Today was supposed to be all about the Toyotas after they dominated practice and qualifying all weekend, but Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne didn’t get the memo! Kahne led 109 laps in his Chevrolet SS ,en route to victory lane in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kahne and defending series champion Brad Keselowski waged a fierce battle in the closing laps. The two swapped the lead several times, using lapped traffic to set blocks for each other. Keselowski appeared to spin the tires on a restart with 30 to go, giving Kahne the upper hand. Keselowski finished a solid third at the end of the day.
“I love racing for Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Hendrick the opportunity he gives us, this whole team was flawless again today. Last week, today, this whole season so far. It has been a lot of fun. Great Clips, I’ve been with them for a long time. We have won a few races together it was great to win a (NASCAR Sprint) Cup race with Great Clips.” Kahne said.
The win gave Kahne his 15th career victory and his first in the Sprint Cup Series at the famed half mile. Kahne had a solid performance all weekend, as he was in the top ten of every practice session. Kahne and defending series champion Brad Keselowski waged a fierce battle in the closing laps.
Fellow Hendrick driver, Jeff Gordon was also very strong today. Gordon led 90 laps but blew a right front tire due to a melted bead on lap 390 while leading. That crash also took out second place runner, Matt Kenseth, who was extremely strong leading 85 laps in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Gordon and Kenseth finished 34th and 35th respectively.
“I dove down to the bottom to pass the No. 32 car. As soon as I got into the banking I felt the right front (tire) go. I really hate that we collected Matt Kenseth.” Gordon said.
Points leader Jimmie Johnson was bitten by bad luck today when he also blew a right front tire. Johnson did not lead any laps, but was solidly on the top-5 all day. Johnson finished 22nd.
Penske driver Joey Logano had his best run of the season going today until former teammate Denny Hamlin got into the back of him in turn 4 while battling for second place with about 150 laps to go. Logano went to confront Hamlin after the race but crew members stopped him before he could get to Denny.
Hamlin said after the race that he meant to get into him, but not spin him. Logano wound up 17th. Hamlin who was running strong near the end, had trouble got into the wall and ran the last several laps around the top of the racetrack considerably off the pace. Hamlin ended up 23rd.
“Really, you’ve got to control your car and he slid up into me and really he would have been in the garage with no radiator in it had I not checked up twice, so I just — I meant to run into him. Didn’t mean to spin him out, but his day was fine. He still had a bad day anyway for whatever reason. We finished bad. He finished bad. It’s even.” Hamlin said.
Hamlin’s teammate, fellow JGR driver Kyle Busch, who was odds on favorite to win everything this weekend, led the first 56 laps until a caution flew for accident in turn one. Busch received a pit road speeding penalty and spent the rest of the day trying to regain track position. Busch, who set the track qualifying record on Friday, managed to get all the way back to second at the end, but had nothing for Kahne.
“Just need to stop getting penalties and just stay up front all day, but I don’t know. We’re trying to take too much on pit roads and it’s not working for us, so we just need to back off. These guys do an awesome job with these cars. The M&M’s Camry was fast and the guys did a great job.” Busch said.
Other notables: Tony Stewart crashes early with a blown tire and finished 31st – Furniture Row driver Kurt Busch finished a very respectable 4th – Dale Earnhardt Jr. who started 32nd, worked his way through the field and finished a strong 6th – Ryan Newman shook off the bad luck that has plagued him this season ending up 7th.