Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hamlin Survives Bristol

Denny Hamlin had a strong car for much of the IRWIN Tools Night Race, but his job got easier when some of the leaders crashed.  But it wasn't until there were about 15 laps to go before he took the lead for good.  Hamlin was able to pull away from Jimmie Johnson to win his third race of the season.

Casey Mears led the field to the green flag after qualifying was rained out.  Brad Keselowski was running a commemorative Rusty Wallace paint scheme, and he started second when the green flag fell.  Mears was able to clear Keselowski to lead the first lap of the race.  Keselowski was able to hang underneath Mears for the first five laps, but Joey Logano was able to get around him for second.  On lap 10, the first caution came out for Ken Schrader, who spun into the inside wall after contact from Jason Leffler.  When the pits were open, Jimmie Johnson came in to make a pit stop.  Johnson started way back in 37th place after qualifying was rained out.

The race restarted on lap 18, and Mears led Logano to the green flag.  After chasing him for ten laps, Logano finally got around Mears on lap 28 for the lead.  Logano led until lap 81, when the caution flag flew for Sam Hornish Jr., who hit the outside wall.  Johnson also got damage to his front grille in an unrelated incident.  The field came in to make pit stops, and Logano was able to win the race off pit road.  Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both got speeding penalties under the caution, and had to restart at the rear of the field.

Casey Mears leads Joey Logano (Courtesy Getty Images)
The race restarted on lap 90, and Logano led Kasey Kahne and Jeff Burton to the green flag.  After chasing Logano for a few laps, Kahne was finally able to get around Logano for the lead on lap 108.  On lap 122, the caution came out again for Hornish, who slammed into the wall after contact from David Ragan.  Hornish had to take the car to the garage.  Kahne led Logano to the green flag on lap 130, and Juan Pablo Montoya and Logano quickly fought for second place.  Montoya quickly began to fall back through the field, and held up some of the front-runners.

The caution came out on lap 148, when David Ragan cut an oil line and his car erupted in flames.  He spun into the inside wall, but was able to get out of the car and he was okay.  Kahne was the leader when the caution came out, but he slid in the oil from Ragan's car and he hit the outside wall.  He had to make numerous pit stops to fix the car, and he lost a lap under caution.

Logano led Brian Vickers and Jeff Gordon to the green flag on lap 159.  On lap 191, Montoya got into Ryan Newman and spun him into the outside wall.  While he spun down the track, Jeff Burton, who was running well, made contact with Newman's car and destroyed his right-front fender.

Newman spins after contact from Montoya (Courtesy Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. led Hamlin to the green flag on lap 200.  Hamlin tried to get to the outside, but he was passed by Martin Truex Jr.  The caution flew again on lap 224 when Aric Almirola was turned into the outside wall by David Gilliland.  Greg Biffle led teammate Matt Kenseth on the lap 231 restart.  On lap 254, Kenseth was able to get around Biffle, and he fell to fifth before he was able to get back in line.  On lap 271, Brad Keselowski spun into the inside wall to bring out the seventh caution of the race.

When the race restarted on lap 276, Jimmie Johnson led the field to the green flag.  On lap 322, the caution flag came out once again for Kurt Busch and Regan Smith, who got together on the frontstretch.  On lap 328, Kenseth led Tony Stewart to the green flag.  Stewart and Kenseth started to get into a heated battle for the lead, and they got together going through the corner.  They both got loose coming off Turn 2, and they slid into the inside wall to bring out the caution on lap 332.  Under the caution, Stewart threw his helmet at Kenseth, who was coming down pit road.

Stewart and Kenseth race for the lead (Courtesy Getty Images)
Joey Logano led Marcos Ambrose to the green flag on lap 340.  On lap 347, Dave Blaney's engine let go to bring out another caution.  Blaney had been driving a beat-up race car from an earlier incident.  Under the caution, Earnhardt pitted while pit road was closed, so he had to restart from the back of the pack.

Greg Biffle led Kevin Harvick to the green flag on lap 353.  Kyle Busch got around Harvick to get up to Biffle's back bumper to fight for the lead.  Truex joined the fight, and Biffle had to fend off both cars to keep the lead.  On lap 365, Truex was able to get around Biffle for the lead.  Biffle was also passed by Hamlin for second, and he had to hold off a hard-charging Kyle Busch for third.

After following Truex for over 30 laps, Denny Hamlin was finally able to pass him for the lead when Truex got hung up while trying to pass Danica Patrick.  The caution came out on lap 413 when Regan Smith ran into Casey Mears, cutting down his left-rear tire.  Carl Edwards led Brian Vickers to the green flag on lap 419.  Regan Smith had a tire rub when the race restarted.  On lap 422, the caution came out for a bumper bar on the track.

Carl Edwards led the field to the green flag on lap 429.  On lap 434, Regan Smith got into Danica Patrick, who spun and hit the inside wall; she had been running in 19th before she wrecked.  Carl Edwards led Brian Vickers and Jimmie Johnson to the green flag on lap .  Vickers was able to hold his own under Edwards, but he wasn't able to complete the pass and had to fall in line behind Edwards.  Vickers tried to get under Edwards again, but he got extremely loose and had to make a fantastic save and fell back to fifth place.

Hamlin began to get under Edwards, and used his bumper to get underneath the 99.  Hamlin was able to get around him for the lead, but Edwards tried the crossover to get back underneath him.  Edwards wasn't able to pass for the lead, and Johnson quickly got alongside him to take second.

Once Hamlin got around Edwards, he began pulling away from second place.  Even lapped traffic couldn't slow him down, and he was able to win his third race of the season.  Jimmie Johnson finished second, followed by Jeff Gordon.  Brian Vickers finished fourth filling in for Mark Martin.  Marcos Ambrose finished fifth, and Kyle Busch finished sixth.  Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, and Paul Menard rounded out the Top 10.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 12th after a late pit penalty.  Points leader Greg Biffle finished 19th.  Carl Edwards ran out of gas with four laps to go and finished 22nd.  Matt Kenseth finished 25th after wrecking with Tony Stewart, who finished 27th.  Danica Patrick finished 29th after her late-race wreck.  Brad Keselowski finished 30th.  With their finishes today, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Hamlin celebrates in Victory Lane (Courtesy Getty Images)
The newly-restructured Bristol Motor Speedway didn't accomplish what it was meant to do, but it did create a very exciting race.  Next week the Sprint Cup Series will race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for a rare Sunday night race.  The race can been next Sunday at 6:30 p.m., only on ESPN.

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