Race Rewind: Looking back at the Food City 500

jutter@charlotteobserver.comMarch 17, 2013 

• Whatever it cost track owner Bruton Smith to alter the track surface at Bristol Motor Speedway in hopes of enticing more fans to attend, it was wasted money. One would be hard-pressed to say there were any more fans at Sunday's Food City 500 than a year ago. If anyone is going to change anything, it ought to be the date of the race. For years, the sprint Bristol race was held in April but in recent years it has found its way into March to a point where snow in the forecast is a legitimate possibility each year. Obviously, there was nothing wrong with the quality of racing on Sunday - it was probably the best race so far this young season. But give the track a chance and move the race date back several weeks.

• Denny Hamlin is making a lot of friends in the Sprint Cup garage of late. On Friday, he said about 90 percent of his competitors say nice things about NASCAR to stay on its good side and that some lacked any "backbone." Sunday, he moved a feud with former teammate Joey Logano from Twitter - where it began after Daytona - to the track, when he punted Logano out of the way on Lap 348 of 500.

• What a start to the season for Penske Racing. The organization currently has drivers leading the points in both the Nationwide (Sam Hornish Jr.) and Sprint Cup series (Brad Keselowski).

Notebook

Hamlin and Logano at it again: Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano took what was a battle on Twitter after the Daytona 500 to the track on Sunday. While Logano was running second on Lap 348, Hamlin knocked him out of the way and into the wall.

Both Hamlin and Logano had issues the rest of the race but after it was over, Logano attempted to stick his head into Hamlin's car to talk to him but was yanked away by one of Hamlin's crew members. The two teams traded shoves before the group was dispersed.

"That's a freaking genius behind the wheel of the No. 11 car - probably the worst teammate I ever had, so I learned that now," said Logano. "He decided to run in the back of me, so, whatever. I have a scorecard and I'm not putting up with that."

Hamlin dismissed Logano's complaints.

"You really got to control your car and he slipped up into me," Hamlin said. "Really, he would have been in the garage with no radiator in it if I had not checked up twice ... I didn't mean to spin him out but his day was fine. He still had a bad day anyway for whatever reason and we finished bad, too. It's even."

New points leader: Brad Keselowski is the only driver to have four top-five finishes in the first four races of the season and on Sunday he got rewarded for it by becoming the Cup series points leader.

Keselowski leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. by nine points after four races. Jimmie Johnson, who was the points leader, dropped to third after his 22nd place finish on Sunday.

"We're off to my best start ever and that's really cool," Keselowski said. "I think we know as a team what we need (to continue). We've got a pretty good handle on it."

In the hunt: Kurt Busch finished fourth in Sunday's race - his best finish since joining the Furniture Row Racing team at the end of last season. Busch started the season with finishes of 28th, 27th and 20th.

5 key moments

1 . Joe Gibbs Racing established its dominance early as teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin led a combined 173 of the first 237 laps.

2 . Denny Hamlin wrecked Joey Logano as the two were battling for second place on Lap 348 and neither ended up a factor in the race outcome.

3. Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth, running first and second, wrecked out of the race on Lap 390 when Gordon blew a right-front tire. Kasey Kahne, then running third, inherited the lead.

4. In an entertaining duel on the track, Brad Keselowski finally overtook Kahne for the lead on Lap 448 but the field was bunched again by a caution on Lap 456.

5. On a restart on Lap 461, Kahne darts ahead of Keselowski to take the lead and remains out front the final 40 laps.

Next race

Auto Club 400

Where: Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, Calif.

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

TV: Fox

Radio: Motor Racing Network

Last year's winner: Tony Stewart

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter

More racing news, blogs, photos and more at www.ThatsRacin.com.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service