The less than orthodox ending to Sunday’s NASCAR Food City 500 Sprint Cup Race on Sunday apparently did nothing to dampen the high spirits of Carl Edwards, who did his trademark backflip after earning his first win of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway, and his third career victory at this popular NASCAR venue. Second place went to Ricky Stenhouse Jr., followed by Aric Almirola, Tony Stewart and Marcos Ambrose respectively. After leading for 44 laps, Jimmie Johnson entered the pits with tire problems, and with a caution for rain in his team’s subsequent pit cycle Johnson slipped to 39th place, eventually finishing the race in the 19th spot.
With two-and-a-half laps remaining, and Edwards quite comfortably in the lead, the caution lights came on and drivers responded by slowing down. As NASCAR officials tried to figure out what prompted the caution, heavy rain started falling and the race was declared over at 503 laps, with Edwards being declared the winner. While it is agreed that the early finish had no impact on the outcome, it left NASCAR officials with some explaining to do.
Initially it was suggested that the excessive rainfall had shorted the system in some way, but then it was discovered that one of the people manning the flag stand had leaned on the manual override switch for the caution lights and switched them on. In response, the flag man raised the caution flag and the field was frozen from the tower. NASCAR’s vice president of competition and racing development, Robin Pemberton, later described the incident as a “stupid error”. In a post-race interview, Edwards noted that NASCAR officials are called upon to make a lot of tough calls, going on to say that he was “glad to be part of something where they say, ‘Hey, we just screwed up.'”
The standings in the 2014 Sprint Cup series so far are Brad Keselowski in the number one spot, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, and Jimmie Johnson. With competition this stiff so early in the season, there is plenty of excitement up ahead for NASCAR enthusiasts.
Taking the lead in 209 of the 250 laps in Sunday’s NASCAR Nationwide race at the Iowa Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. claimed his third straight win on the short oval. In a post-race interview, Stenhouse noted that he found it to be a lot of fun leading that many laps and that it felt good to win three in a row. His 209 laps lead tied the track record set in 2010 by Kyle Busch, while his three-in-a-row win at the same track was the first by a Nationwide driver since Busch set that record at Texas in 2009-2010. Stenhouse’s victory also extended his point lead to 28 over second-place winner Elliot Sadler. Michael McDowell finished third with rookie Austin Dillion and Kurt Busch coming in fourth and fifth respectively.
While Elliot Sadler started on the pole, Sam Hornish Jr. soon took the lead, holding it for thirty laps before losing it to Stenhouse. Cole Whitt, Kyle Busch and Justin Allgaier each had a short stint in the lead, but were unable to hold Stenhouse back for more than a few laps. Having worked his way to second place, Sadler commended his team for coming back from the previous week’s disappointment with a car worthy of winning the race.
For the second time this season, Danica Patrick failed to finish the race. Starting ninth, Patrick fell back to 16th place before her tire reportedly blew, and she drifted wide slamming into the wall on her 115th lap of the 250-lap event. The damage suffered by the No.7 car was too extensive for Patrick to continue the race. Admitting that she was disappointed, particularly in light of the fact that they were having the best short track weekend ever, Patrick noted that there are 34 weekends of racing where anything could happen.
Driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, 18-year old Darrell Wallace Jr. Started eighth in his first Nationwide series career start, and finished in ninth place. Wallace is sponsored by NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program. This initiative was started in 2004 and has experienced a measure of success in increasing participating by women and minority groups in this fast-paced sport.