It was debut time for the Car of Tomorrow at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500. The COT cars are wider, taller, safer, has a wing on the back to create down force, and also has an air splitter in the front of the car. Getting the first poll in this car is Jeff Gordon.
Not racing this week for the first, ending a consecutive race streak of 621 races is Mark Martin. It is the first time since 1983 that the leader in points did not start a race. Starting in his place is Regan Smith who qualified in 12th.
“Hope we can survive 500 laps,” said Jimmy Johnson. Juan Pablo Montoya stated that this was a cool place. Tony Stewart said that it was much harder to pass in the COT car.
Damage to cars started on the warm up laps as Reed Sorenson bumps into the back of J.J. Yeley. Reed’s day went from bad to worse as on lap 17 he spins out with some casual contact from Kevin Harvick. It sent him behind the wall.
The big caution in the first half of the race occurred on lap 43 as David Gilliland and Dale Jarrett get together. Also involved in this caution was Robby Gordon, David Stremme, and Matt Kenseth. “Unfortunate day”, said Gilliland. During this caution the leaders pit and Regan Smith winds up with a one-lap penalty for pitting outside of his box.
During the rest of the first half of the race it was Tony Stewart of the lead of race. Other cars bringing out cautions were Montoya on lap 136, AJ Almendinger on lap 149, David Regan on laps 119 and 162, and finally Jeremy Mayfield on lap 225.
Around the halfway point of the race Martin Truex Jr. has a flat tires that causes one of the pins on the air splitter to come off. Also Elliott Sadler who was in the top five for a long time in this race has to pit under green for tire problems.
Kasey Kahne brings out the first caution of the second half of this race as he spins out on lap 282. The green flag drops and it was not long before the leader of the race Tony Stewart comes in for car problems. “Fuel pump problem,” said Greg Zipadelli. Tony lost 23 laps to fix the problem and had led 257 laps of the race until he stopped to fix his problem.
Kyle Busch took over the lead of the race for a few laps and then Denny Hamlin passed Kyle for the lead.
The next caution came out on lap 310 for the spinning cars of Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.
The next caution occurred for debris on lap 368 and then a caution on lap 379 for the spinning cars of Mike Bliss, Kyle Petty, and Bobby Labonte.
With 100 laps to go Denny Hamlin still leads the race with a charging Kevin Harvick in second. It took only seven more laps for Harvick to finally pass Hamlin. Five more laps go by and the second caution for debris comes out. Hamlin was able to win the race off pit road with Harvick back in second.
The green flag drops and the 13trh caution of the day quickly comes out for debris on the racetrack.
With fifty laps to go it is Kyle Busch in second chasing down leader Denny Hamlin with Kevin Harvick in third.
With 39 laps to go Greg Biffle moves into third
With 20 laps left Hamlin still leads with Kyle Busch right behind him. Three-four laps later Jimmy Johnson slows. This allows Klye Busch to make the pass on Denny Hamlin for the lead of the race before the caution comes out. Ten cars on the lead lap pit including Jeff Gordon who restarts in sixth position. Five cars including Hamlin and Busch stay out.
The green flag drops with 9 to go. Kyle Busch gets a great lead, but Denny Hamlin starts to fade quickly. Gordon with the fresh tires passes a couple of cars quickly and then marches his way up the field to second with three laps go as David Reagan spins out bunching up the field and bringing out the green/white checker.
The green flag drops and Gordon gets slowed up due to Kyle Busch causing Jeff Burton to get second place. Burton races him clean and was able to get under him on the last corner, but could not pass him for the lead.
“Burton could of dumped me,” said Kyle in victory lane. Commenting on the COT car he said, ”I can’t stand to drive them. They suck.”
Burton stated that he could have bumped him to win the race.
“It’s always a team effort,” said Jeff Gordon who finished in third place. He also stated that he struggled in practice yesterday.
The standings take a shuffle after the end of the race. Mark Martin drops to seventh due to not racing while Jeff Gordon takes the point lead with 791 points. In second place is Jeff Burton only three points back.