Successfully getting the Food City 500 in the books was always going to be a Herculean endeavour for all concerned given the weekend weather outlook for the Tennessee area, but as far as Joe Gibbs Racing and Matt Kenseth were concerned it was worth every last minute it took to get the pole sitter into victory lane following an agonising green-white-chequered restart at the climax of what had felt like one of the longest days in motor sports clocking in at just under nine and a half hours including all the stoppages.

"It was a crazy night for sure but it feels good to be back here in victory lane," said Kenseth. who led for 47 of the 511 laps of the race on his way to his 32nd victory in 552 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. "I'm glad we were able to finish this tonight and we had the car to stay ahead at the end

"I do enjoy this track," noted Kenseth, who now has four wins at the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway short track under his belt. His latest victory was also the first time since the autumn of 2008 that the pole winner has gone on to clinch a race win at Bristol.

"I've always enjoyed this type of racing, even though sometimes it's frustrating you get caught up in a wreck, you have those things happen, but I enjoy it because it's just so fast and it's a short track and you get to do more racing - less dependent on aero and other things."

CLICK: Full Food City 500 race results from Bristol Motor Speedway

Aerodynamic theory was certainly the last thing on anyone's mind on Sunday. After a morning of heavy intermittent rain, the Food City 500 got underway slightly later than originally planned but far earlier than even the most optimistic people who had been monitoring the forecasts had expected. Having won pole position on Friday, Kenseth led the field to the green flag but it was Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick who was immediately on it, moving from fourth place on the grid, past Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Carl Edwards and Penske's Brad Keselowski before wresting the lead from Kenseth on lap 6. Ten laps later he was already starting to put backmarkers off the lead lap.

Running in third place, Keselowski was just settling in for the first long stint of the day when the #2 suddenly lost grip on lap 20. He tried to brake but ended up getting hit hard by his own unsuspecting team mate Joey Logano who had been running behind him in fourth place. "I felt like I had a normal line and it moved crazy sideways on me," Keselowski said afterwards.

The collision inflicted heavy damage on both cars and Logano limped the #22 straight to the garage area for repairs, but that process was interrupted when NASCAR called for a red flag which meant that team workers had to stop what they were doing for the duration. Worse news still, the red wasn't for track clean-up operations but because the rain had started to pick up again, so the teams busied themselves covering the race cars on pit lane and the Air Titans started to fire up for another round of track drying.

"It's been raining since we started the race, it was just a really light sprinkle and the track was just barely dry," said Keselowski, although he wasn't sure if the weather had been the cause of his accident. "I don't know. The rain was coming in and out and the car just took off on me. I would like to blame the rain, but I honestly don't know. Usually when a car gets that far sideways and it's kind of out of nowhere there's a reason behind it. I just really hate that I tore up my team mate in the process.."

"It happened quick, obviously," added Logano. "You think you get early in this race and kind of want to settle in and just starting to get the top worked in a little bit there and Brad just got loose underneath that lapped car. You start checking up and it looked like he was gonna have it saved and he checked up more than I expected and the next thing you know I'm in the back of him and we're both headed towards the fence. We're just gonna try to fix it and ride this thing out and get what we can out of the day," he added, eventually managing to return to the race albeit by now a daunting 74 laps off the lead.

It was four hours before the track was ready to go racing again. During the intermission, JGR's Denny Hamlin - who had been running in fifth when the race was suspended - had reported a problem with neck and upper back spasms, and the decision was taken by the team to use the opportunity presented by the red flag to pull him out of the car.

"With this format it's all about winning and the way I'm feeling there's no way I could go out there and win," Hamlin admitted. "It's something that will go away, I just pulled something," he insisted, adding: "I've just got to go try and win Richmond next week." Called up to replace him was young Erik Jones, last week's Xfinity Series race winner who would now be thrown into his Sprint Cup d?but with no warning and in the most demanding of circumstances.

Also missing on medical grounds for the rest of the day was Kurt Busch's crew chief Tony Gibson, with Stewart-Haas Racing confirming that he had gone to a local hospital emergency department suffering from a painful kidney stone and that he would be replaced for the rest of the event by the team's vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli with the assistance of lead engineer John Klausmeier.

All this upset didn't seem to distract Busch himself unduly when the race got going again, which saw him move smartly past Kenseth into second place behind his team mate Kevin Harvick. The pair pulled out more than two seconds over the rest of the field by the time a planned competition caution came out on lap 60 to allow the teams to check on the status of their cars following the rain.

Greg Biffle and Sam Hornish Jr. stayed out to assume the lead at the restart, but Busch immediately pushed past them to take control for the first time on lap 71. Harvick came with him in second place, although he had a scare on lap 96 when he nearly spun following contact with the lapped car of Michael McDowell. Meanwhile a right rear tyre problem forced Dale Earnhardt Jr. into an unscheduled pit stop on lap 102 that dropped the #88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy from tenth to 37th place.

Kurt Busch handed the lead back-and-forth several times during the stint that saw them cheerfully carving their way through the backmarkers so that by lap 125 only 25 cars were left on the lead lap. Harvick was in front on lap 168 when the third caution of the day came out for water on the track in turn 2, and that allowed the field to pit under yellow. Harvick emerged with his lead intact over Edwards, Busch, Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard, Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer for the restart on lap 176. Harvick had no trouble launching away into the distance, but Busch dropped back to fifth leaving Edward and Kenseth to squabble over second place ahead of Jimmie Johnson, whose team mate Jeff Gordon dropped out of the top ten after being forced to make an extra pit stop on lap 206 for a loose wheel which dropped him down to 29th place and a painful two laps off the lead thanks to Bristol's short track length allowing no time for a cost-free green flag pit stop.

Edwards had succeeded in closing down Harvick's lead by the time the race reached the all-important halfway point on lap 250. The he race could now be called even if the rain closed in again, meaning that the threat of everyone having to come back on Monday was over: one way or another, this would end tonight. It was just as well they'd got to the halfway point as the weather was indeed going downhill again, and Edwards succeeded in taking the lead just before a new caution on lap 265 for a new outbreak of light rain.

NASCAR initially kept the race under yellow and allowed a round of pit stops which saw Edwards keep the lead ahead of Harvick, Busch, Johnson, McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Kenseth, Bowyer, Dillon and Kyle Larson. When the rain persisted, race control ordered a brief red flag to enable the Air Titans to be redeployed out onto the track but it was only 14 minutes before the cars were able to get rolling once more and racing resumed on lap 278, the 'afternoon' race now firmly under floodlit conditions as it was 8.30pm and long after sunset.

Edwards led the field to the restart but the caution flags were out straight away after Busch spun following contact with Johnson. Both cars had to come down pit road for repairs as a result of the incident, dropping them down the order before the next restart on lap 292. Johnson was soon involved in a second caution on lap 311 when he got into the rear of Jeb Burton causing both cars to spin out in turn 1 and took David Ragan out in turn; Kevin Harvick couldn't avoid the JGR #18 and sustained heavy damage to his own car that cost him third place as he headed for the garage area for repairs. Harvick would eventually return to the race 43 laps down and firmly out of contention for anything save a damage limitation operation to salvage some minor points.

Racing resumed on lap 325 with Edwards still leading and Kahne taking over in second from Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier, Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer, with Austin Dillon running in tenth. It was only a few minutes before a new caution for debris in turn 1 on lap 344, which at least handed Johnson a free pass back on to the lead lap. This time there was a variety of pit stop strategies in play, with Larson leading a pack of seven cars that stayed out and McMurray winning the race off pit road by taking two tyres only meaning that Edwards dropped to ninth ahead of Kenseth and Kahne. The lack of new tyres certainly didn't stop Larson breaking away from the rest of the field by more than two seconds, but the run ended with the #42 went into the lapped car of Landon Cassill sending the Hillman Racing #40 into a hard impact with the wall to being out the next caution on lap 367.

Larson was able to continue despite the contact and kept the lead for the restart on lap 381. By now Kenseth was back on a charge, but despite his older tyres Larson was still able to fend off the JGR driver and was making better progress through the lapped traffic which Kenseth found harder going, including an especially bruising encounter with Danica Patrick. However Larson also had his overdue pit stop to make, which he was forced to do this green on lap 437 which promptly put him a lap down in 18th place. The gamble hadn't worked.

Kenseth briefly inherited the lead but he was soon passed by Kurt Busch, who had fought back to the front following his earlier spin and also from a pit lane penalty for an uncontrolled tyre. Stand-in crew chief Klausmeier was assuring his driver that the #41 had enough fuel to see it through to lap 503 - in other words, enough to get to the end and even through a green-white-chequered overtime attempt if need be. The tyre wear was another matter entirely, however: when a new caution came out on lap 473 for Jamie McMurray blowing a tyre and collecting Josh Wise and Clint Bowyer, the team decided to call Busch in for one final service. The trouble with that plan was that no one else on the lead lap did likewise, costing Busch valuable track position he would have to make up in double-quick time.

The green flag came out again with 17 laps remaining, Kenseth immediately clearing Edwards for the lead with Dillon in third and Busch already back vying for fourth with Jeff Gordon. However the action was short-lived before more turmoil back on the midfield brought out the tenth caution of the day on lap 484 as Tony Stewart got into Kahne and then collected AJ Allmendinger, with Casey Mears and Martin Truex Jr. also wrecking on the backstraight. Larson was the recipient of the free pass back on to the lead lap.

Even this close, with just eight laps to go at the restart, there was no telling who would win or even who would make it to the finish. Austin Dillon was struggling when the Richard Childress Racing #3 started to overheat meaning he dropped back, but this helped take him out of danger when Edwards got loose as he was passed by Jeff Gordon on lap 495, the #19 getting turned round and collecting Kurt Busch in the process with Justin Allgaier and Paul Menard also getting involved in the fall out.

That left the race going into overtime with a GWC finish imminent, but before that could happen the rain decided to make a return appearance at precisely the wrong moment. As if all that wasn't high drama enough, the knife-edge fuel situation was highlighted when Dillon suddenly ran dry as the cars continued to circulate waiting for the shower to pass. Not willing to give up on the chance of a proper finish to the race this close to the end, NASCAR opted instead to put out the red flags for the third time of the day to allow the cars to park while the Air Titans mobilised to save the track, which was getting wetter by the minute.

Surprisingly, race leader Matt Kenseth - who would have been handed the win if the race had been called there and then - agreed with the decision to carry on with the attempt to do this thing properly: "At the end of the day, especially if you end up winning, you want to finish all the laps, "he said. "You'd rather win on the racetrack obviously than win under yellow. I think if it would have totally lost the racetrack and it would have downpoured, I'm sure they would have called it, but I thought overall it was a good decision [to carry on.]"

Fortunately the rain did abate quickly, the track dryers soon completed their work, and the cars were ushered back out on the track again within ten minutes as nervous track officials kept one eye on the restart and the other on the weather radar showing a full-blown storm system heading into the area at any minute. They needed this GWC attempt to go right the first time with no further wrinkles - and for once, they got exactly that. Kenseth got a solid restart while Gordon struggled to get up to speed, and that was enough to ensure JGR clinched their second win of the season and Kenseth his first trip to victory lane in 51 starts, his last before today coming at New Hampshire in November 2013.

"It feels good to be back here," he said, admitting his relief at finally winning a race after such a long drought. "It wears on you a little bit. We had such a good 2013, we came a little short of the ultimate prize there, but we had such a great season, and last year there were some races we had some chances to win and just things wouldn't line up for us. We just couldn't get it to happen.

"Tonight was kind of the opposite," he added. "Everything worked out. We had a good car on the short run, not so good on the last 40 or 50 laps of the run and we had all them cautions and short runs at the end that really benefited us."

Behind Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson recovered from a poor qualifying on Friday and two spins on Sunday to pick up a quite remarkable second place with late pass on his Hendrick Motorsports team mate Jeff Gordon who finished just behind in third. "We just worked our way up through the field and things went pretty smoothly," Johnson recalled, talking of the first half of the race. "I had a very fast race car and felt like we were going to have a strong night.

"Then one of the restarts midway through the race, the #41 [Harvick] lost control, got into me," he recalled. "I went into the outside wall in Turn 3, and a caution came out. We had a fair amount of damage to the right-rear quarterpanel. I didn't think I hit that hard, but after I got out of the race car and saw the damage, no wonder it didn't drive very good after that, and we needed two or three pit stops to get the quarterpanel pushed back down so there was some sideforce on the back of the car on corner entry.

"Once we did that, we weren't as good as we were at the start of the race but still very competitive," he continued, crediting a late two-tyre call by his crew chief Chad Knaus for completing the recovery and putting him in with a chance of a win at the end. "Chad called for two late in the race. That picked us up a few more spots, and then I think the last two restarts I was in the outside lane and that helped me out quite a bit. Wild night, but glad to get it in."

"I'm very pleased the way we finished, it certainly wasn't easy, and was filled full of ups and downs and emotions," said Gordon of how his day had gone. "We were cruising along there making our way to the front, and I was pretty happy with the car, and then we had the loose wheel, which was a bummer, and lost two laps. But the car was really fast after that, and we were able to get back on the lead lap, which was great.

"We were in a good position to get a really nice, solid finish, and then all the chaos broke out with restarts and rain and crashes and everything else," he noted. "Found ourselves somehow in second, and I thought we were going to run out of fuel for sure, but luckily we didn't."

Roush Fenway Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got around the #31 RCR of Ryan Newman to pick up fourth place, his first top ten finish of 2015 and his third straight top-six finish at Bristol, while Tony Stewart crossed the line in sixth ahead of Kyle Larson and Justin Allgaier who claimed a career-best eighth followed by Danica Patrick and Austin Dillon.

Kurt Busch was unable to get back on the lead lap before the end and was shown in 15th place just ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr., with Carl Edwards equally frustrated to finish the day in 24th place and four laps off the lead after having led for 86 laps during the race compared with Kenseth's 47. Edwards was only two spots ahead of stand-in JGR team mate Erik Jones who brought the #11 car home in 26th place, quite commendable in the circumstances of how he'd been roped in for his first Cup race without warning; Denny Hamlin gets to keep the 18 Cup championship points that Jones acquired, as he was the driver in the car at the start of the race.

Even though he led for a race-high 184 laps on Sunday, Harvick ended up classified in 38th position after running into Ragan on lap 311, making this his worst result in over a year - ironically, his lowest finish since he crossed the line in 39th place right here at Bristol last March. Despite that blow, Harvick continues to lead the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship by a hefty 30 points from Joey Logano who had his own nightmare day, finishing in 40th place and 59 laps down after that early collision with his Penske team mate Brad Keselowski.

Even though he wasn't able to continue his unbroken record of top ten finishes in 2015 this time out, Martin Truex Jr is still in third place in the points standings coming out of Bristol, with Jimmie Johnson up to fourth place having displaced Keselowski. "You just never know about Bristol, a lot of strange things can happen here," remarked Truex. "Who would have thought that our 29th place finish would have been the best among the top-five in the point standings. Very weird."

Regardless of the points, Harvick, Logano, Johnson, Keselowski and Hamlin are all confident of making the Chase courtesy of having one at least one race apiece. That group now expands to include Kenseth who as a result of this week's victory also moves up four places in the points standings to eighth going into the ninth race of the season, the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway next Saturday where last year Joey Logano was victorious over his childhood hero Jeff Gordon.

See full race results and Sprint Cup Championship standings.

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