BRISTOL, Tenn. – Clint Bowyer came to Bristol Motor Speedway Friday morning in a helicopter with team owner Richard Childress.
“We circled around the race track and you just want to win here, you know what I mean?” Bowyer said. “It’s a really, really cool place. It reminds me of the movie ‘Gladiator,’ you know, where the stud wins.”Bowyer didn’t have to slay any lions to attain that status and win Saturday’s weather-shortened Sharpie Mini 300, just persistent rain and a charge from Kasey Kahne.
Kahne nosed his Dodge into the rear end of Dario Franchitti’s Dodge on Lap 92, but apparently didn’t hurt his car.Bowyer restarted third and Kahne was fifth on a restart on Lap 105. By Lap 108, Bowyer had his No. 2 Chevrolet back in the lead. By Lap 129, Kahne moved up to second and started chasing down Bowyer.
Rain delayed the start of the race by around two hours and the radar showed more of it coming as the race neared the halfway point where it would become an official event.
Knowing the field might not make all of the scheduled 300 laps, Kahne kept clawing away at Bowyer’s advantage. Several times he closed right to the leader’s rear bumper as the front two diced through lapped traffic, but Kahne never quite got the pass made.
“I was just trying to make the car as wide as I could,” said Bowyer, who got his first victory at Bristol but his sixth career win in the Nationwide Series. “I was just trying everything we had to hold him off.”Kahne, who was looking for his second straight Nationwide Series win at this .533-mile track, said he should have got it.
“I should already be in the lead,” Kahne said of his battle with Bowyer at what became the end of the race. “I pretty much blew that, I should have pressed the issue a little more. I just let him have it.”
The rain started falling as the leaders completed Lap 163. The yellow flag came out and, after 171 laps, the red followed and the cars were pulled off the track. They went back out briefly once after that, but were brought right back to pit road as the rain resumed.
After about a half-hour, the rain intensified and NASCAR gave up, calling the race and giving Bowyer the Bristol victory he wanted.
Kahne was second with David Reutimann third, Brad Keselowski fourth and Mike Bliss fifth when the race was halted.
Bobby Labonte and Kyle Busch were among the early casualties.
Labonte spun in the No. 21 on the fourth lap. Then, on Lap 13, Martin Truex Jr. got turned around in traffic coming off Turn 4 and slid down the frontstretch. Truex barely missed the inside wall, but then came back across the track and clipped Busch’s car.
“I did get run into but I shouldn’t have wrecked,” Truex lamented.
Kevin Harvick’s car was a factor early, too, but on a pit stop just before the Lap 100 mark his team left a lug nut off a tire and Harvick had to come back in to get that fixed. That dropped Harvick to the rear of the lead lap cars, but he rallied back to seventh by the time the rain arrived for good.