Bristol Race Recap
All three Joe Gibbs Racing entries took their turns at the front of the field in today’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. In fact, JGR would lead a total of 258 of the race’s 500 scheduled laps.
When it was over Kyle Busch’s second-place finish would lead the team, while a late-race flat tire left Denny Hamlin to drop from third to finish 23rd, and an accident with 100 laps to go took Matt Kenseth from second to a disappointing 35th.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota on the pole and led the field for the first 55 laps, but a pit road speeding penalty would send him from the front to the back of the pack for the first restart of the day. The setback did little to deter Busch however and it didn’t take very long for him to work his way toward the front of the field once again as he was back inside the top 20 by lap 100 and was running back inside the top 15 when another caution followed on lap 153. With the help of a fast two-tire stop by the M&Ms crew Busch found himself restarting second on lap 159. He would take four tires on the next stop which would take him back outside the top ten and he would race there over the next couple of green flag runs. Busch would line up eighth with 100 laps remaining, but was able to climb back in the top five over the first few laps once the green flag dropped. A caution with 45 laps to go brought the field back together for a final restart on lap 460 with Busch third. He was able to get around Brad Keselowski for second but just couldn’t track down the No. 5 car of Kasey Kahne. It was a strong second place run for the M&Ms Camry.
Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota from the third position and would race in the top five on the day’s opening green flag run before taking his first lead of the day on lap 64. He would go on to lead the next 82 laps. Hamlin would remain inside the top five for much of the race and would lead again on lap 155 for another 35 laps. His 117 total laps led were the most by any driver in the race. He would restart sixth with 100 laps remaining and was able to jump into fourth just after the drop of the green flag. Hamlin would drive up into third with 75 laps remaining despite battling tight handling conditions on his No. 11 FedEx Camry. Another caution would set up a final restart on lap 460. Hamlin would take that final green flag in fourth, but received contact from behind by the No. 22 car which forced him into the back of the No. 2 car. It appeared the contact might have caused a tire rub and with about 10 laps to go Hamlin was up into the outside wall. Unable to make his way down the track and onto pit road, Hamlin was able to continue riding high along the outside wall until the checkered flag. He would finish two laps down however and back in 23rd despite having one of the dominant cars of the day.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota in the 12th position but quickly worked his way into the top five and would spend much of the first half of the race battling between the fifth and eighth spots on the track. A great two-tire stop on put Kenseth out front on lap 238. Kenseth would restart seventh on lap 326 following a pit stop while under caution, but was able to race his way forward once again over the course of the next green flag run. Kenseth, who won the race last weekend in Las Vegas, appeared set to contend for another win today in Bristol. He would run second and was closing in on race leader Jeff Gordon with just over 100 laps to go, when the No. 24 car blew a right front tire causing Gordon to slide up the track abruptly and directly into Kenseth who had no place to go. The resulting damage to the front of the No. 20 Home Depot Husky Camry was severe and resulted in a disappointing early ending to an otherwise strong day. Kenseth would be scored in 35th at the finish.
Kasey Kahne captured the win, followed by Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, and Clint Bowyer who rounded out the top five. There were 10 cautions for a total of 66 laps and 17 lead changes among 10 different drivers.