Bristol Motor Speedway lived up to its reputation in the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday. When the dust settled and the smoke cleared, the series points standings had been shaken up and drivers who maybe thought they were in a safe position found themselves on the outside looking in. Other drivers now feeling safer after great runs.
Kenseth fought off a hard charging Kasey Kahne in the closing in a fantastic battle reminiscent of the Bristol of the past. Kahne pushed hard and took a couple shots, but refused to wreck Kenseth to get the win. After the race, Kahne talked about the battle, “I just couldn’t clear him, there was a couple shots I took, and I had to have been close because I could feel him on the right side of my car, I just didn’t clear, couldn’t figure out how to get by him. It’s disappointing not to win here.”
The night turned bad for defending champion Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. All three were involved in a late race crash when Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin got together collecting the trio.
Thanks to the fact that the top four drivers in the standings had trouble, Harvick maintained his points position in fourth, currently 61 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson who also had trouble tonight finishing 36th after being involved in a crash and spending time behind the wall for repairs.
Keselowski finished 30th tonight and fell out of the top ten. His teammate Joey Logano, coming off a victory last week at Michigan had another solid effort finishing fifth. Logano is now tenth, just four points ahead of Keselowski. Keselowski commented about the chase, “If you’re not in right now, I don’t care if you’re running eighth or you’re running 13th, every team is worried – not just mine.”
Martin Truex Jr. came into tonight in 12th place in the standings. Truex finished 35th causing him to drop to 14th, but with Logano moving inside the top ten, Truex currently has the first wildcard spot four points ahead of Ryan Newman.
Second place, Clint Bowyer, was made contact with Travis Kvapil while leading and ended up 14th. Bowyer now sits 18 points behind Johnson.
Third place, Carl Edwards, also had bad luck tonight after having one of the best performances of the season. Edwards led 119 laps, but broke a valve spring on a restart that eventually led to engine failure. It was the first DNF for a Roush-Fenway Racing car all season. Edwards finished 39th. Edwards maintains third in the standings, 53 points out of the lead. “We had a great car, probably the best car we’ve had in a long time.” “The engine ran great until it blew up, so if we run like that the rest of the year, it’s gonna be awesome.” Carl said after falling out of the race.
Winner Matt Kenseth, with his win tonight clinched a guaranteed spot the Chase. Kenseth sits sixth in the standings 85 points out of the lead.
Kahne’s second place finish allowed him to pick up three spots in the standings and moved inside the top ten. Kahne is now eighth in the standings, however, he is only 20 points ahead of eleventh place Brad Keselowski.
Kurt Busch’s streak of three top ten finishes came to an end. Busch started second and led 54 laps, but a loose wheel led to wheel stud damage and sent Busch behind the wall for repairs. The Furniture Row Racing Team also had a loose wheel problem at Bristol in the spring. Mistakes have cost the team several chances at good finishes and possible wins throughout the season.
Busch has been offered a contract extension with the team for next season, but he is also in talks with Stewart-Hass Racing to drive a fourth car next year. A move to SHR could give him the consistency he needs to find his way to victory lane.
Kyle Busch came up short in his bid to sweep the weekend. Kyle started 43rd , and fought his way close to the front. Busch finished eleventh and maintains fifth in the standings 82 out of the lead.
Just two races to go before the Chase starts, the mile and a half in Atlanta and another short track at Richmond. With the competition we have seen this season and the tight points battle between eighth and 13th, the Chase is nowhere near being settled.
The series now visits Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night, Sept 1st at 7:30pm for the Advocare 500.