Bristol, TN (Sports Network) - Denny Hamlin survived a wild night of racing at
Bristol Motor Speedway to claim his third victory of the season and therefore
virtually assure him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race featured pit strategy throughout its
500-lap distance. Hamlin last pitted during a caution with less than 90 laps
remaining. Carl Edwards remained on the track and took over the lead at the
After a fierce battle for the lead, Hamlin wrestled the top spot away from
Edwards with 38 laps to go. Hamlin then held off Jimmie Johnson at the finish
by 1.1 seconds for his first win at this 0.533-mile, high-banked oval.
"This is just a big win," Hamlin said. "I don't know how else to explain it."
Johnson's second-place finish allowed him to clinch a spot in the Chase. Greg
Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. also punched their tickets into the playoffs
with just two races to go before it begins. Biffle, the current points leader,
finished 19th, while Earnhardt Jr. placed 12th.
Jeff Gordon took the third spot, followed by Brian Vickers and Marcos Ambrose.
The race featured 13 cautions on Bristol's modified concrete surface. The top
groove of the surface was grinded with hopes of bringing back traditional
beating and banging among competitors on this track.
And it did, creating the most amount of cautions since the track was
reconfigured with variable banking in the summer of 2007.
The most notable caution came on lap 333 when Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth
bumped into each other and crashed while battling for the lead just after a
Stewart expressed his displeasure towards Kenseth when he threw his helmet at
the hood of Kenseth's car during the caution laps.
"We weren't that great race car, but we were definitely faster than Matt after
that restart," Stewart said. "He checked up twice to knock me over, and I
learned my lesson there. I'm going to run over him every chance I get from now
until the end of the year, every chance I get."
Stewart ended up finishing 27th, two spots behind Kenseth.
Danica Patrick, who made her fourth Sprint Cup Series start, was also involved
in a late-race wreck. Regan Smith bumped into Patrick, causing her to spin
down the track and hit the inside retaining wall. She finished 29th.
Instead of throwing her helmet, Patrick showed her disgust towards Smith by
finger-pointing at him when he came around the track under caution.
"Bristol is a place where you find out who's playing fair and who's not,"
Edwards, who is battling for a spot in the Chase, faded with less than 20 laps
remaining before he ran out of fuel with four to go. He finished 22nd.
The Sports Network