By Tyler Head
Brad Keselowski notched his second victory of the 2020 season when he took the checkered flag in Sunday’s Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Similar to his victory in last Sunday’s Coke 600 though, the real headline revolved around Chase Elliott.
Elliott continued his streak of strong runs with another solid performance on Sunday. The winner from Thursday night at Charlotte led 88 laps and won both stages at Bristol and stayed in the top 10 all day long. Pit strategy had shuffled him back as the race progressed through stage 3, but as the event neared its end he found himself back in the top 5.
With 12 laps to go it seemed like time was working against him as he rode in third behind Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano. He had lots of speed, but completing a pass is a multi-lap job at Bristol. Suddenly, Hamlin slowed heavily exiting turn 2 and Logano and Elliott got by him going down the backstretch. Elliott was on Logano’s bumper going into turn 3 and sent him up the hill (either via a nudge or just air, you be the judge) which allowed the 9 car to take the lead as the caution flew for Hamlin as he spun and collected B.J. McLeod.
The final run to the checkers would be 5 laps and Elliott and Logano would start side by side. Logano is already an aggressive driver, but he felt that he had just been bumped by Elliott so his intensity was likely dialed up higher than usual. Elliott had the preferred line, but Logano fought back hard on the restart and with 3 to go the 22 was out front. Elliott gave him the all too familiar Bristol bump going into turn 1 which allowed him to get to his inside on the backstretch. Heading into 3 Elliott showed no mercy and sent it hard underneath the 22, but it didn’t stick and both cars washed up into the hill and smacked the wall.
Bold moves like that are pretty sweet when they pay off, but instead of the 9 and 22 racing for the win on the last 2 laps, they both sunk like rocks and finished 21st and 22nd respectively. As expected, Logano wasn’t happy. The two hated a heated discussion on pit road after the race and Elliott did take the blame, but that certainly doesn’t put a bow it. This story is far from over, stay tuned.
Making it Work
When Jeremy Bullins was announced as Keselowski’s crew chief for 2020 I didn’t expect much from the 2 team. Bullins had a largely underwhelming run with Ryan Blaney the past few seasons and it wasn’t far fetched to assume he might drag Brad down this year. Boy was I wrong.
Through nine races, Keselowski has two wins, four top fives, six top tens, and has led 341 laps (4th most of all drivers.) While you can certainly argue their two wins were direct results of the 9 team’s woes, Keselowski has been extremely consistent so far and is already establishing himself as a solid championship contender once again. Atlanta is up next and Brad took the win there last season, expect him to be a threat once again.
Jekyll and Hyde
Ricky Stenhouse Jr’s first season at JTG-Daugherty Racing has been an up and down one to say the least. He started off red hot with a pole for the Daytona 500 and a third place finish at Las Vegas the next week. He followed that with mediocre runs at Auto Club and Phoenix leading into the Covid-19 hiatus. We all remember his embarrassing lap 1 crash at NASCAR’s return race at Darlington two weeks ago which had lots of people pointing and laughing.
After two more less than stellar races, he turned heads on Thursday night by finishing third at Charlotte. If there were ever a place for him too build on that momentum, Bristol would be it. It’s by far his best track and he has two runner-up finishes to show for it. Sunday was looking good for the 47 car as he was enjoying a solid top 10 run, but on lap 228 Stenhouse checked up for Matt Kenseth who had gotten loose in front of him and was immediately spun by Jimmie Johnson. The 47 careened off the inside wall and flew back into traffic collecting a multitude of cars in a wreck that mirrored the ones seen at superspeedways. The damage was severe and the 47 was done finishing a dismal 34th, yet another disappointing day following a promising outing.
That’s Short Track Racing!
Sunday’s 500 lapper at Bristol had everything a short track race needs to be spectacular. Lots of leaders, aggressive racing, wrecks, tempers flaring, and a wild finish to wrap it all up, If you weren’t entertained by what you saw on Sunday I don’t know what to tell you, that’s as good as stock car racing gets. The return of the low downforce package is now two-for-two this season as Phoenix was a great show as well. We don’t have to wait long for our next taste either as the Cup Series heads to Matinsville next Wednesday night for what should be yet another barn burner!