BRISTOL, Tenn. – NASCAR officials made a valiant effort to get the Food City 500 to completion despite a dismal forecast on Sunday, but persistent rain ultimately won the afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The day started out bleak and the initial start was delayed until just after 1:30 p.m. Eastern, but four separate red flag periods – three of which were for weather – plagued the race and only 204 of the scheduled 500 laps were completed before the remaining distance was postponed.
Racing is scheduled to resume at 1 p.m. Eastern Monday afternoon, with television coverage on FOX.
A heavy round of showers that finally hit the Bristol area at 4 p.m. was the last nail in the coffin for the afternoon. At the time of the final caution for rain, Kyle Larson had bolted out to a seven-second advantage over Denny Hamlin.
Paul Menard, polesitter Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. completed the top five on lap 204.
Had the field been able to complete 46 more laps and make it to the end of the second stage, the race would have been official, but the weather finally became too much to wait out.
“It’s frustrating because you want to race, but it’s just a really tough situation for everyone,” said Larson, who led the entirety of the second stage before the final rain storm. “We had a really good car; our McDonald’s Chevrolet was rolling really strong there on that last run before it started coming down again. We got away on the restart and I was feeling good.
“As a driver, when you’re leading like that, you hate to see it have to stop like it did, but we’ll come back tomorrow and try to finish this thing off in victory lane.”
The first red flag for rain drops waved on lap 49, with a 25 minute and 25 second delay stalling the proceedings. It was followed by a second stoppage of six minutes and 29 seconds on lap 119, after a multi-car accident in turns three and four eliminated race leader Ryan Blaney in its wake.
Blaney was racing ahead of teammate Brad Keselowski when Harrison Rhodes spun in the center of the corner and washed up the track, leaving Blaney with nowhere to go.
“I didn’t see much,” admitted Blaney. “By the time I could see anything, they were already turned right and there was nowhere I could go. … Our car was pretty good. We just kind of got held up there and we might not have been as strong at the end of that run, but I thought we could have at least held on for that stage and just never got the chance. The positive is that we had a good car and that’s something to hold our heads high about.”
Keselowski inherited the lead at that point and ultimately won the first stage by a tenth of a second over Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger and Larson.
Following pit stops, Larson jetted out to the lead on the restart at lap 135 and never looked back until the postponement, despite a red flag for weather on lap 165 that lasted 26 minutes and 54 seconds.
The Food City 500 is the second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in three weeks to be postponed by weather. Martinsville (Va.) Speedway ran the entirety of the STP 500 on Monday after a snowstorm blanketed the track prior to the scheduled running of that race on March 25.