Pole-sitter Matt Kenseth broke his 51-race winless streak, winning Sunday’s Food City 500 In Support of Steve Byrnes at Bristol Motor Speedway.
It was far from an easy victory for the Wisconsin native, who led the final 34 laps, overcoming a pair of cautions, a red-flag due to rain and a two-lap shootout for the win.
After a third red flag of the race due to rain on Lap 506 and the restart on Lap 509, Kenseth held on to win in a green-white-checkered finish. It was Kenseth’s fourth career win at Bristol. He also becomes the sixth different driver to win a race this season.
It was also the longest race in Bristol history: 511 laps.
The race appeared as if it would end under caution on Lap 506, but NASCAR officials waited for a quick rainstorm to pass, dried the track and finished the race under green flag conditions, 11 laps past the scheduled length.
Despite an assortment of problems including being involved in two wrecks and a pit road mishap, Jimmie Johnson finished second, followed by Jeff Gordon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman.
Sixth through 10th were Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier, Danica Patrick and Austin Dillon.
There were several incidents in the second half of the race that changed the complexion of the outcome:
* On Lap 311, while trying to move into 15th place, Jimmie Johnson got into the lapped car of Jeb Burton, causing both cars to spin. David Ragan and Kevin Harvick were unable to stop and crashed. “Sorry guys, I couldn’t stop,” Harvick said over his team radio.
* On Lap 367, Landon Cassill came down into the right front of Kyle Larson, who was leading and couldn’t avoid contact, sending Cassill head-on into the SAFER barrier on the outside wall.
* On Lap 483, yet another multi-car wreck involved AJ Allmendinger, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr. and Casey Mears.
* On the restart on Lap 494, Carl Edwards got loose while trying to pass Jeff Gordon, ran up into the outside wall, only to be slammed from behind by Kurt Busch. It ended any hopes Busch had of winning.
How Kenseth won: Kenseth got a great jump on the final restart, held off a late challenge by Johnson and motored to the win.
Who else had a good day: Even though it looked several times that his day was over, Jimmie Johnson kept coming back to finish second, one week after winning at Texas. … Like Kenseth, Jeff Gordon also was running low on fuel late, but didn’t worry and gave his best shot at winning. … Tony Stewart finished a season-best sixth. … Justin Allgaier scored a seaon-best eighth-place finish. … Danica Patrick placed ninth for her second top-10 finish in the last three races.
Who had a bad day: Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano wrecked on Lap 19. Keselowski got loose while trying to pass Alex Kennedy, went sideways and Logano had nowhere to go. Their teams were able to make repairs and Keselowski came out 10 laps back, while Logano was 55 laps back. … Tony Gibson, crew chief for Kurt Busch, was taken to a local hospital during the rain delay for treatment of a kidney stone. He was replaced atop the pit box by lead engineer John Klausmeyer and Stewart-Haas Racing VP of competition, Greg Zipadelli. Gibson eventually returned to the track after being treated and watched the remainder of the race on TV in his motor coach.
Notables: Denny Hamlin suffered pain in his neck and back on Lap 12 during the first part of the race. During the rain delay, it was decided to pull Hamlin from the race and replace him with Erik Jones, who had never raced in a Sprint Cup race to date. Hamlin was running fifth when the race was stopped on Lap 22 due to rain. Jones eventually finished 26th. … Kevin Harvick (finished 38th), Joey Logano (40th) and Martin Truex Jr. (29th) all saw their streaks of consecutive top 10 finishes in each of the first seven races come to an end in the eighth race of the season Sunday. … Alex Bowman finished a season-best 20th. … Matt DiBenedetto finished a career-high 21st.
Quote of the day: “When you race back there with the squirrels, you find a nut sometimes, that’s just Bristol,” David Ragan after being involved in a wreck on Lap 311.
What’s next: Toyota Owners 500 on Saturday, April 25 (7 pm ET), at Richmond International Raceway.