It was a Kenseth kind of weekend.
On the same weekend his son, Ross, 21, announced he would be making his first NASCAR start, Matt Kenseth won his first pole of the season and added his first victory of the season in Sunday night’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The win didn’t come easily as it required a wait through two red flags for rain that covered more than four hours, and then Kenseth had to hold off a wild charge from Jimmie Johnson in a two-lap overtime.
Jeff Gordon finished third, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fourth and Ryan Newman was fifth,.
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Talk about setting up drama. Right before NASCAR was to begin a two-lap overtime, a light rain doused enough of the track to require the turns to be dried, creating an ominous wait to decide the winner. On the restart, however, Kenseth got off to a strong start, and Gordon, who restarted second, struggled leaving Johnson to challenge for the win.
Three who mattered
Matt Kenseth: The win is Kenseth’s fourth at Bristol – the most he owns at any track in the series.
Jeff Gordon: At one point two laps down because of a loose wheel, Gordon slowly worked his way back into contention.
Austin Dillon: As the race headed to overtime, he was running third but ran out of fuel as NASCAR weighed whether to dry some of the track before the restart.
▪ As many predicted, Bristol proved to be the great equalizer for teams that have not quite kept pace with Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing this season. At one point late in the race, 14 of the 15 drivers on the lead lap were still searching for their first win of the season and the trip to the Chase that comes with it.
▪ Three top teams – those of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr. – were forced to make pit stops under green-flag conditions in the race because of loose wheels. All three lost laps in the process, with Gordon the only one able to remain in contention for the win. Whether by design – to save time – or accident, even with NASCAR no longer regulating lug nuts on pit road, the ramifications for not applying them correctly still remains high.
▪ NASCAR elected to begin Sunday’s race at around 2:30 p.m. because it saw a “window” of opportunity to get the race underway. A total of 22 laps were run – eight minutes of racing – before heavy rain returned, and it drizzled most of the time the cars were on the track. I’m all for trying to give fans what they paid for, but that was ridiculous. Find a window that actually includes a reasonable amount of time to run the race. All eight minutes provided was a chance for two top teams to wreck.
Hamlin sits out restart: When the race resumed around 6:40 p.m. after a nearly four-hour delay, Hamlin did not report to his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Instead, Xfinity and Truck series driver Erik Jones took over the driving duties for the remainder of the race.
Jones had to restart the race at the rear of the field because of the driver change and quickly fell two laps down to the leaders. He ended up finishing 26th.
In an interview with Fox Sports 1, Hamlin said he developed a neck spasm during the 22 laps run earlier in the day. “I pulled something in my neck to upper back (and) the pain was bothering me quite a bit,” Hamlin said. “I stretched it out, and we’d been working it the last few hours.”
Gibson sidelined: Tony Gibson, crew chief for driver Kurt Busch, was taken to a local emergency room during the four-hour rain delay for treatment for a kidney stone. He returned to the track but did not return to the team’s pit box once the race resumed.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s competition director, Greg Zipadelli, assumed Gibson’s duties the remainder of the race.
Toyota Owners 400
Where: Richmond International Raceway
When: 7 p.m. Saturday.
Radio: Motor Racing Network.