It was a great drive for Joey Logano on Saturday night as he took the victory in the IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Logano passed Matt Kenseth with 44 laps to go claim his sixth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and the third of the 2014 season. Logano was good all night long and said that it hasn't been just Bristol where the team has been strong.
"What a year we're having," an excited Logano said in victory lane. "It's been so much fun."
Logano was able to hold off his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the closing stages of the event. Kenseth ended up third after staying out on the final round of pit stops. Kenseth had to try and hold off the rest of the field with older tires and could not do it. Jimmie Johnson finished in the fourth position with Kurt Busch rounding out the top five. Ricky Stenhouse Jr finished in the sixth position with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards coming home seventh. Jamie McMurray finished eighth with Paul Menard finishing ninth and Greg Biffle rounded out the top ten.
The 500 lap IRWIN Tools Night Race began with Kevin Harvick and Jeff Gordon on the front row. Harvick pulled away from the pack early in the run as the first 60 laps of the race were ran under green flag conditions. Early in the run rookie driver Austin Dillon began to experience issues after he bounced his #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet off the wall. Dillon would continue but have several other problems throughout the night. Dillon finished seven laps down in 28th.
On lap 40 Harvick would find himself caught in heavy lap traffic and that allowed Jeff Gordon to catch him and take the lead as Gordon began to try and maneuver his way through the lap traffic. Gordon had better success than Harvick but after Kyle Busch passed Harvick on lap 53 Busch pushed hard to catch Jeff Gordon and on lap 55 Busch assumed the lead for the first time.
Busch was leading when the races' first caution flag flew for a competition yellow on lap 60. It had rained overnight at Bristol Motor Speedway and NASCAR felt a mandatory caution was needed. The leaders would pit but two significant drivers would have problems. The leader Kyle Busch was too fast entering pit road and Jimmie Johnson was too fast exiting pit road. Both drivers had to move to the rear of the field for the restart.
Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray led the field to the green flag on the lap 66 restart after both taking two tires. Kenseth pulled away but two laps into the race the race's second caution flag flew when Josh Wise spun. Wise had minimal damage and continued. He would finish eight laps down in 29th.
The race would restart on lap 76 with Kenseth and Jeff Gordon on the front row and Kenseth pulled away from the field on the restart. Meanwhile Kurt Busch would make contact into the left-rear of Gordon on the restart and Gordon would experience a tire rub. It wound up to be insignificant and Gordon would continue although his car was never as good after the contact.
On lap 106, Logano would pass Kenseth and he endured lap traffic. It was Logano's turn to show the way and he led until the race's third caution flag on lap 125 when Aric Almirola spun hard into the inside wall. Brian Vickers made contact with Almirola after he and Kyle Larson came together. Meanwhile behind the Larson, Vickers, Almirola contact Kyle Busch would spin off the front of Clint Bowyer and slide right into Almirola's Ford causing major damage to the #18 Toyota. Almriola was done for the day and finished in the 41st position. Busch continued but was several laps down after repairs. He finished in the 36th position. Larson, Vickers, and Bowyer would continue on the lead lap after repairs by their crews.
A few of the leaders would pit under the caution and several different strategies began to come into play. The different strategies would allow for new faces at the front of the field and that included Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr who would led the field to green on the lap 137 restart.
Hamlin pulled away on the restart and was strong. Earnhardt had a bad restart and found himself in the fifth position after the positions shuffled out. Kevin Harvick moved to the second position and was beginning to chase down Hamlin for the lead.
Harvick began to put heat on Hamlin around the lap 150 mark and on lap 156 the two would make contact, sending Denny Hamlin's car hard into the inside wall. Hamlin's car went back up the track and shot right into the side of Dale Earnhardt Jr's #88 Chevrolet, causing the races' fourth caution flag. Both cars had significant damage. Hamlin finished 40th and Earnhardt finished 39th. Hamlin showed his displeasure with Harvick by throwing his Hans neck restraint device at Harvick's car under the caution.
Harvick inherited the lead after his contact with Hamlin and he led the field to green on the lap 172 restart. Harvick showed his strength and led until the race's fifth caution flag flew on lap 195 when Michael Annett hit the wall in his #7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet. Annett had heavy damage and would finish in the 38th position.
Most of the leaders would pit however, a few cars stayed out including Kasey Kahne, who would lead the field to green on the lap 201 restart. Former leader Kevin Harvick and his team took four tires and fuel and ended up restarting in the 12th position.
Kahne showed no ill effects from the old tires and would pace the field early in the run. Kahne led Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson on lap 235, however it was around that time that McMurray began to chase down Kahne. By lap 239 McMurray had caught and passed Kahne and took the lead on lap 239.
McMurray's car was able to run where a lot of cars weren't able to run. On the bottom of the racetrack. McMurray began to stretch his lead. He led through the halfway point on lap 250.
Meanwhile Kahne began to experience problems. Kahne made an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel on lap 251 and would catch a bad break soon after. The race's sixth caution flag flew two laps later when Danica Patrick spun. Patrick got hit from behind by rookie driver Alex Bowman and that caused her #10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet to break loose. Patrick had some damage and would end up finishing seven laps down in the 27th position. Bowman would finish 11 laps down in 32nd.
The leaders would pit and Brad Keselowski and his #2 Team Penske team won the race off pit road and they led the field to green on the lap 270 restart. Keselowski shot to the lead from the inside lane and led second place driver McMurray by about a half of a second on lap 300.
Keselowski, however, would hit some lap traffic, causing his progress to slow and allow McMurray to catch him. McMurray finally passed Keselowski for the lead on lap 310 and began to show just how strong his #1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was. By lap 329 McMurray's lead was over 1.5 seconds. His lead over Joey Logano was about two seconds when the races' seventh caution flag flew on lap 359 for debris.
The leaders would pit and McMurray's team got him off pit road fast and he led the field to green on the lap 368 restart. McMurray continued to show the way, even after the eighth caution flag of the day flew on lap 372 when Marcos Ambrose spun. He would finish 20 laps down in 34th.
On lap 386 McMurray was still leading and showing his muscle. Meanwhile, Chase contender Kasey Kahne pulled his #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet behind the wall on lap 397. Kahne had several issues with the car and he finished in the 35th position.
McMurray continued to lead through lap 400 and on lap 430 his lead over second place driver Joey Logano was just about a second. One lap later, however, McMurray's progress was slowed when NASCAR officials spotted debris on the racetrack causing the races' ninth caution flag to fly. McMurray led a race-high 148 laps.
Most of the leaders would pit including McMurray under the caution. Kevin Harvick would make a monumental mistake on his stop as he sped coming onto pit road. Harvick would have to restart in the 16th.
Meanwhile, four cars stayed out under the caution flag. They included leader Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Kyle Larson and Paul Menard. They led the field to green on the lap 441 restart.
Kenseth shot out to a lead early but Logano began to reel him in on newer tires. Logano made an aggressive pass on Kenseth on lap 456 and never looked back and sailed his way to his sixth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.
Kevin Harvick would only be able to drive back to 11th. Also finishing on the lead lap were Kyle Larson in 12th, Ryan Newman 13th, and AJ Allmendinger 14th. Jeff Burton filled in for Tony Stewart and finished one lap down in 15th as he and 16th place finisher Jeff Gordon gave way to Logano and Keselowski in the closing laps to let them battle for the win.
Clint Bowyer was two laps down in 17th and Michael McDowell had a strong run in his #95 Leavine Family Racing Ford to finish 18th. Justin Allgaier finished 19th, Martin Truex Jr 20th, Brian Vickers 21st, and Landon Cassill 22nd. They were all three laps down. David Ragan was 23rd, Reed Sorenson 24th, David Gilliland 25th, and Casey Mears 26th. Other finishing positions for drivers not already mentioned were Cole Whitt in 30th, David Stremme 31st, JJ Yeley 33rd, Ryan Truex 37th, Brett Moffitt 42nd, and Dave Blaney 43rd.
The victory for Logano is his third of the 2014 season for the Middletown, Connecticut native. That is tied for the series lead with teammate, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. There are two drivers with two victories and they are Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick. Aric Almriola, AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin all have one victory. Those 12 drivers are all locked into the 16 car Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup that begins September 14th at Chicagoland Speedway. The other four drivers who would currently make the Chase based on their points position are Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle.
Biffle has a 26 point lead over Kyle Larson who is still on the outside looking in at the Chase. Included in the same category as Larson are drivers such as Kasey Kahne (-33), Austin Dillon (-40) and Paul Menard (-45). Also out of the Chase are Marcos Ambrose, Brian Vickers, and Martin Truex Jr.
The next race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, August 31st.
Seeing your team play in the SuperBowl is priceless. Watching the SuperBowl live in the stands for $1 per week is beyond priceless. Find out how at TicketScore.com, the future of Championship Tickets. Tags: Brad Keselowski, Bristol Motor Speedway, Irwin Tools Night Race, Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, matt kenseth, Motorsports, NASCAR, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Team Penske