By Jared Turner
Hot Streaks Must End
Coming into Sunday’s race at Bristol, only three drivers – Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. – had finished in the top 10 in every race this season. By the time the dust settled on the rain-delayed, crash-marred marathon that finished some nine-and-a-half hours after its scheduled start time, not one of the three drivers had managed to keep his top-10 streak alive. The culprit for all three? Wrecks, which are just the nature of the beast in Thunder Valley. The good news? The three drivers still sit atop the Sprint Cup Series standings, now with eight races in the books.
NASCAR Wants To Go The Distance
While it was undoubtedly tempting for NASCAR and Bristol Motor Speedway officials to pull the plug on Sunday’s race instead of going the advertised 500-lap distance, the powers that be decided to wait out the weather and let the race run in its entirety – even if it meant finishing nine-and-a-half hours after the scheduled start time. Of course, it helped tremendously that Bristol has lights. Without them, this would have been a Monday morning/afternoon race. But instead, for the second year in a row, the Bristol spring race turned into all-day cat and mouse game with soaking-wet weather. At least they got the race in.
Matt Kenseth, JGR Are Back
Matt Kenseth’s triumph at Bristol snapped a 51-race winless streak dating back to September 2013. More important, however, is that with the 2003 Sprint Cup champion’s return to Victory Lane, Joe Gibbs Racing has now won two of the past three races – after going almost an entire year without a trip to Victory Lane from any of its drivers. After a slow start to 2015, the entire JGR organization seems to have caught fire. And it seems that the organization is particularly potent at the short tracks – given Kenseth’s Bristol win and the win by teammate Denny Hamlin at Martinsville Speedway late last month.
Erik Jones Is Ready For Prime Time
Just a little more than a week removed from his first NASCAR XFNITY Series win, 18-year-old Erik Jones took another huge step in his career development when he was called on to substitute for Denny Hamlin 22 laps into Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol. Hamlin, who was suffering from severe neck cramps, decided to bail out of his car – and allow Jones to get in – under a red flag period for rain. While Hamlin was still credited with the finish by virtue of starting the race, the opportunity allowed Jones to gain valuable seat time ahead of a likely first official Sprint Cup start in the near future.
Danica And Ricky Came Up Big
Largely overshadowed by the multiple rain delays, numerous wrecks and Matt Kenseth’s first win since September 2013 was that both members of NASCAR’s resident power couple – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (fourth) and Danica Patrick (ninth) – finished in the top 10. It’s the first time both drivers have done so since they joined NASCAR’s top series as rookies in 2013. For Danica, the finish was her best ever at Bristol and her second top-10 in the past three events. Stenhouse, meanwhile, delivered the first top-five finish of 2015 for a Roush Fenway Racing organization that has struggled to find speed in all of its Fords.