As the Chase for the Sprint Cup nears, drivers are stepping up their game. Joey Logano ran exceptionally well and took a commanding victory Saturday night in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. His championship-caliber performance provides the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion team with the confidence needed to make a run at the title.
One-hundred laps into the race, there was no one predicting a Logano victory. Many storylines involving cars capable of pulling off the win provided game-changing moments throughout the race.
Early on, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, and Kyle Busch had the most dominant machines. Busch’s day took a turn for the worse as soon as the competition caution came out on lap 60. A pit-road speeding penalty placed him back in the field where he would run into trouble later on.
The first of two major accidents came on lap 126. A tight battle between Brian Vickers and Kyle Larson led to contact which sent the No. 55 car down the track and into Aric Almirola. Almirola would spin and hit the inside wall before sliding back up the track and backing into the outside wall.
Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer were also involved as contact between the two sent the No. 18 car spinning. Despite only receiving minor damage; he was never able to recover.
Pit strategy allowed Denny Hamlin to gain the lead on the ensuing restart. He maintained the position until Harvick closed in. As the two were battling side-by-side off of turn four, contact sent Hamlin spinning into the inside wall. His car then drifted up the speedway where Dale Earnhardt Jr. clobbered it, causing extensive damage to both.
Hamlin showed his displeasure afterwards by throwing his HANS-device towards the No. 4 car form the track apron.
From the halfway point until the last yellow-flag flew, Jamie McMurray became the one to beat. He held an impressive lead and had a car capable of winning. A victory would have done great things for the No. 1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS team as they need a win to earn a spot in the Chase.
Under the ninth and last caution of the race, McMurray opted to pit while some drivers remained on track. His car didn’t react well to running in traffic and he never recovered.
Although Team Penske teammates Logano and Brad Keselowski also pitted, they managed to work their way back to the front. Logano took the lead for the last time from Kenseth with 45 laps to go. Keselowski would close in on many occasions. He could never quite catch him which allowed Logano to score victory.
Another opportunity for a driver outside of the Chase Grid to win and gain a spot in the Chase has come and gone. While there are still two races remaining, many drivers needing a win came very close to punching their ticket to the playoffs, but came up a bit short.
The last Labor Day race weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway appears next on the schedule. If last year’s event was any indication, another fantastic race is coming next Sunday night.
Results via ESPN.com
|6||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||Ford||500||21||0||38||0||0|
|20||Martin Truex Jr.||Chevrolet||497||23||0||24||0||0|
|39||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||Chevrolet||176||20||0||5||0||0|