Joey Logano took the spoils for the sixth time this season in an eventful race at Bristol. It was NASCAR’s first visit since the facelift instigated by the dire racing seen at the Tennessee short track in the spring, and happily the racing lived up to expectation. At least, it did for Logano anyway.
“It was definitely really cool coming here - I think we’ve led the most laps in this race several times. I always fell a little short or something went wrong and it’s cool to finally be in victory lane here,” said Logano. “This is one of the coolest race tracks to win at - I think there are three or four that are extra special to win at and this is one of them. It’s cool to get number six and get on the second hand.”
In sharp contrast to the delight of Logano – who is ineligible to score points in the Nationwide Series – and Joe Gibbs Racing, plenty of drivers came away from Bristol with reason to be frustrated. One such man was championship leader Elliott Sadler, who was running second on the penultimate lap and challenging Logano, when a light tap from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. sent him sideways and almost into the wall, dropping him back down to fifth, just behind team-mate Austin Dillon.
“Not the finish that we wanted or deserved tonight at Bristol,” said Sadler, who now sits 19 points clear in the point standings. “[Stenhouse] got into me on the last restart, and I am just glad that I was able to save it. I really wanted to race [Logano] for the win there at the end. It was a frustrating night to finish fifth.”
Along with Stenhouse, Kyle Busch was the major beneficiary of Sadler’s misfortune to take third, but he was left distinctly unimpressed by the changes made to the circuit.
“I think they made it worse,” he said. “It’s just too hard to make ground on the bottom. You really have to pinch it tight up off the corners so you use a lot of steering wheel and you can’t put the power down to exit off the corner and you spin the tires. I’m not a fan.”
Cole Whitt scored his first top-10 since Chicago in sixth, ahead of Ryan Blaney and Michael Annett. Behind them, Danica Patrick was thrilled with ninth, which was only her second top-10 finish of the season.
“The car was really good in the race, I have to say,” she reported. “I felt like I could hustle it, and most importantly I felt like I could run the bottom, especially around [turns] 1 and 2. I think that helped me a lot, especially when we got to lapped traffic situations: if cars had to go low and couldn’t run there because they’d get tight, I was good down there so I felt like I could make up some ground there.”
Sam Hornish Jr. on the other hand was disappointed with tenth, which put an end to his run of four straight top-3 finishes. However, the championship contender could at least console himself with the knowledge that he ran trouble free, unlike his Penske Racing team-mate Brad Keselowski, who was dumped into the wall on lap 26 by Brian Scott. Scott was not to escape without retribution however, as he was clipped by JGR stablemate Busch, sending him into the inside wall.
After his last-gasp triumph on the road course at Montreal last week, Justin Allgaier landed abruptly back on his feet after he was assaulted early in the race by Dillon.
“This clearly was not the day any of us had hoped for,” said a frustrated Allgaier. “To come in here with so much momentum and excitement, only to have it dashed six laps into the race, is a very hard thing to handle. All we can do is dust ourselves off and head to Atlanta ready go again.”
Trevor Bayne was Dillon’s next victim, the former Daytona 500 winner pushed into the Turn 3 wall when Dillon’s Richard Childress Chevrolet got out of shape and used the pole-sitter as a brake. Kasey Kahne was forced to spin in avoidance and would finish a lowly 14th, while Bayne, who was making his first appearance in the Nationwide Series since the Auto Club Speedway in March, could only struggle to an unrepresentative 16th.
“I thought we were gonna at least get a top-five, which we were in position for, and then the 3 car just drove over his head and took us out. That’s all there is to it,” he said.
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