Race Report: Bristol

21-22 August, 2015, Bristol, Tennessee USA Denny Hamlin, FedEx Ground Toyota Camry ©2015, Matthew T. Thacker NKP

Joe Gibbs Racing earned three top-ten finishes in tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Denny Hamlin led the way with a third-place finish, while Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch both rebounded from tire issues to finish seventh and eighth respectively. Meanwhile an engine problem ended Matt Kenseth’s night early leaving him to finish back in 42nd.

Denny Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota from the pole and led the opening 26 laps of the night before giving way to his teammate in the 18. He would continue to run at the front of the field and managed to regain the lead once again on lap 53. He would lead a total of 54 laps on the night and was running fifth at the halfway mark. The FedEx crew would deliver a great stop on pit road allowing Hamlin to restart second with 135 laps remaining. He would restart second again after another quick caution on lap on lap 379. Hamlin restarted third with 110 laps to go. He would hold that spot through a final round of pit stops all the way to the checkered flag.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota in the third position and was able to hold a spot in the top five through the opening green flag run. Shortly after the first round of pit stops Edwards would report that the car had become tight and he would drop back to run 10th. However, it didn’t take the 19 team long to get the car back to the front of the field and he would eventually take the lead following a round of pit stops after a caution just past the halfway mark on lap 253. He would give the top spot to his teammate early in the ensuing green flag run, but he would eventually reclaim it on lap 303. Edwards continued to lead when suddenly a flat tire forced him down the track and on to pit road. He would have to quickly make his way to his pit stall on lap 343 for fresh tires. A caution would quickly follow allowing him to take the wave around to get one of the two laps back. He would race for the lucky dog position to get back on the lead lap and was able to claim that position when a caution came out with 69 laps remaining. Edwards would manage to drive his way back inside the top ten over the final green flag run to earn a seventh-place finish.

Kyle Busch qualified the No. 18 Skittles Toyota in the second position and was fast from the outset as he assumed his first lead of the night on lap 27. He would run inside five through the first half of the race but found the handling on his No. 18 Camry to drop off a bit during the longer green flag runs. A caution just after the halfway point brought the Skittles Toyota back down pit road and shortly after the restart he was able to establish his position back at the front of the field on lap 281. Busch was running third when he would radio in that he believed he had a loose wheel forcing him to make an unscheduled pit stop on lap 340. He would drop two laps off the pace, but was able to race his way back around the leaders to get within one lap. A caution on lap 360 allowed him to get back on the lead lap. He would restart 12th when another caution quickly followed and crew chief Adam Stevens would bring him down pit road for four tires and fuel. A series of cautions would leave Busch to restart ninth with 110 laps to go. He would quickly move back inside the top five and claim fourth with 100 laps remaining. Busch would come down pit road a final time with just over 60 laps to go and NASCAR ruled that the 18 was too fast. The pit road speeding penalty would send Busch to the back of the field for the restart. He would manage to pass all the cars a lap or more down and then started to pass cars for position. After leading a race-high 192 laps, he would show tremendous resolve to earn an eighth-place finish which improved his position in the point standings. He is now 46 points in front of 31st place.

Matt Kenseth, who won the spring race earlier this year at Bristol, started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the 13th position and showed early speed as he quickly ascended into the top ten. Kenseth was running inside the top five as the race went past the 100-lap mark. Not long after however Kenseth would radio in to crew chief Jason Ratcliff that something appeared to break in the engine. Kenseth would take his Dollar General Camry to the garage and his night was over. He would be scored back in 42nd.

Joey Logano captured the win and was followed by Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions on the night for a total of 52 laps and 14 lead changes among five different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will take its final weekend off of the 2015 season before heading to Darlington Raceway on Sunday night, September 6. NBCSN will broadcast the race live with coverage starting at 7 PM ET (race begins at 7:30 PM ET).