Roush Rewind: Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City

Credit: Whitney Richards

NASCAR made its first stop of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway for the running of the Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City. The Cup Series teams had just one practice session on Friday afternoon before qualifying later that evening. At first, it looked like the Roush Fenway Racing drivers didn’t really have fast cars, but that all changed toward the end of practice. The teams had been “sandbagging” during most of practice before they really showed what they had. The Roush Fenway Fords were all inside the top 10 fastest once practice ended. When it came time for qualifying, Carl Edwards took the pole, while his three teammates qualified inside the top 11.

It didn’t take long for 500 laps at Bristol to wind down, and Carl Edwards made a late-race charge to try to take the lead from Kyle Busch, but his efforts fell short as Busch took the checkered flag to effectively sweep the weekend after having won the Scotts EZ Seed 300 the day before.

David Ragan – Started 5th. Finished 16th.

Credit: Whitney Richards
After posting the third fastest time on the board during practice on Friday, David Ragan qualified 5th that evening in the No. 6 UPS Ford. It was his second-best qualifying effort at the half-mile speedway. Unfortunately for Ragan and his team, the new tire compound that Goodyear had brought in late Friday night for Sunday’s race threw a kink in their plans. The new compound had the team scrambling to find the speed they had had on Friday.

Once the green flag dropped, Ragan dropped a few spots, but remained inside the top 10 in the early going. NASCAR threw a competition caution on lap 50 to check for tire wear. Ragan entered the pits in 8th, having battled a car that was tight in the center of the turns and loose off. He pitted for four tires, fuel, a track bar adjustment and an air pressure adjustment. Some teams took only two tires and a few stayed out, which had Ragan restarting 15th.

Over the next few runs, Ragan began to report the tires were chattering and he needed more forward bite. He ran between the 15th and 19th positions for much of that time, pitting for adjustments when he could. The adjustments began to help the handling improve, but long green-flag runs saw Ragan going a lap down to the leader on lap 323 while in the 20th position. Ragan fought hard to get in the Lucky Dog position after that, nearly putting the No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet of Clint Bowyer in the wall off turn two at one point. The UPS team continued to make changes to the car, and eventually they paid off.

With around 40 laps remaining, Ragan finally got back on the lead lap by virtue of being in the Lucky Dog position. He restarted 19th, and in the closing laps picked up three positions. His 16th place finish saw him jump six positions in the standings to 20th.

Greg Biffle: Started 2nd. Finished 8th.

Credit: Whitney Richards
Greg Biffle took the green flag from the 2nd position on Sunday and in the opening laps, he began to slip back a little bit. He reported that the No. 16 3M Ford was running tight through the center of the turns, loose off. The competition caution on lap 50 gave Biffle the chance to pit for adjustments. He restarted 7th and almost immediately informed the crew the changes had not helped at all.

Over the next few runs, Biffle’s crew continued to make adjustments. Eventually, the No. 16 Ford’s handling began to head in the right direction as Biffle worked his way back toward the top 10 just past the halfway point. When a debris caution came out on lap 344, Biffle pitted for adjustments and he restarted 9th. He was up to 5th by the time the next caution came out. He made his last pit stop on lap 429 for tires and fuel. The team made no adjustments to the car. He went out third for the restart but slipped outside the top five shortly afterward. Biffle battled a loose-handling car as the laps wound down to finish 8th. He moved up eight positions in the standings to 23rd.

Matt Kenseth: Started 11th. Finished 4th.

Credit: Whitney Richards
Matt Kenseth is known as one of those drivers who leaves people asking “Where did he come from?” once the race is over. On Sunday, he had some people asking that question again as he battled his way through the field to finish 4th.

The No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford took the green flag from the 11th position. It didn’t take long for Kenseth to inform his team that the car was loose and that he needed more rear grip. He had slipped to 16th when the competition caution came out. Kenseth pitted for four tires, fuel, a track bar adjustment and an air pressure adjustment. He restarted 21st, but the adjustments hadn’t helped the handling improve. The car was still too loose.

Just like Biffle and Ragan, Kenseth pitted for adjustments whenever he could. He cracked the top 10 around lap 435 and never looked back. While Kenseth never came close to taking the lead, he held on to finish 4th. He moved up three positions in the standings to 13th.

Carl Edwards: Started 1st. Finished 2nd.

Credit: Whitney Richards
Two weeks ago, Carl Edwards left Last Vegas as the race winner. He had high hopes to make it two in a row. Edwards is no stranger to victory lane at Bristol, but he didn’t quite make it there on Sunday.
On Friday, the No. 99 Scotts Ford topped the charts in practice and was at the top of the board once qualifying ended. Once the race started on Sunday, Edwards was able to lead the first 17 laps, but dropped to fourth as he battled a loose-handling car. He dropped back to 13th in the early going, but it didn’t take him too long to start moving back toward the front.

Around lap 125, Edwards was back inside the top 10 and never dropped outside there. He pitted for adjustments when he could, and his crew proved they were the class of the field on Sunday. Edwards never lost a position on pit road. He either maintained or gained position on each stop. He ran in the 2nd position in the closing laps and did his best to catch the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota of Kyle Busch. At one point, Edwards tried to nudge Busch going into turn one, but it only seemed to help Busch get away. In the end, Edwards finished 2nd and moved up one position in the standings to 2nd, just one point behind Kurt Busch.

Race winner: Kyle Busch

Credit: Whitney Richards
Once again, Kyle Busch proved just how good he really is at Bristol. Last August, he won the Camping World Truck Series race, the Nationwide race, and the Cup race to become the first driver sweep the weekend. Last weekend, he won both the Scotts EZ Seed 300 and the Jeff Byrd 500, earning back to back weekend sweeps at the track. Congratulations to Kyle Busch and the No. 18 team on their astounding victory!

Next up:

Auto Club 400
Auto Club Speedway  -- Fontana, Calif.
March 27, 2011
Roush Rewind: Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City Roush Rewind: Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City Reviewed by Whitney R. on Thursday, March 24, 2011 Rating: 5