It was a strong night for Joe Gibbs Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Kyle Busch earning an impressive second-place finish in the Bank of America 500, while Denny Hamlin crossed the finish line in ninth, and Joey Logano took the checkered flag in 12th.
Kyle Busch qualified the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the 25th position, but a late engine change forced him to have to start from the rear of the field. The setback did little to deter Busch or his M&Ms team however as it was clear from the outset that they were determined to make a run to the front. It was a steady climb for Busch as he had moved from 43rd to 25th by lap 20, and was inside the top 15 by lap 100. Aiding in his ascent through the field was quality work by his M&Ms crew that was not only able to make the necessary adjustments to improve the handle on the No. 18 Camry, but do so with such speed that Busch was able to gain additional positions with every stop. He would gain five positions during a stop on lap 130 that moved him into the top ten for the first time. The climb to the top would be completed by lap 200 when another outstanding stop under green flag conditions allowed him to return to the track ahead of Tony Stewart in first place. Busch went on to lead the next 111 laps and earn the bonus point that comes with leading the most laps in a race. It wasn’t until 25 laps remained that Matt Kenseth was able to get around Busch for the race lead. Busch would hold off a hard charging Carl Edwards and earn an impressive second-place finish.
Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in the 17th position and battled handling conditions throughout much of the early going. Crew chief Mike Ford and the FedEx crew continued to make adjustments with each pit stop to improve his ability to turn into the corners and Hamlin began to climb his way toward the front. He would enter the top ten and race in the sixth position by lap 134. Hamlin would race his way into the top-five and battled among the leaders over the final third of the race. The No. 11 Camry would become tight and hard to handle on the final run of the night however and Hamlin would go on to finish in ninth.
Joey Logano started the No. The 20 Home Depot Toyota 16th but mostly tight conditions through the center of the turns would hamper his ability to drive forward through the field. Crew chief Greg Zipadelli and The Home Depot crew would work on the car each time down pit road and as the race neared the conclusion the No. 20 Camry was as good as it had been all night. Logano, who had fallen one lap down late in the race, was able to earn the lap back and narrowly missed earning a top-ten finish when he came home in 12th.
Matt Kenseth captured the victory, while Busch finished second, Carl Edwards was third, Kasey Kahne was fourth and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top five. There were four cautions for a total of 16 laps and 16 lead changes among 10 different drivers over the course of the 334-lap race.
Busch’s strong effort moved him into the fourth position in the current NASCAR point standings 18 points behind the leader Carl Edwards. Meanwhile Hamlin remains 12th and is now 86 points out of the top spot.
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Standings
1. Carl Edwards 2203
2. Kevin Harvick (-5)
3. Matt Kenseth (-7)
4. Kyle Busch (-18)
5. Tony Stewart (-24)
6. Brad Keselowski (-25)
7. Kurt Busch (-27)
8. Jimmie Johnson (-35)
9. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-60)
10. Ryan Newman (-61)
11. Jeff Gordon (-66)
12. Denny Hamlin (-86)
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Talladega next Sunday, October 23 for the sixth race of the Chase. Coverage of the Good Sam Club 500 from Talladega Super Speedway will start on ESPN at 1 PM ET (race starts at 2 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius Radio NASCAR channel 90 and the MRN Radio Network.