Even without the legion of fans that make the pilgrimage to Bristol anytime the NASCAR Cup Series rolls into town, the half-mile track more than lived up to its reputation of hard racing.
The caution flag waved 17 times for a total of 102 laps before Brad Keselowski took the checkered flag for the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500.
Keselowski kept his Penske Racing Ford in contention all day as he ran in the top-10 all race long and led a total of 115 laps after starting the race from the pole. It was his consistency on the day that gave him his not only his second win of the season but also his second win in consecutive weekends as he also won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Memorial Day weekend.
It appeared that Keselowski would have to settle for a top-10 finish as several drivers took turns in the lead inside ten laps to go but each saw their chances of winning slip away after being involved in a crash. Denny Hamlin had the lead with six laps to go but was in a battle with Chase Elliott that eventually saw Hamlin hit the outside wall in turn four.
From that point on, Elliott found himself in a battle with Joey Logano as the final laps were going off the board. Logano was able to take the lead form Elliott but the Hendrick Motorsports driver was not content to run second as he made one final attempt to pass on the inside of Logano. He was unable to keep his Chevrolet from going up the track and sending both cars into the Turn 4 wall. Keselowski then inherited the lead and the win which made him the first driver since the series resumed racing to win two races.
The two wins ties him with Hamlin and his Penske Racing teammate Logano as the only drivers with multiple wins on the season. It has now been five races since the series resumed racing at Darlington on May 17th and even with the absence of practice and qualifying (except the Coca-Cola 600), the action on the track has not suffered.
The schedule now will go back to Atlanta on Sunday for the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500. It will actually be the second trip to Atlanta this season as the series was already in Atlanta for the originally scheduled race that become the first postponed race due to the COVID-19 virus.
NASCAR is expected to announce more schedule dates this week that will take the series into August.
The sanctioning body is expected to add more midweek races as it attempts to get all of the schedule races in before the playoff round of the final 10 races begin.
The midweek races held so far at Darlington and Charlotte have been met with favorable reviews by both fans and drivers. The races are shorter and seems to fit perfectly within network’s time slot and comes at a time when there is no other competition with other sports.
Teams and drivers come in on the day of the race and leave immediately afterwards making the turnaround time for the next race easier for everyone involved.
PIT NOTES: Brad Keselowski’s second win of the season at Bristol continues to raise the question about his future with Penske Racing. He is in the final year of his contract and there has been no official word on contract extension talks. The former series champion along with Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney make up one of the strongest organizations in the sport and has established itself as Ford’s flagship operation.