After an Irwin Tools Night Race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event on Saturday night on the new Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway surface that saw 13 cautions and a thrown helmet, Denny Hamlin drove into victory lane to celebrate his third win of the season and his first-career victory at the track.
“We’re not done winning,” Hamlin said. “There’s still a fe more to go.”
Hamlin made his way to the front, passing Carl Edwards for the lead with 38 laps remaining in the 500-lap race.
Although it was Hamlin’s third win of he season, it was his first trip to victory lane since April.
“We feel like we’re making up for some of those that got away earlier this season,” crew chief Darian Grubb said.
Jimmie Johnson finished second, Jeff Gordon was third, Brian Vickers fourth and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-five.
“Great night,” Johnson said. “Wish we could’ve been one spot better.”
With 13 cautions throughout the event, including one on lap 335 including then-frontrunners Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart that resulted in Stewart throwing his helmet at Kenseth’s car, teams took on varying pit strategies that resulted in different drivers up front for nearly every resart, until the final stretch of the race.
“You still had to knock someone out of the way,” Hamlin said in comparing the new track surface to the pre-2007 Bristol.
Carl Edwards stayed out after not hearing crew chief Chad Norris’ instruction to head down pit road during a caution with 87 laps to go. As a result, he restarted with the lead and went into fuel conservation mode, planning to go a total of 175 laps between his last pit stop and the checkered flag.
Edwards remained up front until being passed by Hamlin. He then continued to lose positions and wound up running out of gas with five laps to go.
Finishing sixth through 10th were Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard.
The top-three drivers in the championship points standings — Johnson, Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — officially locked-in Chase for the Sprint Cup spots with their finishes at Bristol. Earnhardt finished the race 12th and Biffle 19th.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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