Sprint Cup Series Race Wrap: Bristol

Bristol, Tenn.,—Brad Keselowski brought home the Ford City 500 victory at Bristol Motor Speedway holding off Matt Kenseth and the Michael Waltrip Racing trio of Martin Truex, Jr., Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers.

“Obviously, it was a great day for MWR,” said Truex, who finished third after crew chief Chad Johnson elected to stay out during the final caution. “He (Johnson) called to stay out and stuck to his guns and never second guessed himself.”

 Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, leads Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2012 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, leads Brian Vickers, driver of the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2012 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“We’ve come a long way in the last 10 or 14 races—we’ve had a really consistent, really good race team,” Truex added. “We’ve got a lot of confidence.”

Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers are new to the MWR stable of drivers. Bowyer finished fourth, while Vickers’ fifth place finish helps build confidence after being away from the track following the closure of Red Bull Racing in 2011.  Vickers has five races left of a six-race deal to pilot the No. 55 in 2012, and says the MWR organization is “incredible.”

“I can tell a lot about them (Michael Waltrip and Rob Kaufmann, team owners) by the group of people they’ve built and the team they’ve built,” said Vickers. “I’m proud to be a part of getting all three cars in the top-five.”

Truex said the changes in the organization started mid-year in 2011 and they have started to pay off. Truex is third in points, and has been consistent throughout the four races of the season.

“Michael (Waltrip, owner) and Rob (Kaufman, owner) really took a step back as an organization,” said Truex. “Bringing in Scott Miller toward the end of last year was certainly a big key.”

“Really kind of restructuring how we did things,” added Truex. “Across the board it’s been a lot of hard work and dedication by the team.  In the end, all the people doing the jobs the best they can do and things have been working out for us.”

Cut and Rub for Hendrick Duo

Jeff Gordon’s day came to an end early after contact with teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on lap 360. Slight contact between the two resulted in a cut tire, spin, and trip into the inside wall for Gordon who finished 35th.

 Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2012 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2012 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR)

“I think we bumped more than we should have is the way it looks like,” said Gordon. “We definitely didn’t hit in the right location, because I think the tailpipe or something just cut the left-rear immediately.”

“We were a little bit too tight, and he was pretty good on the restart there and we were racing hard,” Gordon added. “I know it wasn’t intentional, but it sure ruined our day.”

Earnhardt was quick to take responsibility for the incident.

“I feel bad at what happened to Jeff, but we were just racing,” Earnhardt said. “We barely touched. That’s just kind of a freak deal. So, I’m not going to beat myself all to hell about it. I feel bad (about) what happened to him and I’m going to tell him about it.”

“But I screwed myself on speeding,” added Earnhardt, who was busted for a speeding penalty during the final pit stop under caution. “And we were running good.”

Earnhardt says that as a team they are starting to run consistent, and competitive.

“We’re showing all the signs of any of these other guys capable of running up front and maybe winning us a race or two this year,” Earnhardt said. “I’m going to take all the positives I can out of this one.

“We didn’t run good last year,” added Earnhardt. “We struggled and just kind of limped around and made something out of nothing. Today we ran good; and I feel good about that.”

Harvick Makes Something Out Of Nothing

Kevin Harvick turned a potential disastrous day into a top-15 finish. Harvick was involved in the lap 23 incident that took out contenders Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch.

 Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Cheez-It Ford, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Mac Tools Ford, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Wrigley Toyota, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2012 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Cheez-It Ford, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Mac Tools Ford, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Wrigley Toyota, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18, 2012 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Harvick said the incident wasn’t likely a product of racing too hard, but rather the difficulty it takes to pass.

“It’s just so hard to pass and everybody gets to running up high and it becomes so hard to pass that you take all you can when you can get it,” Harvick said. “By the time they told me to check up, I was in it.”

“All in all, I think we had a fairly decent day considering all the damage,” added Harvick, who finished 11th. “I think everybody did a good job fixing the car up and doing the best we could with a wrecked car.”

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