Clint Bowyer saved fuel in his No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota while holding off the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Denny Hamlin, also in fuel mileage mode, to take the checkered flag in the Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night. The win moved Bowyer past Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, to claim fourth in the championship points standings.
"We played the strategy correct," No. 15 crew chief Brian Pattie said. "Fuel mileage was great. Three wins is awesome. This should get us back in the Chase."
I wanted to do a burnout.
Hamlin was third, and Jimmie Johnson finished a distant third in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
"Gosh, I wonder how much fuel I had left," Hamlin wondered after the race. I saved so much. I could've left something on the table.
Johnson also admitted to being a little cautious near the end.
"We were just being really cautious," Johnson said. "We just didn't want to race up there to the No. 11 and get in trouble."
As Hamlin and Johnson were playing safely behind them, Bowyer was leaving nothing on the table while running up front. He wound up running out of fuel right after taking the checkered flag.
As the race field began to cycle through green-flag pit stops with just under 70 laps to go, several drivers waited until the end of the cycle to make their stops, planning to stretch the fuel they got then the rest of the way.
Bowyer, Hamlin and Johnson were among them. So was series points leader Brad Keselowski in the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge. Keselowski waited a little too long to make his stop during the cycle, running out of fuel just before hitting pit road. Keselowski and his No. 2 team aborted the plan to make it their last stop and pitted again with most of the remainder of the race field with just under 25 laps to go.
After the race, Bowyer commended his crew chief and team on the strategy.
"Brian Pattie -- the team he's assembled around me is a great group of guys," Bowyer said.
That extra stop put Keselowski a lap down, and he wound up finishing 11th after leading the most laps. He was, however, able to maintain his position as the points leader; but Johnson cut his lead margin in half, from 14 points to seven.
Only six cars finished on the lead lap, with Greg Biffle finishing fourth in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, and Kyle Busch finishing fifth. Mark Martin's No. 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota was the last of the lead-lap cars, finishing sixth.
Finishing seventh through 10th were Carl Edwards in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Kasey Kahne in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Joey Logano in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.