Bristol night race report
Bristol Motor Speedway
18: Brian Scott, No. 44 Medallion Financial/Jacob Companies Ford
Rain postponed the Bristol Night Race after just 32 laps under green-flag conditions on Saturday night. Scheduled for Sunday afternoon, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series didn’t hit the track until the evening as more rain fell in the afternoon. With weather out of the area, the 500-lap race was a battle in itself as the field saw four cautions for multi-car accidents throughout the race. Both Richard Petty Motorsports teams survived the 500-laps with little damage to score Top-20 finishes. Aric Almirola drove the No. 43 Smithfield/Waffle House Ford from the 17th starting spot to a 14th-place finish, while Brian Scott came home 18th after starting 30th in the No. 44 Medallion Financial/Jacob Companies Ford.
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield/Waffle House Ford
The Tennessee rain made Bristol Motor Speedway’s Sprint Cup Series race a 24-hour event, but that didn’t stop Richard Petty Motorsports and the No. 43 Smithfield/Waffle House Ford team. The first night of racing only allowed for 38 laps of racing before the race was postponed to Sunday afternoon. Aric Almirola rolled off in the 17th position and got hung up on the outside groove that wasn’t working well early in the race. He fell back to 24th place. Finding a hole in the bottom lane, Almirola tucked in and made is way up to the 21st position before rain ended the night.
After rain once again pushed the start back on Sunday afternoon, the race got underway. Almirola restarted in 21st place but fell to the back with a tight-handling Ford Fusion. With wedge and air pressure adjustments during pit stops, Crew Chief Trent Owens made improvements to the handling, and Almirola started to move through the field. Caught by the leader on Lap 138, Almirola went one lap down, and the battle was on to get the free pass and get back on the lead lap.
At a track where it’s hard to stay in the Lucky Dog position as the leader passes cars during the quick, 15-second laps, Almirola fought to keep himself the leader of the lapped cars. On the Lap 309 caution, Almirola was the recipient of the free pass and returned to the lead lap. Knowing he had a strong car that got better as the runs went on, Almirola patiently worked his way up to the Top 15. When the checkers fell after 500 laps, Almirola finished in 14th place.
“We had a good No. 43 Smithfield/Waffle House Ford Fusion,” said Almirola. “It didn’t take off as great as other cars did, but the handling got better and better as our runs continued. To go from being a lap down to finishing in the Top 15 is tough, but my team worked hard and put in a great effort. This definitely gives us a motivational boost going into Michigan next week.”
Brian Scott, No. 44 Medallion Financial/Jacob Companies Ford
Brian Scott and the No. 44 Medallion Financial/Jacob Companies team were looking for redemption this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. While it may have taken an extra day due to inclement weather, they certainly found it, finishing 18th and in the Lucky Dog position, one lap down from the leaders.
The team struggled on Friday off the truck through two practices and qualifying and got the 30th starting position for what was supposed to be Saturday night’s race. The race on Saturday had a delayed start due to rain, but unfortunately, Scott was unable to earn any track position before the heavy rains came down and the race was red flagged at Lap 57. NASCAR eventually made the call to move the race to Sunday during the day.
Following heavy rains Sunday morning, the race was finally able to get underway Sunday evening. Scott restarted in the 30th position, and because of a pit stop that gave the No. 44 Medallion Financial/Jacob Companies Ford four fresh tires before the race was red flagged, Scott was able to stay out when the Competition Caution came out on Lap 85. This gave the No. 44 Ford the lead position for the restart and Scott his first laps led as a full-time Sprint Cup Series driver. Scott lead five laps before the leaders with fresh tires caught him and was able to settle in for the next 60 laps running in the Top 20 before trouble struck on Lap 156.
The leaders began to wreck in front of Scott, and he hit the brakes but the car did not stop in time before making contact with another car. This caused damage to the No. 44 Medallion Financial/Jacob Companies Ford, but the team was able to pit several times and fix Scott’s Ford Fusion enough to stay only a couple laps down. Scott continued to run in the Top 25 and moved back up to contending for the Lucky Dog position. After a tough battle in ‘The Last Great Colosseum’, Scott finished in the 18th position and the first car one lap down.
“I’m really proud of my guys today for fighting all day and sticking the race out through the rain delays,” Scott said. “We had a good car for most of the day; the only thing I needed was more front grip through the center of the turns. We unfortunately got in a wreck that caused some damage to our No. 44 Medallion Financial/Jacob Companies Ford Fusion, but the guys worked hard to keep us only a few laps down and give us the opportunity to get back on the lead lap. We fought all the way to the Lucky Dog position before the end of the race to finish 18th. I’m looking forward to getting to Michigan next weekend, where I know we can have a strong car and contend for a top position.”