Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series fans will have to wait another day to see a winner crowned in the Food City 500. After 204 laps of racing on Sunday, rain forced the postponement of the remaining 296 and the final stage to Monday afternoon.
Gray clouds and wet weather plagued Bristol Motor Speedway during Sunday’s race, leading to concerns and a delayed start. Nonetheless, the race began with Kyle Busch on the pole. Brother Kurt had qualified second to mark a Busch brother front row for the third time since the start of their Cup careers, but he started at the rear after switching to a backup car following a practice wreck. Stewart-Haas Racing team-mate Kevin Harvick did the same. Jimmie Johnson also started at the back for changing tires following qualifying.
Rain was not the only reason for chaos in the race. The first multi-car wreck of the day occurred on lap four when Michael McDowell got loose while racing Daniel Suárez exiting turn four, collecting Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., and A.J. Allmendinger. Allmendinger spun a few laps later to bring out a second caution. At the front of the field, Busch led until lap 23, when Ryan Blaney became the new leader as Busch plummeted to tenth.
The threat of rain struck again when NASCAR moved the lap 45 competition caution to lap 50, which proved to be apt timing when raindrops began to fall to bring out the red flag. During the wait, Elliott was held a lap for his crewmen attempting to repair the car under red flag conditions. When the race resumed, Blaney continued to lead until another wreck occurred: Erik Jones was bumped from behind, causing him to clip Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and spin the #17 car. Stenhouse was able to avoid further damage as he returned to pit road.
Blaney and his Team Penske team-mates maintained the best positions, and by lap 70, all three Penske drivers and Penske affiliate Paul Menard were in the top four. However, Blaney’s strong day came to an end with eight laps remaining in the first stage: Trevor Bayne clipped Harrison Rhodes, sending the #51 up into Chris Buescher. Blaney and Jamie McMurray could not avoid the crash and were involved. This resulted in another red flag for cleanup.
When the red flag was lifted to create a one-lap sprint to the finish, Brad Keselowski stayed out to become the new leader, eventually going on to win the stage. Behind him were Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Allmendinger, Kyle Larson, Jones, Jimmie Johnson, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, and Stenhouse.
Larson inherited the lead when Keselowski, Newman, and Bowyer pitted between stages. As Larson pulled ahead, Cup newcomer Chad Finchum spun, though the race stayed green. By lap 150, Johnson had entered the top three. Another caution occurred when Bayne spun and hit the wall, setting up a Jones/Larson front row for the restart on lap 168. Larson quickly moved past Jones and began to build a solid lead; by lap 198, he was maintaining a three-second advantage over second-placed Denny Hamlin.
Before Larson could further increase the margin, rain returned to the track on lap 204. After a delay, NASCAR elected to postpone the rest of the race to Monday. Had the track stayed dry for 46 more laps to make it to the end of Stage #2, NASCAR could have declared the race official.
The rest of Stage #2 and Stage #3 are scheduled to take place at 1 PM Eastern.