Surprising and Not Surprising: Bristol Irwin Tools Night Race

With lots of discussion and questions about restarts in the drivers’ meeting prior to the race, here is what was surprising and not surprising after the checkered flag flew on the 55Th Annual Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Surprising:  Joey Logano took a page from ‘Through the Looking Glass’ as he battled against Kevin Harvick and the rest of the field to take the checkered flag at Bristol Motor Speedway. This was the third win of the season for the driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford for Team Penske.

“It was kind of interesting to watch it in the mirror,” Logano said. “I was watching him (Harvick) drive in and I was like, ‘He’s going to get me eventually,’ so I just wanted to make sure I stayed at least three or four car lengths up on him so he didn’t get to me.


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“There’s not much time to look in the rearview mirror, but I realized how different his line was than mine.  He’d drive in so hard and almost get to my back bumper and then I’d drive off really good.  It’s kind of interesting to watch a race like that when two cars are a similar speed but in two complete different ways.  That’s what’s so fun about Bristol is you can drive the car about five or six different ways and make it fast, so it’s fun to race here.

“That’s what we did and that’s what we do every week.  We just try to keep our heads calm and cool and just run our race.

“I feel like we’re right where we need to be, just like we were last year at this point.  I can’t wait for the Chase to start.”

Not Surprising:  It was a twofer for the No. 4 car, who turned two pit road penalties into another second place finish.

“Yeah, we had an interesting night,” Kevin Harvick said after finishing second for the 10th time this season. “We went to the back twice and passed a bunch of cars.

“I think, all in all, it’s just a huge credit to the team. They just keep bringing fast cars to the race track and we’re able to overcome a lot of things.

“So, it’s just great to be a part of a team like this and just really excited to be able to run like this at Bristol.”

Surprising:  It was a blowout of the unwanted kind for Kyle Larson, who had such high hopes coming into the Bristol night race. The driver of the No. 42 Target Chevrolet had a tire blow out when he stayed out after taking just two tires, finishing 41st.

“The first time we blew our left front we stayed out on two tires and we had a lot of laps on our lefts,” Larson said. “And we blew that one out. Later on we had a lot of damage and got really tight and blew the right front.

“I guess on our left front the side wall got cut out. I don’t know if that was a wear issue or not. Then we got into the wall and we were pretty tight after that with lots of damage on the right side. So, probably just used up our right front tire because I couldn’t turn. I just hate it we hit the wall with a blown right front and ended our night.”

Not Surprising:  By no means out but……could best describe Paul Menard, who finished 24th at Bristol and is hanging on to 12th in the point standings and 14th in the Chase grid at present.

“This was not the finish we wanted when the weekend started at Bristol,” the driver of the No. 27 Knauf/Menards Chevrolet said. “We got behind early in the race and then were never able to make the improvements work to our advantage during the night. Then we ended up getting some damage there near the end and that didn’t help us any.

“But, the good news is we fought through all that and finished the race. We are by no means out of the Chase for the Championship and look forward to being there after Richmond.”

Surprising:  Ryan Newman apparently was doing his best imitation of David Copperfield, working some magic on his. No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet.

“We took a 20th place car from Friday and turned it into a top 10 on Saturday,” Newman said. “Not the end result that we wanted, but a good points day for us. That is part of what we are racing for right now.”

This was Newman’s second straight top-10 finish at Bristol and his 10th place finish advance him up to the 11th place in the championship point standings and 13th in the Chase Grid.

Not Surprising:  After the devastating news of the demise of Michael Waltrip Racing for the 2016 season, Clint Bowyer fought the hard fight for his team, finishing fifth in his No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota.

“MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) really needed that run,” Bowyer said. “With that being said we desperately needed a solid run right there. I mean obviously you’re hungry for a win with this organization given everything it had and I drove my ass off, we just come up short.

“I’m really proud of all of these guys on the 5-hour ENERGY Toyota. They’re digging man. It’s fun to be a part of this. It’s fun to be a part of a group that can answer the call when you gotta dig down and reach down a little bit more to get in that Chase and be a part of that elite group.

“These guys are up for the challenge.”

Surprising:  One young driver surprisingly logged an incredible number of laps at Bristol Motor Speedway, in fact, one thousand to be exact.

“I could do it again,” Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 SKF Ford in the Cup race and driver in the Truck and Xfinity races as well. “It’s just nice to get all those laps under your belt and know the race track, what it does and learn for next time.”

In the Cup race and after completing his one thousand Thunder Valley laps, Blaney finished 22nd.

“It’s not the night we wanted, but we gained some good experience and hopefully we come back better.”

Not Surprising:  As they have done for much of the season, Hendrick Motorsports shop mates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fared fairly well at Bristol where shop mates Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne continued to struggle.

Johnson finished best in fourth in his No. 48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet, and Earnhardt Jr. popped off another top-10 finish in his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet.  Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon, however, finished 16th and 20th respectively.

Jeff Gordon, in his final year of Cup competition, currently sits 15th in the Chase grid after the Bristol race.

Surprising:  Martin Truex Jr., who has been so consistently running for much of the season to date, took the biggest tumble in the point standings, falling two spots to the sixth spot. Truex had to go to a backup car, then had a lug nut issues, which put him back in the field, and finally was collected in an accident.

“I felt we had a top-three car tonight, but the loose wheel really hurt our chances,” Cole Pearn, crew chief, said after the race.

Not Surprising: As usual, given his dry wit, Matt Kenseth had the quote of the race after finishing 42nd due to engine failure, wishing for at least a text before going up in smoke.

“It broke in the middle of the straightaway – it had that hop and that noise that it makes when you know you dropped a valve,” the driver of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry said. “Something in the valve train, we dropped a valve or something it felt like and sounded like. Things like that happen.

“They never warn you, it would be cool if they would send you a text or something. Just the middle of the straightaway it made that pop where you knew that was it.”

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series prepares to head into the Chase, the racers get a needed weekend off next weekend.  On Sunday, September 6, racing will resume at historic Darlington Raceway.

 


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