Matt Kenseth held off Kasey Kahne in a barnstorming finish to take victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup night race at Bristol. It was a fantastic comeback by the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who had earlier been sent to the back for speeding in the pitlane. The victory clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup for Kenseth.
"When he got there with about eight (laps) to go, I knew we had our work cut out for us," Kenseth said. "I didn't know what would happen. The interesting thing about this track is that there's only one really fast groove, and I knew I couldn't let him outside of me …
"He almost cleared me into (Turn) 3 one time. I had to drive in really, really hard to make sure he couldn't get up in front of me. That's when I had that rubbing together off of (Turn) 4. There wasn't a lot of extra room there. It was an intense race. Kasey's got a great reputation. He's a really hard racer, really talented and he's also a really fair racer.
"I thought he was going to pass me. I thought he was going to get around me there but we had just enough to hang on."
Kahne felt he couldn't have cleared Kenseth's car without putting both drivers in jeopardy.
"Yeah, I thought Matt did a good job of just running as hard as he could as close to the wall as possible, which helped him a lot, and then I was just trying to gain speed," Kahne said. "I had a better car. We were on the right strategy and I just couldn't clear him. There was a couple shots I took and I had to have been close, but I could feel him on the right side of my car and I just didn't clear him.
"I didn't figure out how to get by. It's disappointing not to win here. I thought we had the best car the last 200 laps and it was a lot of work. We didn't start the best, but (crew chief) Kenny (Francis) made a lot of good calls and our strategy was perfect at the end. It was a great night for us, good for the points and things, but yeah, I wish I could have figured out how to get by him."
Kahne had to fight his way by an inspired Juan Pablo Montoya to set up the thrilling showdown, but despite getting the nose of his Hendrick Chevrolet in front a couple of times, he could not make the pass stick. Montoya had also been busted for pitlane speeding, but drove a great race to take third for Earnhardt Ganassi.
Brian Vickers was fourth for Michael Waltrip Racing, while Joey Logano boosted his Chase chances with a recovery drive to fifth following contact with Kyle Busch.
Busch's hopes of a hat-trick of Bristol wins following Truck and Nationside triumphs were undone when he brushed the wall and slid into Logano. He did well to keep pace with the leaders, but his car was not good in traffic and he eventually finished 11th.
A host of potential winners were taken out in a huge restart crash that brought out the red flag. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick touched, probably after Hamlin cut a cut tire following contact with Vickers, smashing into the wall and taking out Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski. Truex suffered the most damage, but five strong cars were out of contention in an instant.
Carl Edwards had been the dominant driver for much of the race, but during a late-race caution period his Roush Fenway Ford started to splutter. He switched ignitions, but to no avail and he was forced to bring the Fusion in to retire. Remarkably, it was the first Roush Fenway mechanical retirement of the season.
"I didn't have any warning," said Edwards. "That was the most fun I've had in a car for a long time. The car was perfect. The engine aside, we were the dominant car here."
Poleman Hamlin led the opening laps, but was balked by series debutant Ryan Truex, which gave Kurt Busch the opportunity he was waiting for.
Busch was running comfortably out front when he felt the handling of the Furniture Row Chevy go off. He pitted to have a loose wheel inspected, and lost over 20 laps as lengthy repairs were required.
Jimmie Johnson's recent poor run of luck continued. The five-time champion's Hendrick Chevy sustained heavy damage when he was powerless to prevent running into the spinning David Reutimann.
Results - 500 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Toyota 3h00m46.000s
2. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet +0.188s
3. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +4.589s
4. Brian Vickers Waltrip Toyota +6.471s
5. Joey Logano Penske Ford +7.989s
6. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet +8.637s
7. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet +8.979s
8. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford +9.208s
9. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford +9.496s
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet +9.530s
11. Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Toyota +12.342s
12. David Ragan Front Row Ford +12.709s
13. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet +14.468s
14. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota +17.816s
15. Aric Almirola Petty Ford +1 lap
16. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota +1 lap
17. David Stremme Swan Toyota +2 laps
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr Roush Fenway Ford +2 laps
19. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet +2 laps
20. Mark Martin Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +2 laps
21. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +2 laps
22. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet +2 laps
23. Landon Cassill Circle Sport Chevrolet +2 laps
24. JJ Yeley Baldwin Chevrolet +3 laps
25. David Gilliland Front Row Ford +4 laps
26. Danica Patrick Stewart-Haas Chevrolet +6 laps
27. Ken Schrader FAS Lane Ford +8 laps
28. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Toyota +12 laps
29. David Reutimann BK Toyota +16 laps
30. Brad Keselowski Penske Ford +21 laps
31. Kurt Busch Furniture Row Chevrolet +23 laps
32. Tony Raines Circle Sport Chevrolet +24 laps
33. Casey Mears Germain Ford +32 laps
34. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet +50 laps
35. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota +54 laps
36. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet +59 laps
Josh Wise Front Row Ford 418 laps
Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota 394 laps
Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford 387 laps
Scott Speed Leavine Ford 223 laps
Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 175 laps
Ryan Truex Phoenix Chevrolet 39 laps
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 1 lap