Brad Keselowski finished on top in the Food City 500 NASCAR
Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, his second consecutive win at the half-mile concrete oval which is fast becoming his favourite place to race: "What can I say? I love Bristol and Bristol loves me.
"I don't know how anyone can say Bristol racing ain't as good as it was," he beamed in victory lane. "I think they might be right, because it's better than it's ever been: this is one of the best races I've ever been a part of and ever seen from behind the seat!"
It was a race marked by long spells of trouble-free running, an early 45-lap lead for Keselowski's Penske team mate AJ Allmendinger soon eclipsed by Brian Vickers's mighty 125-laps in front midrace that was then itself topped by Keselowski's total of 232 laps in the lead, which included an uninterrupted run of 110 laps to the chequered flag.
Polesitter Greg Biffle had quickly pulled away from fellow front row man Allmendinger at the start of the afternoon's race, which had managed to start only minutes later than originally scheduled despite rain overnight and into the morning that had threatened to delay proceedings. But before the race could even manage to reach the scheduled competition caution organised by NASCAR
for lap 50 arranged so that teams could check tyre wear on the now 'green' track washed clean by the rain, there was a multi-car wreck that sucked in a number of the leading contenders.
It started with Kasey Kahne and Regan Smith battling for position on lap 24; Kahne thought he was clear ahead of the #78 and moved up the track accordingly, but it wasn't the case. Smith tried to check up, promptly got tagged from behind by Keselowski, which sent him back into Kahne and after that there was just a chain reaction of collisions. Kahne's #5 was badly damaged, as was Kyle Busch's #18, Marcos Ambrose's #9 and Carl Edwards' #99. Kevin Harvick's #29 also sustained some damage, while Keselowski escaped with only minor scrapes.
"We were going forward, just taking our time," explained Kahne. "Regan Smith was pretty slow. I was under him for a couple of laps. When my spotter cleared me in the centre, I just took off, and he was there on exit. It is disappointing to have that good of a car and be out this early ... I listened too much to my spotter I guess," he added pointedly, referring to his cousin Kole.
“I think Regan was battling with that same thing we all battle with here which is should you let the guy go or keep racing him," said Carl Edwards while waiting for his car to be patched up again. "Kasey probably thought he was clear and that ended up in a wreck. It is hard to put 43 cars on a half-mile going this fast and not wreck. It is too bad it happened this early. We have a really great race car and I was excited to race today. I wanted to drive more."
Edwards did finally get back out, but he would end up 255 laps off the lead. Likewise Kahne was 134 laps down and Ambrose 111 laps down by the time they rejoined; Busch's repairs had been the quickest but even he was 77 laps off the lead and just doing some damage limitation in the points standings in what's proved to have been a bad start to the 2012 season for the Joe Gibbs driver.
“We picked up seven points by getting back out there and finishing the race the way we did,” Busch's crew chief Dave Rogers said. “As you know, every point is important. It's just a shame we were out before the track even got a chance to get rubbered up ... What happened today was really nobody's fault."