While Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth finished third at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night, his teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin left the track frustrated after separate incidents left them 36th and 40th in the IRWIN Tools Night Race, respectively.
Kenseth, in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, started 16th and, while pleased with the finish, still wondered what could’ve been after the race.
“I just knew that new tires for the setup we had tonight and what our car would do in traffic — I just knew that clean air was going to be worth more than new tires,” said Kenseth, who led twice for 62 laps. “Maybe we could have gotten tires and beaten those guys — we’ll never know. I just had such a hard time. I knew clean air would cover up a lot of problems. We missed it a little bit tonight, but overall it’s a good night for our Dollar General 75th Anniversary Camry. Man, I wanted to win that thing in the worst way, but I just couldn’t hold them off.”
Busch, who started fourth in the No. 18 Doublemint Toyota, led eight laps early in the race but got a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 63, then got caught up in a Turn Three accident that also involved Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola and Brian Vickers on Lap 126. Busch continued to race, but his car wasn’t running up to par – miscommunications and frustrations got the better of the No. 18 team, ending with Busch parking the car on pit road and walking back to the garage area.
"I still don't know what happened," said crew chief Dave Rogers. "I think we got into the fence and I could hear the spotter say the tires were up, I heard Kyle say something about right-front suspension (but) I couldn't put it together. I got frustrated with Kyle because I wasn't sure what he was saying; he got frustrated with me because I wasn't fixing the race car. It's Bristol, it's loud, and a lot of things are going on."
Hamlin, who started 13th in the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota, led 28 laps before Kevin Harvick got into him on Lap 161. As a result, Hamlin plowed into Dale Earnhardt Jr., effectively ending both of their nights.
“I’m just frustrated because we had a good run going,” said Hamlin, who, after waiting for the safety personnel to arrive at his car, threw his HANS device at Harvick when he passed by. “I thought for sure after the first couple runs that we were going to win the race. We were really fast and we were on two tires there holding our own and pulling away from the pack mostly. I got caught up a little bit in traffic, but overall pretty happy with our FedEx Ground Toyota today…Mistakes happen in racing. Obviously, I believe that Kevin (Harvick) made a mistake tonight and that’s just part of it. I was just on the short end of the stick.”
Former JGR driver Joey Logano won the race, followed by his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski. Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.
Busch’s frustrations were the continuation of a bad weekend at Bristol, after finishing 24th in the Camping World Truck Series race on Thursday with his own Toyota Tundra. On Friday night, Busch was leading the Nationwide Series race on a restart with seven laps to go. In a case of he-said, he-said, eventual winner Ryan Blaney said Busch “didn’t go,” while Busch felt Blaney jumped the start.
"The leader is always at the biggest disadvantage," said Busch, who finished second and led twice for 161 laps in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry. "The 22 (Blaney) was five mph faster than me by the first double stripe. I didn’t go because I didn’t want to go, but everybody behind me is trying to go. It’s stupid. One of these days I’m going to lock all four down and stack the whole field up. You’re supposed to be nose-to-nose on the restart. When the leader picks up pace, everybody else (is supposed to) pick up pace."
Erik Jones finished eighth in the No. 20 Resers Main Street Bistro Toyota, while Elliott Sadler, who led three times for 27 laps, finished a disappointing 29th after being involved in a few incidents throughout the Food City 300.
Chase Elliott, Ty Dillon and Regan Smith rounded out the top five Friday night.
The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series visit Atlanta Motor Speedway for a Labor Day weekend showdown next weekend. Keep up with the action at joegibbsracing.com.
Some quotes in this piece provided by NASCAR.
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