Complete analysis: Bristol
August 25, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
1. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske
Logano saw the lead for the first time on Lap 104 after giving Matt Kenseth a bumper nudge. The hard-charging Team Penske driver proved his dominance as he was in a constant battle for the lead for a majority of the race. Logano led a total of 76 out of the 500 laps of the Irwin Tools Night Race earning his third victory of the season and his first at Bristol Motor Speedway. Before Saturday's race, Logano had a best finish of fifth at Thunder Valley. Logano remains fourth in the Sprint Cup Series standings behind teammate Brad Keselowski. See how he held off his teammate in Final Laps.
2. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske
The Team Penske veteran had a strong showing at the Tennessee short track by leading a total of 46 laps. Keselowski consistently ran within the top five and was battling for the lead with teammate Logano for the last 50 laps of the race. Although it wasn't the No. 2 driver's best finish at Bristol, it was his fourth top-five finish at the track. See what Keselowski had to say after the race here.
3. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Kenseth entered Thunder Valley as the defending champion of last year's Irwin Tools Night Race and winless in the 2014 season. He left with one of those titles still intact. Kenseth's winless season has been discussed for months and the opportunity to snag a victory in Saturday night's race was in the palm of his hands as he led for a total of 62 laps. But his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota just couldn't find the power to hold back Logano after he stayed out on late-race chance to pit. See Kenseth's race highlights here.
4. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Under the competition caution on Lap 60 Johnson was caught speeding on pit road and had to restart at the tail end of the field to serve his penalty. Johnson received another pit road speeding penalty on Lap 132, and in disbelief crew chief Chad Knaus said, "There's no way, it's not possible." Although he spent a great deal of time serving his penalties, the No. 48 managed to catch up with the front runners to score a top-five finish, which was his first in nine races. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
5. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing
While it wasn't a win, a top-five finish for Kurt Busch might feel just as wonderful as a victory these days. After scoring a win early in the season at Martinsville, Busch went through a less-than-spectacular stretch before beginning to rebound. Busch fought hard at Bristol and stayed consistent throughout the race. See Busch's race highlights here.
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
Bristol appears to be a favored track for Stenhouse Jr. as he scored his fifth top-10 of the season, two of which came at the Tennessee track. The Sprint Cup sophomore finished ahead of his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards for the second week in a row.
7. Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
After winning at Bristol in the spring, Edwards had high hopes of a season sweep going into Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race. On Lap 38 Edwards complained of looseness saying, "My car is not good at all ... I'm tossing on entry." While his seventh-place finish wasn't the best the No. 99 has seen at Bristol, it was the first time this season that all three Roush Fenway Racing drivers finished in the top 10 together. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
8. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing
McMurray received a pit road penalty for speeding while exiting on Lap 132. On Lap 238, McMurray saw the lead for the first time when he overtook Kasey Kahne. McMurray led for a race-high 148 laps and was consistently running within the top five. The No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing driver had the necessary tools for a Bristol win, but getting caught in lap traffic tarnished his Victory Lane dreams. See what McMurray had to say after the race here.
9. Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
It was a quiet night for Menard, who managed to avoid all on-track collisions as he turned the sharp corners of Bristol Motor Speedway. Menard earned his sixth top-10 finish at Thunder Valley, along with his 11th of the 2014 season. While the Richard Childress Racing driver may seem like he's on the down low, he moved up two spots in the Sprint Cup standings to 15th.
10. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing
Biffle spent the majority of the race trying to find his rhythm as he ran in and out of the top 10. He reported numerous times about his "rock hard" tires that didn't allow much wiggle room for turning. On Lap 372, Biffle got into some trouble and had the back of his car hanging off, resulting in him coming to pit road to have the bumper removed. For having an unscheduled pit stop, Biffle's top-10 finish was a success and the fourth straight top 10 for Biffle.
11. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing
Harvick started the Irwin Tools Night Race as the polesitter and led the first 37 laps of the race. On Lap 161, Denny Hamlin was running first and Harvick spun him while he was racing for the lead, something the Stewart-Haas Racing driver took the blame for. In and out of the contention for the lead, Harvick was racing hard for the win at Bristol. On Lap 432, Harvick received a speeding penalty on pit road that set him back significantly. (See the video of the wreck here.)
12. Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Gannassi Racing
In practice for Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race, Larson's car looked like a strong contender as he led the field in the opening session. It was during the Coors Light Pole Qualifying that Larson spun out and suffered damage to the front-left and back-rear of the car. Larson switched to his backup car and had to start from the rear. While he was working his way through traffic on Lap 125, Brian Vickers got loose and got into Larson, causing a chain reaction as Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch suffered damage to their cars as well. Larson worked hard to redeem himself, but the early damage held the No. 42 back from reaching its full potential.
13. Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Newman remains one of the winless drivers in contention for a Chase position and is still winless at Bristol in his Sprint Cup career. The closest Newman has ever gotten to a win here was in 2004 when he came in second. His 13th-place finish still beats last year's 16th so it's a step in the right direction.
14. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing
While road courses are Allmendinger's strongest suit, he can still hold his own on short tracks. Allmendinger picked up his third straight top-15 finish after having just five in the first 21 races of 2014.
15. Jeff Burton, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing
Driving for Tony Stewart for the second-consecutive week, Burton seemed comfortable in the No. 14 Chevrolet at Bristol. Burton ran as high as fourth place in the Irwin Tools Night Race. On Lap 425, Burton complained of "chattering tires" but after a few adjustments was able to hold onto a top-15 finish as he battled with Jeff Gordon for position.
16. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Gordon's biggest competitor Saturday night was consistency. The No. 24 would run great for a few laps and then would start to fall apart. "I can't figure this place out tonight. It was a comfortable run before, then the rubber (on track) changed everything," Gordon said. Gordon said post-race that he overshot his pit stall on one stop which resulted in a four-tire change rather than a two. The Sprint Cup veteran claims this was a large factor that hurt their finish. (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.)
17. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing
Bowyer sustained a small amount of front-left damage after the No. 55 of Brian Vickers got loose and caused a chain reaction of several drivers getting into each other. After that, it was a matter of working through the damage and making adjustments on pit road that scored Bowyer his top-20 finish.
18. Michael McDowell, No. 95 Ford, Leavine Family Racing
After giving the invocation in pre-race ceremonies, McDowell was able to take advantage of the beneficiary position a couple of times in the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday as he drove his way to the best Bristol finish of his Sprint Cup Series career and his second-best of 2014. (McDowell earned a seventh-place finish in July at Daytona.)
19. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports
Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Allgaier had a smooth run at Bristol, just not smooth enough to run up front. The young gun is still seeking his first top-10 finish and still adjusting to life in a Cup car. With mild tweaks throughout the race, Allgaier's 19th-place finish was his fifth finish inside the top 20 this season and third in the last four races.
20. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing
Pit strategy is a major reason why the No. 78 finished 20th on Saturday. On Lap 196 while the leaders pitted, Truex Jr. stayed out and held onto a sixth-place position at the start of the green flag. Although Truex Jr. dropped in position from there, the boost allowed him to claim his 12th top-20 finish of 2014.
21. Brian Vickers, No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing
On Lap 125 Vickers got loose and got into Kyle Larson, causing a chain reaction as Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch suffered damage to their cars. While others involved in the wreck dropped out of the race early, Vickers was able to fight through the damage and finish. (See the video of the wreck here.)
22. Landon Cassill, No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Racing
Besides a small amount of contact made on pit road and minimal left-rear damage, Cassill earned his third-best finish of 2014 and best finish at a non-restrictor plate track this season. Starting 39th, Cassill was under the radar as he drove his way to his 22nd-place finish.
23. David Ragan, No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports
After starting 29th, Ragan claimed a finishing position of just one notch better than last week's at Michigan International Speedway. Receiving a free pass under caution, Ragan earned his fourth straight top-25 finish this season.
24. Reed Sorenson, No. 36 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing
In the spring race at Bristol Sorenson earned a 28th-place finish. With not much practice on short tracks between then and now, Sorenson upped his finishing position by four. While he remains winless in his Sprint Cup Series career, the No. 36 driver heads to his hometrack of Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend seeking improvement.
25. David Gilliland, No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports
Starting 32nd, Gilliland was able to pilot his No. 38 Ford to a 25th-place finish that pushed him into the top 30 in the Sprint Cup Series standings. Gilliland finished 22nd in the spring race.
26. Casey Mears, No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing
Mears avoided the major wrecks for a 26th-place finish, just one position ahead of his finish in the spring race. Mears started 43rd and managed to push his way into the top 30. With small adjustments, the No. 13 team is slowly but surely making improvements.
27. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing
Patrick was running 29th when she spun in Turn 2 bringing out the fifth caution of the race. It looked as if rookie Alex Bowman got into the back of her car to cause the spin. Patrick's 27th-place finish wasn't her best at the short track; her top finish was 18th in the spring race.
28. Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing
Starting 26th, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate couldn't find his groove on the short track. Earlier in the season, Dillon was on the edge of a top 10 when he finished 11th after starting in the same position as Saturday's race. It was difficult for Dillon to stay on the lead lap, and he never got the opportunity to claim the beneficiary position.
29. Josh Wise, No. 98 Chevrolet, Phil Parsons Racing
Wise started 30th and on Lap 69 spun in Turn 2 collecting J.J. Yeley. Never quite recovering, the No. 98 driver did manage to earn his third-best finish at Bristol.
30. Cole Whitt, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing
Whitt started from the rear after making contact with the wall during Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying. The rookie attempted to drive through traffic, but couldn't make any significant movement. Whitt finished 10 spots better than his Cup debut at the track in the spring.
31. David Stremme, No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport
The one-car team improved 10 spots from where it started the race as Stremme moved up six positions in the Sprint Cup Series standings following Saturday night's race.
32. Alex Bowman, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing
Two unscheduled pit stops held rookie Alex Bowman back from pushing ahead in the field. Bowman started 27th, but the free pass he received wasn't enough to give him the edge he needed to move forward. Bowman finished 32nd in both Bristol races this season.
33. J.J. Yeley, No. 32 Ford, Go FAS Racing
Yeley was collected on Lap 69 when the No. 98 of Josh Wise spun in Turn 2. Yeley's best finish at Thunder Valley came in 2007 when he crossed the checkered flag 13th.
34. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports
Ambrose was six laps down on Lap 375 when he smacked the inside wall bringing out the eighth caution. Ambrose came in for repairs but was forced to go behind the wall as the No. 9 needed extensive work done. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver was viewed as a bit of sleeper entering this race, which surely ended in disappointment for the No. 9 team.
35. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Kahne took a gamble on Lap 196 as the fifth caution came out for Michael Annett's spin. The No. 5 stayed out on the track as others pitted and was able to lead for a total of 40 laps before Jamie McMurray took the lead on Lap 239. Frustrated with lap traffic, Kahne never saw the lead again. The No. 5 later suffered splitter damage and headed behind the wall shortly before Lap 400 and returned at Lap 415.
36. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Under the competition caution on Lap 60, Busch was caught speeding on pit road and had to restart at the tail end of the field to serve his penalty. On Lap 125, Brian Vickers got loose and hit Aric Almirola, who spun out of control and made contact with Busch's No. 18 as he passed by. Busch's right-rear was coming apart and he told his crew, "I'm not going o be able to drive it, just so you know." (For more driver-crew chief in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView.) And later, "Out of the whole wreck we got the worst of it." Busch's night didn't get much better from there as he attempted to race on with his sustained damage, only to call it a night around Lap 455. (See the video of the wreck here.)
37. Ryan Truex, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing
Truex started to experience what his crew thought was rear-end-housing issues so they brought the No. 83 behind the wall only to find a blown engine. Truex's 37th-place finish is his best at Bristol.
38. Michael Annett, No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing
On Lap 195, Annett got into the wall bringing out the fifth caution of the race. Annett was able to recover and make his way to pit road with minimal damage.
39. Dale Earnhardt Jr. No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports
Earnhardt Jr. was running in the top five when he got caught up in the wreck between Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick as they were fighting for the lead. Earnhardt Jr. suffered major damage to the left side of his car, as most of the sheet metal had been torn away. The No. 88 returned to the track on Lap 285 briefly before calling it a night and finishing 39th. (See the video of the wreck here.)
40. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing
Hamlin was leading when Harvick spun him. Hamlin got out of his car and threw his HANS device at the No. 4 car, clearly frustrated that his night had gone horribly wrong. Hamlin suffered major damage to his No. 11 car and did not return to the race, ultimately finishing 40th. (See the video of the wreck here.)
41. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports
Almirola was forced to his backup car after smacking the wall in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying. As he was working his way up through traffic, Brian Vickers got loose on Lap 125 and sent Almirola into the wall. Almirola was running 28th at the time of the wreck. With the extensive damage done to the No. 43 he was forced to call it a night. (See the video of the wreck here.)
42. Brett Moffit, No. 66 Toyota, Jay Robinson Racing
Making his debut at Bristol and just his third Sprint Cup start this season, Moffitt was filling in for Joe Nemechek. The 22-year-old started 31st in the field, but was out from the race after just 78 laps due to engine issues. It was his worst finish of the season so far.
43. Dave Blaney, No. 37 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing
Only on the track for a total of 37 laps, Blaney did not make much of an impact. This was Blaney's 26th start at Bristol and the fourth time he finished in last place at Thunder Valley.