Ryan: Three thoughts on Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Recapping some takeaways after 511 laps at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City 500 In Support of Steve Byrnes:

  1. It’s still the Hendrick Motorsports show: While there were signs of life from Joe Gibbs Racing (winner Matt Kenseth and teammate Carl Edwards combined to lead 133 laps), Hendrick Motorsports and its customer teams still dominated. With Hendrick chassis and engines, the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolets of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch combined to lead 282 of 500 laps, and Kyle Larson’s Hendrick-powered Ganassi Chevy also paced 90 laps. Coupled with the impressive comebacks of Hendrick stars Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, it was another banner night for a NASCAR powerhouse that has ruled the circuit for most of the past two seasons.
  2.  Crash course: Since being reconfigured in 2007 (and again in 2012), there has been some grumbling from fans that Bristol Motor Speedway lacked the excitement of when the 0.533-mile oval was a single-groove track with the preferred bottom lane causing constant fender banging. But Sunday’s race delivered the type of action that made the reputation of the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. Even though the high line now is preferred, which precludes the bump-and-run maneuver that causes wrecks, it’s often become a nightmare for leaders trying to slice through lapped traffic – which created several dicey situations Sunday and played a major factor in 11 caution flags (including six multicar wrecks).
  3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. can drive: The Roush Fenway Racing driver scored his second top-five finish in three races at Bristol, which is known for being a true test of talent. While the Roush Fords remain behind (and sometimes woefully slow) on the superspeedways that dominate the circuit, Stenhouse is proving that at the tracks where a driver can carry a car, he still matters.

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