Joey Logano notched up his third win of the season and his first at Bristol Motor Speedway, when he took the checkered flag in the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday. Following a late restart and with 45 laps to go, Logano took the lead from Matt Kenseth and held off teammate Brad Keselowski to win the race. Having finished in the top six in five consecutive races, Logano is firmly in the picture for the Chase for the Sprint Cup which starts on September 14 with the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Keselowski took second place in the Irwin Tools Night Race, with Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Kurt Busch taking third, fourth and fifth spots respectively.
In a post-race interview Logano was quoted as saying that the past six or seven races have been unbelievable and running up front has “been so much fun”. While acknowledging that he really wanted the victory, Keselowski note that a “Penske 1-2 is something to be proud of.”
There were two big crashes in the Irwin Tools Night Race, fortunately with no injuries. The first crash, between Brian Vickers and Aric Almirola, collected Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch, but the second crash is the one getting a lot of media attention as it raises the issue of how drivers should handle accidents. On lap 161 Kevin Harvick connected Denny Hamlin, sending him across the track to slam into the inside wall. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also became a casualty of the collision as he tried, and failed, to avoid Hamlin’s spinning car. When Hamlin got out of his car, he threw his HANS device at Harvick as the race continued. Although Hamlin remained in his car until safety crews arrived and was on the apron when he threw the device, it remains to be seen whether he will face a penalty for his action, particularly as on track safety and driver accountability remains under the spotlight following the altercation between Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr. which led to Ward’s death.
With 845 points, Jeff Gordon is currently in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in second place with 818 points, with Brad Keselowski (776 points), Joey Logano (761 points) and Matt Kenseth (751 points) in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.
Washed out by rain on Saturday, the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway was deferred to Sunday where, nineteen laps into the race a dramatic multiple car crash put several NASCAR Sprint Cup contenders out of the race. The crash reportedly started with Ricky Stenhouse Jr getting loose from the field, resulting in Jeff Gordon moving to the left in an attempt to avoid a crash and connecting with Tony Stewart, causing a chain reaction. While there were no injuries, several cars sustained damage, including those driven by Stenhouse, Gordon, Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Carl Edwards, Trevor Bayne, Marcose Ambrose, Danica Patrick, AJ Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, Michael Waltrip, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
A caution had been scheduled for the end of lap twenty to allow teams to check wear on their tires, due to green race track conditions. Tiny particles of rubber from tires are left on the track improves the traction on the track surface. When these rubber particles are washed away by heavy rain, the track behaves differently, and is considered ‘green’, until rubber is laid down again.
While some drivers, including Stewart, are of the opinion that Stenhouse triggered the crash, in a post-race interview Stenhouse disagreed, saying he got loose and straightened back out when he got hit in the left rear by Gordon. Cars spun into the grass field separating the front stretch from pit road, where many sustained damage.
First place in the Coke Zero 400 was claimed by Aric Almirola (#43 Ford), followed (in order) by Brian Vickers (#55 Toyota), Kurt Busch (#41 Chevrolet), Casey Mears (#13 Chevrolet) and Austin Dillon (#3 Chevrolet) in the top five. His win puts Aric Almirola in the running for a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The top five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings (in order) are Jeff Gordon (#24 Chevrolet) with 651 points, Dale Earnhardt Jr. (#88 Chevrolet) with 624 points, Jimmie Johnson (#48 Chevrolet) with 596 points, Brad Keselowski (#2 Ford) with 586 points and Matt Kenseth (#20 Toyota) with 580 points.