All photos courtesy of NASCAR via Getty Images
Drivers in both the XFINITY and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returned to the roots of the sport this weekend in the mountains of Tennessee – at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300
A little luck found at Texas Motor Speedway followed 20-year-old Erik Jones to the mountains of Tennessee this weekend with a win in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 XFINITY race.
While the same weather system that moved the Food City 500 Monster Energy Cup Series race from Sunday to Monday threatened to rain out Saturday afternoon’s XFINITY Series action at the concrete short track, drivers from the XFINITY Series were a bit more fortunate. Dual series driver, Kyle Larson would be the first driver to find fortune at Bristol after both picking up the pole and leading the first 180 laps of this 300-lap race.
Despite dominating much of this race, Larson’s luck would run out on lap 261 when a cut tire, resulting from contact with Brandon Jones would send the polesitter to the pits. After which a commitment line violation would send Larson to the rear of the field.
Despite these obstacles, Larson would find enough stamina to power back to the top-10 in time for the wave of the checkered flag.
Although Larson was unable to turn his misfortune into a race win, another young gun would use a challenging road block as a stepping stone to grab his latest race win of the 2017 season.
Fourth place starter Erik Jones remained in the top-10 most of the day just biding his time to take the lead from the No. 42 of Larson. Although his plan seemed full-proof, a pit road speeding penalty on lap 230 would throw a wrench into this plan after Jones would be sent to the back of the pack. Despite this, Jones worked his way back to the front thanks to a series of cautions and eventually knocked current race leader Ryan Blaney out of the way to take the lead with 20 laps remaining.
Although the caution flag was shown with less than 10 laps remaining in this race, Blaney would be unable to catch Jones for the race win.
“It was just hard racing,” said Jones, who won his second straight NASCAR XFINITY Series race of the season, his second at Bristol and the eighth of his career. “We ended up racing hard and getting by him. To come back from a pit road penalty like that, it’s a race I won’t forget for a long time — just an awesome day.”
Although Jones would take home the checkers another young driver would take home a big payday. Stage 2 winner Daniel Hemric would take home $100,000 after winning the Dash 4 Cash Bonus after becoming the only eligible D4C driver to finish inside of the top-5 in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300.
“In all honesty, we haven’t put ourselves in positon to run for a win this year,” said Hemric. “I felt like we were doing that (today) as the stages and laps went by. The Dash 4 Cash is always lingering there but it’s not something that crosses your mind.”
The next Dash 4 Cash winner will be crowned following next weekend’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond International Raceway.
Food City 500
Hendrick Motorsports Scores 11th Bristol Win
Rain showers would damped the hopes to run the Food City 500 Monster Energy Cup Series race on Sunday, which left fans waiting until Monday to witness what was once a legendary NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Although No. 42 of Kyle Larson would once again lead the field to the wave of the green flag after rain would wash out Friday’s qualifying session, Larson would once again fall back to miss out on the Food City 500 win to seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
While Larson would dominate the first 125 laps of the race on the rain soaked concrete track, while picking up the win in Stage 1, his No. 42 Ganassi Chevrolet would begin to drop back in the field during the second stage of this race. Much like Saturday’s XFINITY Series race, Larson would also suffer a pit road speeding penalty on lap 423, which knocked him back to the end of those on the lead lap.
Stage 2 winner Martin Truex Jr. also looked like a possible candidate for the race win until a pit road speeding penalty also sent his Furniture Row Racing No. 78 to the 15th position as the laps wound down in this race.
Despite many drivers being bitten by the speeding penalty bug as this delayed race began to come to a close, the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson found his stride in the last 80 of 500 laps to pick-up his second race at Bristol Motor Speedway as well as Hendrick Motorsports 11th win at the Tennessee mountain’s concrete coliseum.
The victory moved Johnson another step up NASCAR’s all-time win list, putting him one triumph behind NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough and two back from fellow inductees Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip.
“That’s just mind-blowing,” said Johnson, who sits seventh on the all-time list. “I wouldn’t be here without Mr. Hendrick’s support. Thanks to him and to Jeff Gordon for believing in me and for Hendrick Motorsports to make this job kind of a family environment for all of us to thrive in has been a perfect environment for me and (crew chief) Chad Knaus, and for the consistent group of guys behind me through all these years, which has led to the environment for 82 race wins. I’m truly humbled.”
Despite winning yet another Cup Series race, Johnson still sits behind current Monster Energy Cup Series point leader Kyle Larson. Johnson will have another run at this point lead following next weekend’s Toyota Owner’s 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Stay tuned to RacingJunk.com for all your NASCAR coverage.