Monday, August 25, 2014

Tough Times in Tennessee: Clashes and crashes as Logano brings home first Bristol win

Kyle Busch's pit crew works to repair the No. 18 car after a crash on Lap 125.
Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs  
It was Bristol Baby!

Bristol’s half-mile event is a perennial fan favorite, and it didn’t disappoint during Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race. A wild sequence of dust-ups and frustration highlighted the evening, and from banging metal to thrown equipment to heated words, the World’s Fastest Half Mile stayed at top speed throughout the race.

When the green flag dropped the night was off to a hot but relatively normal start, with polesitter Kevin Harvick taking an early lead until Jeff Gordon passed him on Lap 38. Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson picked up speeding penalties (Johnson later got a second one) and Kenseth eased into the lead spot. Cautions began when Josh Wise spun out, followed by a tangle on Lap 125 between Aric Almirola and Brian Vickers that damaged the cars of Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer.

A subsequent Denny Hamlin lead was dashed when Kevin Harvick took him out on lap 162 by clipping his car, sending him into the inside pit wall. Visibly upset, Hamlin threw his HANS (head and neck support) device at Harvick’s car. The incident also involved Dale Earnhardt Jr., eliminating him from contention.

Leaders over the course of 500 miles included Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keslowski and Kenseth until Joey Logano claimed the top spot with 44 laps remaining, and held on for the win.

Kyle Busch's Doublemint paint scheme didn’t lead to a sweet outcome with his car or crew chief. Running at the back after a speeding penalty led to significant damage to his No. 18 car when he got caught up in the Almirola-Vickers crash. As he subsequently fell further back in the field, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers had heated words on the radio. The exchange led to Busch parking the car, leaving the race early and a reported meeting with team owner Joe Gibbs.

In the end, Joey Logano held off Penske teammate Brad Keselowski to earn a spot in Victory Lane under the lights. Penske’s third win of the weekend, it came on the heels of Keselowski’s win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series race on Thursday and Ryan Blaney’s Nationwide Series win Friday. Logano, Keslowski, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. each have three Sprint Cup wins this season, adding Logano to the list of drivers who could potentially enter the Chase seeded No. 1.

"We can win the championship. We've showed it at every kind of race track. We've just got to keep doing it," said Logano.

Brett Jewkes, Vice President, Chief Communications Officer for NASCAR, announced Saturday that the 2015 spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway will be April 17-19.

Final running order:
1. Joey Logano
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Kurt Busch
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
7. Carl Edwards
8. Jamie McMurray
9. Paul Menard
10. Greg Biffle
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Kyle Larson
13. Ryan Newman
14. AJ Allmendinger
15. Jeff Burton
16. Jeff Gordon
17. Clint Bowyer
18. Michael McDowell
19. Justin Allgaier
20. Martin Truex Jr.
21. Brian Vickers
22. Landon Cassill
23. David Ragan
24. Reed Sorenson
25. David Gilliland
26. Casey Mears
27. Danica Patrick
28. Austin Dillon
29. Josh Wise
30. Cole Whitt
31. David Stremme
32. Alex Bowman
33. J.J. Yeley
34. Marcos Ambrose
35. Kasey Kahne
36. Kyle Busch
37. Ryan Truex
38. Michael Annett
39. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
40. Denny Hamlin
41. Aric Almirola
42. Brett Moffitt
43. Dave Blaney

Sprint Cup series action heads south next Sunday evening over Labor Day weekend for the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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