Race Report: Charlotte

2015 NASCAR CharlotteRain at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night forced NASCAR to postpone the Bank of America 500 to Sunday afternoon. Denny Hamlin would lead Joe Gibbs Racing with a fourth-place finish, while Carl Edwards was sixth and separate accidents left Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth to finish 20th and 42nd respectively.

This was the first race of the Contender Round of 12 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. The current field of 12 will be reduced to just eight following the next two races at Kansas and Talladega. Today’s finish leaves Hamlin in the fourth position in points, while Edwards is now sixth. Busch is in the 10th position just 10 points out of eighth, while Kenseth is 12th and 32 points back of eighth.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota in the fifth position and was consistently inside the top ten all afternoon. He was running seventh at lap 100 and restarted sixth on a lap 173 restart. Hamlin would patiently work his way inside the top five and was running fourth for a lap 200 restart. He would manage to hold that fourth position all the way to the finish and is now fourth in the point standings just eight points out of the top position.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota in the eighth position and battled some tight handling conditions in the early going. Track position would prove vital this afternoon and Edwards was running 13th at lap 100. He would have the opportunity to lead a lap during a round of green flag stops on lap 127 and then battled his way back into the top ten for a restart on lap 173. Edwards would remain in the top ten the remainder of the afternoon. He would restart fifth on lap 200 and went on to battle to a sixth-place finish.

Kyle Busch started the No. 18 M&M’S/Project Pink Toyota in the second position and was able to lead the opening four laps before giving way to his teammate and pole sitter for the race, Matt Kenseth. Busch was fast throughout the first half of the race and appeared set to contend for a win. The M&M’S Camry remained in the top five and Busch was third when a caution came out on lap 195 for oil on the track. Pit road would open on lap 196 and Busch would make a move to make it appear that he was heading to pit road. When he went to come back up on the track before the commitment cone however, he would make contact with the 42 car, which was trying to make the opposite move and come onto pit road at the last second. Busch would bring his M&M’S/Project Pink Toyota down pit road for repairs and when the race restarted he was back in the pack running 22nd. With track position so important on the mile and a half track in Charlotte he would struggle to make up ground and contact with the wall would force him back down pit road for additional repairs. This time Busch would lose a lap to the leaders. He would go on to finish one lap down in 20th position.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the pole and was fast from the outset as he led all but four of the opening 76 laps. He would give up the lead to pit on lap 77 and the team made the call for a four-tire stop that pushed the 20 car outside the top ten with several other leaders taking only two tires or remaining out on the track. Kenseth would make contact with the 31 car on the ensuing restart dropping him further back in the running order. His day would only get worse from that point as he fell back outside the top 20. Fighting to regain a spot in the top 10 he would restart 13th on lap 205, but contact again with the 31 sent him hard into the wall and this time he would need extensive repairs. He would fall three laps down. The final blow would occur on lap 239 however when he would hit the outside wall hard causing severe damage to the right side of the Dollar General Camry. The team would not be able to repair the damage and his day was over. Kenseth was officially scored in 42nd.

Joey Logano captured the win, followed by Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr., Hamlin and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. There were nine cautions for a total of 44 laps and 14 lead changes among 10 different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series continues the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship next weekend in Kansas. NBC will provide live broadcast coverage of the race starting at 2 PM ET (race begins at 2:15 PM ET) on Sunday, October 18.