post-race takeaways column. Per usual, we’ll have some random thoughts to espouse after Cup Series races and this column will be the landing spot for them.

• Bristol provided the best race of the 2018 season.

Granted, that’s not much of a statement given the Cup Series season is just eight races old. But the two-day marathon that was the 500-lap race at the concrete half-mile track was unpredictable and exciting. Monday’s 296-lap conclusion was about the furthest thing from a mercy ending.

Consider what happened throughout the course of Sunday and Monday:

Ryan Blaney dominated the first stage of the race and got taken out in a crash that started ahead of him by cars he was about to lap.

Brad Keselowski swiped wins in the first and second stages thanks to pit strategy. In the first stage he didn’t pit when everyone else did. In the second stage (which ended on Monday), Keselowski took two tires when everyone else who pitted took four.

Kyle Larson spun from the lead while lapping Ryan Newman. Larson didn’t hit anything in the spin and ended up in second place on the ensuing restart.

Kyle Busch won the race thanks to a fortunately-timed caution brought out by Keselowski. We don’t need to tell you the two drivers don’t have the coziest of relationships.

– Most importantly, the racing throughout the field was good.

Bristol applied traction compound to the bottom groove once again and the compound made the groove competitive, especially as a green-flag run went on. The compound has been added to the track since it was reconfigured and the high grooves became the preferred line around the track.

While high-groove Bristol still provided some entertaining racing, it was a far cry from the “old” Bristol that fans longed for where the bottom groove was the only way around the track and drivers had to root and gouge each other out of the way for position and there were a lot of wrecks.

Sunday/Monday’s race was a good compromise. The high groove had applicability for some drivers while the bottom groove became the passing lane. And for the nostalgic fans out there, the race provided plenty of bumping and banging. You’d be hard-pressed to find a car without some damage at the end of the race.

Is Bristol “back?” Who knows. The race’s staccato nature because of the off-and-on rain probably helped instigate drivers’ aggressiveness. The 13 cautions are tied for second-most in any Bristol race since 2010.

If you were disappointed in the rain wreaking havoc for the race, we totally understand and agree with you. If you’re disappointed with the racing itself, we’re not sure what you were watching or what you want from NASCAR.

[Kyle Busch wins at Bristol; full results]

• Is the pit gun problem still persisting? Denny Hamlin had to pit from the lead Monday because of a loose wheel and cursed the pit guns as he came to pit road.

Kevin Harvick also had to pit for a loose wheel, a week after he had multiple loose wheel issues at Texas.

It’s entirely possible Hamlin and Harvick’s loose wheel issues have nothing to do with NASCAR’s unreliable standard-issue pit guns. But given what we’ve seen over the first seven races of the seasons, it’s also very entirely possible the issues are caused by the pit guns. Whether it’s fair or not, expect more discussion of the pit guns over the next week.

• On the pit road theme, look at this crazy incident that happened on pit road involving a crew member from Paul Menard’s team.

Ryan Newman’s car clipped one of the tires he was carrying and it flew back towards pit wall.

This is a pretty awesome recovery, we’re not going to lie. But this incident isn’t a good look for NASCAR’s new five-man pit crew limit.

NASCAR cut the number of pit crew members from six to five before the 2018 season, hence why the tire carrier is carrying two tires. Had he been carrying one tire, Newman probably doesn’t hit the tire that’s on his outside hip and the tire doesn’t go flying through the air.

This incident could have also been a lot worse too. Imagine if the tire kept going and flew over the pit wall and/or hit someone?


• We could not find a replay from Fox of Busch’s pass of Larson with six laps to go. You know, the winning pass of the race. We went through Fox’s broadcast following the conclusion of the race and couldn’t find a replay. Incredible. Imagine a football team scoring a winning touchdown with 45 seconds left and the television broadcast never showing a replay.

To make matters worse, the live shot of the pass Fox provided started with the camera that was on Larson’s back bumper. There has been no overhead view of the pass provided to fans and that’s a disservice to anyone who watched Monday’s conclusion of the race. NASCAR fans deserve respectable NASCAR coverage and far too often Fox is failing to reach that threshold.

(via Fox)

• Darrell Wallace Jr. said he was “devastated” after finishing 16th. He ended up a lap down, not long after he took the lead and led six laps on Monday. This is a pretty riveting video.