Matt Kenseth led Joe Gibbs Racing in tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race from Bristol Motor Speedway with a third-place finish, while separate accidents would leave Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin to finish 36th and 40th respectively.
Matt Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the 16th position and worked his way into the top 10 over the course of the opening green flag run prior to a competition caution on lap 60. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the call for a two-tire change on the opening round of pit stops and Kenseth came out in second and became the leader for the ensuing restart after teammate Kyle Busch was ruled too fast entering pit road. The Dollar General Toyota would lead for 40 laps before lapped traffic forced him to give way. He would make a four-tire stop on the next round of stops and restarted eighth. The No. 20 Camry was running seventh at the 300 lap mark. Great work on pit road by the Dollar General crew would allow Kenseth to line up fourth for a restart with 135 laps remaining. He would jump into second a few laps later before the next caution flew. He would restart from the bottom of the track in the second position on lap 382. Kenseth would close in on the leader with 90 laps remaining but lapped traffic would again cut his momentum short allowing the 22 car to get around him as he went to third. The Dollar General team would elect track position following the next caution and Kenseth would restart first with 63 laps to go. He would hold the lead following the drop of the green flag to restart the race, but fresh tires on the 22 and 2 cars proved too strong as he relinquished the lead with 44 to go. He would battle to the checkered flag and go on to finish third.
Kyle Busch started his No. 18 Doublemint Toyota from the fourth position and was strong through the early going as he maneuvered to the front of the field. Busch would take the lead on lap 55 and held it through the opening round of pit stops following a competition caution on lap 60. Although the Doublemint Camry left pit road in the first position NASCAR ruled he was too fast entering pit road. That would force Busch to restart at the back of the field. He would get caught up in the night’s first accident on lap 126 which resulted in heavy damage to the left rear of his car. The No. 18 Camry was able to remain on the track but he would restart the race following repairs two laps down. An extended caution following a lap 160 accident allowed the Doublemint crew to make additional repairs but Busch was now in 35th and three laps off the pace. He would manage to battle before having to take it to the garage to just over 50 to go. He would finish 36th.
Hamlin took the green flag for the start of tonight’s race in the 13th position and patiently worked his way into the top 10 over the course of the opening green flag run prior to a lap 60 competition caution. Hamlin had the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the sixth position at lap 100. An accident would bring out a caution followed by a second round of pit stops and a quick two-tire change by the FedEx crew put Hamlin out as the leader for the lap 137 restart. He would hold the lead until lap 160 when the 4 car attempted to slide up the track behind Hamlin and instead caught the left rear of the FedEx Camry causing him to spin down into the inside wall. The contact caused him to ricochet back up the track and into the path of the 88. The final result was heavy damage and a disappointing early end to a promising night. He would go on to finish 40th.
Joey Logano of Penske Racing won the race, followed by Brad Keselowski, Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. There were nine cautions for a total of 64 laps and 16 lead changes among nine different drivers.