Matt Kenseth held off Kasey Kahne in the final laps of the Irwin Tools Night Race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway on Saturday to claim his fifth win of the season. For Kahne, it was his fourth runner-up finish of the year.
“I think Kasey’s getting tired of battling me,” Kenseth said. “He’s a heck of a talent. I think we’ve finished first and second a few times this year.”
Kenseth led a race-high 149 laps, with most of those coming after Carl Edwards fell out of the race. Edwards had the dominant car early, lea 119 laps before engine issues retired him from the race prematurely just after a restart that followed a lap-376 caution.
“The car was almost perfect, and the engine ran awesome until it broke,” Edwards said. “We had great pit stops, and I think we’ve got some good things to get forward to. This is what we needed, a race like this, with the engine aside. I think we were the dominant car here tonight.”
Kenseth took over from there and remained up front the rest of the way. Pit strategies varied throughout the race, with a handful of drivers opting to stay out after making their last pit stops on lap 336. Kenseth and Clint Bowyer were among those. Kenseth was able to go the rest of the way, but Bowyer, after running near the front for much of the race, fell just short, running out of fuel on the final lap.
Kahne, though, made one final pit stop on lap 441 during a yellow flag. He was able to make his way up through the field on four fresher tires and was up to second by lap 480 of the 500-lap race. From there on out, he was able to get up beside Kenseth multiple times but was unable to make a pass that stuck.
“I had a really good Farmers Insurance Chevrolet,” Kahne said. “(Crew chief) Kenny (Francis) made a great call to come in and get those tires. We were rubbing all the way down into turn four but I just couldn’t clear him.”
Kahne was frustrated with his second-place finishing, insisting after the race that he “clearly had the better car.”
Juan Montoya finished third, Brian Vickers was fourth and Joey Logano rounded out the top-five. Finishing sixth through 10th were Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The yellow flag waved 11 times throughout the race for a total of 74 caution laps. A seven-car wreck with 54 laps to go that involved Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., and Kevin Harvick, among others, briefly brought out the red flag.
Series points leader Jimmie Johnson was also involved in an incident that brought out a yellow flag just past lap 350.
“It’s racing; stuff happens,” Johnson said, also commenting that it was no big deal since he’s already locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR