Joey Logano scored his third win of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season Saturday night taking the lead for the final time with 55 laps to go in the Irwin Tools Night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Logano held off his hard-charging Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski on the final lap for the sixth win of his career. Keselowski held on for second, Matt Kenseth who was leading until passed by Logano was third and Jimmie Johnson, who overcame two pit road speeding penalties came home fourth, rookie Kyle Larson rallied from deep in the field to finish fifth.
After starting fifth, Logano led 76 of the 500 laps. Jamie McMurray who led a race high 148 laps, pitted on the final stops with 60 laps to go and finished eighth.
“When I woke up this morning I wasn’t sure if we were a winning car or not,” Logano said. “But (crew chief) Todd Gordon is good salesman. He pretty much sold me into thinking we had a winning car and we made some small adjustments on it all night and got our third win of the year. “
Polesitter Kevin Harvick led from the green , as Jeff Gordon fell into second, Kyle Busch was third, Jimmie Johnson fourth and Carl Edwards slid into fifth. By lap 14 Harvick had caught the rear of the field. Gordon never lost touch with the lead and on lap 38 dove under Harvick for the top spot; Harvick however stayed close in heavy traffic. Kyle Busch was able to use the heavy traffic a few laps later to grab second.
By lap 55, Busch caught and passed Gordon for his first lead of the night. The first caution of the night, a competition caution, came out on lap 61. The leaders came in for stops, with a mix of two tire and four tire stops. The top four took only two tires including Kyle Busch who won the race off; Matt Kenseth was second, Jamie McMurray third and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fourth. Busch was cited by NASCAR for speeding on pit road though and forced back in giving the lead to Kenseth, the defending race winner.
Kenseth led to the green on lap 68 with McMurray on the inside. Soon Gordon had race his way to the front and was looking for the lead, but just as he did Josh Wise and JJ Yeley got together and spun bringing out the second caution on lap 69.
Kenseth led to the green on lap 77 with Gordon on the inside; by the end of the lap Kenseth had a clear lead and Gordon was dropping back trapped on the inside and slipped back to fourth; Logano took over second, Harvick third. At the 100-lap mark Kenseth still led, Kurt Busch has moved into fourth.
On lap 106 Logano got by Kenseth for his first lead of the race; Kenseth fell back to third as Harvick followed Logano and took over second; Gordon had regained fourth from Kurt Busch. The third caution came out on lap 124 when Kyle Busch got spun by Clint Bowyer; the crash was set off when Brian Vickers spun into Aric Almirola in front of them. Everyone except Almirola was able to continue although damaged. Kyle Larson was also involved getting damage from being pushed into the wall.
The leaders pitted; Hamlin and Earnhardt took only two tires and led the race off pit road. Johnson was cited by NASCAR for speeding on pit road for a second time. Hamlin led, followed by Earnhardt, Logano, Harvick and Kasey Kahne.
Hamlin led to the green on lap 138; Harvick fought his way to second as Hamlin took a comfortable lead at the front. Earnhardt scraped the wall on lap 148 and began to fall back. Up front, Harvick was soon in touch with the leader. By lap 156, Hamlin and Harvick were side by side and fighting for the lead; it all ended in disaster on lap 160 when Harvick slid up exiting turn 4 and hit Hamlin spinning Hamlin along the frontstretch; Hamlin slid back up the track making contact with Earnhardt; Hamlin was done for the night as Earnhardt limped to pit road. Hamlin got out of his car, and threw his HANS device at Harvick’s car. Earnhardt stopped in his pit stall but soon made his way to the garage. Pit road opened and the leaders stayed out; Kahne in 11th was the first to pit. The green came out again on lap 173 and Harvick charged to a clear lead, Kurt Busch got by Logano for second.
Caution number five came out when Michael Annett hit the wall between turn 3 and 4 on lap 195. The leaders all came in for stops. Kahne and five others stayed out and led to the green on lap 202. Among those that stayed out included McMurray in second, Johnson in third, Jeff Burton fourth and Martin Truex Jr. in fifth. Harvick restarted 12th.
By lap 220 the battle was between Logano, Harvick and Brad Keselowski for seventh, eighth and ninth. At lap 238 Kahne was fighting with McMurray for the lead. Thanks to a slower lapped car, McMurray took the lead on lap 241. Kahne soon began falling back.
At the halfway point, McMurray led, Keselowski was second, Johnson third , Kahne was fourth and Harvick had moved up to fifth. Kahne pitted just after the halfway point complaining that his Chevy was “plowing”. The crew reported he had a loose tire and he fell two laps down.
The sixth caution came out on lap 264 when Danica Patrick spun in turn 2. She was able to continue. The leaders pitted; Keselowski won the race off pit road, McMurray followed with Johnson, Harvick and Logano close behind.
The green came out on lap 273; Keselowski led, Harvick jumped to second, McMurray took over third, Burton fourth, Johnson fifth . Earnhardt returned to the track 106 laps down; he made only a few laps before retiring for the night.
By lap 300, McMurray had caught Keselowski and was contesting for the lead; Harvick was close behind. McMurray got the lead on lap 312.
The eighth caution came out for debris on lap 359. The leaders came in for stops; McMurray won the race off pit road followed by Logano, Johnson, Kenseth and Keselowski. The restart came on lap 367 and McMurray was able to charge ahead of the field; Logano and Kenseth fought for second behind him, Kenseth took over second four laps later. Johnson had dropped back to seventh. Marcos Ambrose spun into the inside wall on lap 376 bringing out the eighth caution.
The restart came on lap 382 with McMurray out front; Kenseth fell in behind. With 100 laps to go, Kahne made another unscheduled green flag stop then headed to the garage. Up front Kenseth stayed close to McMurray. On lap 412 Kenseth had caught McMurray and was looking for the lead; Logano lurked close behind in third. Logano and Kenseth made contact a few laps later and Logano moved into second and a few laps later was looking for the lead.
The ninth caution came out on lap 431 for debris. Kenseth and Edwards stayed out while the rest of the leaders pitted. Harvick was cited by NASCAR for speeding on pit road and was forced to restart in the back of the line. Kenseth led to the restart on lap 440, Edwards was second, Kyle Larson third, Paul Menard fourth and McMurray who was the first to pit restarted fifth. Shortly after the restart, Logano, who had also pitted was into second; his teammate Keselowski was close behind. Logano was able to get to Kenseth and was fighting for the lead with 50 laps to go; five laps later Logano got the lead as Kenseth began to fade.
“I knew when they lined up a couple rows behind me that it was going to be hard to hang on with old tires,” Kenseth said. “We had to at least go down swinging. It was a good night for our Dollar General Camry — we were just a little off all night. We were never good enough to go out there and really dominate and control the race. “
Soon Logano’s lead was nearly a second. Keselowski got by Kenseth for second on lap 471. In the pits, Kyle Busch who was several laps down parked his Toyota in the pits, got out and walked away.
With 14 to go, Logano caught Gordon who was in 16th place and was trying to put him a lap down. Gordon wouldn’t move, Logano was slowed and Keselowski began to catch up. With 10 to go, Logano was still behind Gordon and Keselowski was still closing. Logano was finally able to get by Gordon with five laps to go.
“I made a mistake I over shot the pit getting in there one time and just stalled,” Gordon who finished 16th said. “We went from doing a two tire stop to doing a four tire stop. We missed the set-up a little bit tonight. It wasn’t our best night, but we fought hard. I like the fight we put up there. We got back on the lead lap and proud to finish 16th. It wasn’t our best night.”
Keselowski made one final charge at Logano on the final lap, but Logano was able to hold him off and take the checkered flag.
“I just dive-bombed it in there on a prayer and kind of hoping it would stick or he would slip or something would happen for me,” Keselowski said. “Made it look cool, but it really wasn’t that close.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came home sixth, followed by Edwards, McMurray, Paul Menard and Greg Biffle. The full race results can be found here.
“It’s a really big one,” Logano said of his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup career win. “I feel like the Bristol night race is maybe the third or fourth biggest race of the year. Just the atmosphere before the race, if it doesn’t pump you up nothing does. It’s just the baddest mamma jamma race track ever built.”
Gordon held on for 16th and retains his points lead; with only his second DNF of the season Earnhardt was scored in 39th but remains second in the standings; Keselowski is third, Logano fourth and Kenseth fifth. Johnson, Harvick, Edwards, Ryan Newman, and Clint Bowyer round out the top 10. The updated points standings can be found here.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next Sunday night.