UPS Game-Changing Moments: Bristol
March 16, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
EDWARDS OUT FRONT FOR YELLOW-CHECKERED FINISH
But nothing would come easily this day or night for drivers, fans or track officials in a race delayed more than five hours by rain.
Edwards had opened a lead of more than four seconds when the track's caution lights inexplicably came on with less than three laps remaining. Seconds later, a cloudburst released the hardest rain of the day or night.
"I did not want to see that caution," Edwards said. "Concern was not a strong enough word. So, I'm glad the rain came. I think there were some higher powers at work there."
NASCAR Vice President of Competition and Racing Development Robin Pemberton attributed the light malfunction to human error; in this case, humans bundled up against the cold in layers of clothing.
HARVICK CATCHES FIRE; MCMURRAY, KESELOWSKI GET CAUGHT UP
Kevin Harvick, racing fourth with 50 laps remaining, left the track in flames as his car began smoking. He lost control, pounded the wall and climbed out of the car that was on fire after driving it to the garage. Jamie McMurray, who led 10 laps, took evasive action, suffered damage and finished 38th. Brad Keselowski, who'd led 40 laps, then ran into the back of McMurray and ended up 14th.
The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion led a race-high 44 laps early Sunday, but began slowing while running second to Matt Kenseth and pitted for an apparent flat right-front tire on the half-mile track. A caution for rain came out during the No. 48 team's subsequent pit cycle, and Johnson was left two laps down in 39th place when the event was halted under a red flag. He finished 19th.
"Something made it come apart in this really long 50-foot section," Johnson said. "I don't know if we clipped something on the track that wore the tread and it unwound, or if something else happened. ... Either way, we're down multiple laps."
A representative of Goodyear, which provides race tires for NASCAR's national circuits, pointed out that Knaus chose to take only left-side tires during the competition caution at lap 50, which was issued because rain earlier in the day had washed rubber off the track surface.
Goodyear termed it "literally a high-wear situation," which can cause the spiral-wound tread on the tire to become completely unwound like pulling a thread on a sweater.
The NASCAR Wire Service and NASCAR.com's David Caraviello contributed to this report.