May 21st, 2015
Matt Kenseth outlasted the competition and captured his fifth victory of 2013 by winning Saturday night’s IRWIN Tools Night Race from the Bristol Motor Speedway. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver overcame a pit road penalty, a dominate Carl Edwards, and a hard charging Kasey Kahne in the last 10 laps.
“I think Kasey (Kahne) was getting tired of battling me. Kasey’s just an unbelievable talent — we’ve finished first-second a couple times this year. He wanted it bad. We raced as hard as we could race and used every inch of race track. I had just enough to hold it — just enough fuel and just enough tires. Really have to thank Dollar General and this whole team — so proud of this team behind me. Man, we won the Bristol night race — this is so awesome,” commented Kenseth in victory lane.
The past few weeks it seems that Kahne has been a magnet for the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. Each time Kahne has been on the losing end, crashing at Watkins Glen and finishing second here at Bristol.
“I was trying to get there. I would have wrecked probably both of us. It would have just been a wreck. I just tried to pass him as clean as I could, and race him as hard as I could. I thought I had him at one point. I had a good run. I tried to slide across him, but he just kept position. We were rubbing all the way down Turn 4. I just didn’t clear him. I just didn’t get it done and I’m upset with myself for not figuring out how to win tonight because I clearly had a better car at the end of the race,” said Kahne after exiting his Farmers Insurance Chevrolet.
Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch started on the front row for the race. Hamlin led the opening 22 laps before getting passed by Busch. Busch put his Furniture Row Chevrolet in cruise control by leading the next 54 laps. On lap 76 though Busch dropped back and eventually pitted for a loose wheel. A change of tires did not fix the issue on his car and he was forced to go to the garage to have the hub replaced on his car.
“I guess we had a right-rear hub fail where the studs pulled through or they weren’t tightened or assembled. I don’t know just a right-rear hub failure. Now we have to go back and diagnosis that. When you are 20 laps down there is nothing you can do. We just rode around and we are down, but we are not out. I guess at the end of the race we gained a bunch of points back with guys having trouble. My thoughts all through the race were we just have to go to Atlanta and Richmond and win them both,” Busch said after the race.
Carl Edwards then took the lead and established himself as the car to beat. Pit cycles put Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on point for 32 laps then Clint Bowyer overtook him and led the next 50 laps.
Trouble found Bowyer when contact with Travis Kvapil sent him spinning on lap 177. Bowyer the lead came to a stop on the side of the track and looked like he was going to get away without damage. That was until Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte made contact, sending Labonte into Bowyer’s parked car. Bowyer continued, while Labonte spent time in the garage for repairs.
I felt like we had a shot at winning and then I got spun out there by a lapper of all things. When I got hit up there, it hit that left-front tire and the car never turned the center as good the rest of the night. Extremely proud of the guys — they got it fixed back up. We went out there and gave it everything we had and just came up short. Then we ran out of gas there at the end,” explained Bowyer after the race.
Edwards reclaimed the lead after Bowyer’s issues. He led the next 56 laps before Kenseth took the lead with a pass in traffic. A caution on lap 258 saw the leads pit. Staying out was Paul Menard and he was able to lead 63 laps before Edwards again took the top spot.
What turned out to be the second biggest wreck of the night happened on lap 360 when Brian Vickers and David Reutimann made contact. Reutimann’s Toyota went into the outside wall with Aric Almirola and Jimmie Johnson behind him. Almirola bounced off the wall and went under Reutimann’s car, Johnson was not so luck as he went to go under Reutimann’s car when it came down the track. The damage to the car put Johnson behind the wall.
Johnson didn’t want to talk about this race specifically, one where he struggled, but kept the conversation on the future. “This racing stuff happens. Luckily, we had a big point’s lead that we can kind of deal with right now. We’ve locked into the Chase. We certainly want to clean things up and have some great finishes rolling into the Chase. We’ll keep after it, and be back again next week. We’ll go to Atlanta and do all we can there. And then Richmond; and I feel like we had a really good test. There is still a lot of racing left. And the once the Chase starts, it is its own animal. So we’ll just wait and see what happens during those ten (races).”
Back to green they went on lap 367 with Edwards leading Kenseth. It looked like Edwards was going to pace himself for the win when a valve began to go on lap 381 and finally on lap 387 it was terminal enough for him to park his Ford.
“I didn’t have any warning. I’ve just got to thank all the guys. That’s the most fun I’ve had in a race car in a long time. Jimmy did a great job. The car was almost perfect and the engine ran awesome until it broke. We had great pit stops and I think we’ve got some good things to get forward to. This is what we needed, a race like this – with the engine aside – I think we were the dominant car here tonight. We’ve got some good races coming up,” Edwards said after exiting his car.
Kenseth was running away from the field when the biggest wreck of the night happened on lap 448. Brian Vickers and Denny Hamlin made contact coming out of the corner. When Hamlin went came out of the straightaway and went into the corner, his car didn’t turn due to a cut tire. He hooked Ryan Newman, running in front of him, and body slammed Kevin Harvick, who was next to him. Martin Truex, Jr., Ken Schrader, Brad Keselowski, Casey Mears, and David Stremme all piled into the mess. The red flag was displayed for 4 minutes and 27 seconds for cleanup.
Fireworks happened when Harvick took him battered Chevrolet away from the accident scene and parked on pit road. The only problem is he parked in Denny Hamlin’s pit stall. When Hamlin came around to put his car in the stall, Harvick was in the way. Hamlin’s crew instructed him to move the 29 car, which he did. At that point Harvick exited his car to go talk to Hamlin. Some crew members tried to keep them separate, but Harvick was able to talk to Hamlin, who was still in his car.
“I just saw the No. 11 shoot across the race track. It looked like he was trying to swerve at somebody. He said the No. 56 (in reality it was the 55 of Vickers as the 56 of Truex was behind them) got into him and so I just wanted to know what happened,” Harvick said to TV reporters after the confrontation. “He just told me his version of it. It’s all good it’s Bristol racing and it’s just something I wanted to know.”
When the cleanup was done, Kenseth once again tried to set sail on the competition. He was doing so until Kasey Kahne was able to reel him in. For the last 10 laps Kahne tried everything short of wrecking Kenseth and that’s how they finished.
Jimmie Johnson continues to hold onto the lead in the points, but Bowyer has cut that to 18 points. There was no shift in the top seven drivers, but Kasey Kahne jumped three positions to eighth place. Joey Logano was able to turn a top-5 finish into three spots and now sits 10th. That moved his teammate Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch out of the top-10. With both of those drivers without a win the wildcards are held by Martin Truex, Jr. (14th with one win) and Ryan Newman (15th with one win).
The Sprint Cup Series reloads for another night race next weekend. The AdvoCare 500 will be run Sunday September 1st at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Coverage starts at 7:30 PM EST and can be seen on ESPN.
|1||5||20||Matt Kenseth||Dollar General||Toyota||500||$328,466||Running||149||48|
|2||7||5||Kasey Kahne||Farmers Insurance||Chevrolet||500||$214,815||Running||0||42|
|3||16||42||Juan Pablo Montoya||Target||Chevrolet||500||$200,529||Running||0||41|
|4||4||55||Brian Vickers||Aaron’s Dream Machine||Toyota||500||$150,315||Running||0||0|
|6||21||27||Paul Menard||Menards / Schrock||Chevrolet||500||$154,031||Running||64||39|
|7||32||24||Jeff Gordon||Axalta Coating Systems||Chevrolet||500||$160,901||Running||0||37|
|10||19||88||Dale Earnhardt Jr||Diet Mountain Dew||Chevrolet||500||$130,565||Running||32||35|
|12||17||34||David Ragan||Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts||Ford||500||$136,263||Running||0||32|
|14||24||15||Clint Bowyer||5-Hour Energy||Toyota||500||$147,288||Running||50||31|
|15||10||43||Aric Almirola||RainEater Wiper Blades||Ford||499||$146,041||Running||0||29|
|16||39||93||Travis Kvapil||Burger King / Dr. Pepper||Toyota||499||$131,138||Running||0||28|
|17||38||30||David Stremme||Swan Energy/Lean 1||Toyota||498||$120,488||Running||0||27|
|18||27||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Nationwide Insurance||Ford||497||$152,341||Running||0||26|
|20||11||14||Mark Martin||Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1||Chevrolet||497||$149,105||Running||0||24|
|21||8||39||Ryan Newman||Quicken Loans||Chevrolet||497||$137,988||Running||0||23|
|23||33||40||Landon Cassill||Moon Shine Attitude Attire||Chevrolet||497||$99,305||Running||0||0|
|24||34||36||J.J. Yeley||United Mining Equipment||Chevrolet||496||$101,930||Running||0||20|
|25||25||38||David Gilliland||Dockside Logistics||Ford||495||$111,402||Running||0||19|
|27||35||32||Ken Schrader||Federated Auto Parts||Ford||491||$99,760||Running||0||17|
|28||1||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Ground||Toyota||487||$122,050||Running||23||17|
|29||31||83||David Reutimann||Burger King / Dr. Pepper||Toyota||483||$98,640||Running||0||15|
|30||12||2||Brad Keselowski||Miller Lite||Ford||478||$150,946||Running||0||14|
|31||2||78||Kurt Busch||Furniture Row / Sealy||Chevrolet||476||$122,740||Running||54||14|
|32||40||33||Tony Raines||Little JoesAutos.com||Chevrolet||475||$95,785||Running||0||0|
|34||15||29||Kevin Harvick||Jimmy John’s||Chevrolet||449||$142,451||Running||7||11|
|35||9||56||Martin Truex Jr||NAPA Auto Parts||Toyota||446||$127,455||Accident||2||10|
|36||13||48||Jimmie Johnson||Lowe’s Dover White||Chevrolet||440||$144,231||Running||0||8|
|37||28||35||Josh Wise||Carson-Newman University||Ford||418||$95,153||Running||0||0|
|38||23||47||Bobby Labonte||Bush’s Beans||Toyota||394||$97,560||Running||0||6|
|40||42||95||Scott Speed||Leavine Family Racing||Ford||223||$81,560||Brakes||0||4|
|41||26||98||Michael McDowell||Victory Junction||Ford||175||$77,560||Engine||0||3|
|43||37||87||Joe Nemechek||Greer Roofing||Toyota||1||$70,060||Engine||0||0|