Thunder Valley showdown changes the Chase outlook

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It was the fifth win this season for Kenseth but for several of his competitors did not fare well; especially those needing the points to make it into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

We all witnessed the Bristol that we have known and love for so many years. The boys of the Sprint Cup Series came for a showdown under the lights and gave us hands down the best race of the year. Matt Kenseth overcame adversity to win his 5th race of this year and silence the doubters that he and his team lost the magic.

Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota wins
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota wins

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Kenseth earned every ounce of this win as he once again held off a hard charging Kasey Kahne for the third time this season (Vegas, Kansas). With 17 to go, these two drivers were bumper to bumper and it looked as if Kenseth was going to let one slip away. Kenseth and company overcame a pit road speeding penalty and worked their way through the field. Kenseth did not panic and Ratcliff executed perfect pit road/track position strategy to get his driver back into the hunt for the win. Kenseth was not the only one who overcame adversity, as Juan Pablo Montoya also sped off pit road but would mount a similar comeback and finish 3rd.

There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Kenseth is the best driver on the Sprint Cup circuit right now and his ability to hold off Kasey Kahne, who had fresher tires, will revitalize talk of Kenseth being the favorite to win this year’s championship.

Kenseth’s win tonight ties his career high in victories in a season (5) and it is also his third career win at Bristol. All of his wins have come at the night race. Kenseth’s win gives him the series lead in wins and would now be one more bonus point ahead of Jimmie Johnson who has four victories on the season.

Bristol took its toll on many of the competitors of tonight’s race. Kurt Busch was relegated to a 31st place finish after having to come down to pit road because of a loose wheel. The 78 crew replaced the right rear wheel hub and that set him down over 20 laps. Another race leader who caught an unfortunate break was the 99 of Carl Edwards who’s motor let loose at lap 387 after leading 119 laps.

Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

The big incident of the night came when Brian Vickers came across the front of Denny Hamlin. This caused a chain reaction and collected the cars of Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski to name the chase drivers involved. Newman and Truex still hold onto the wild card positions as Logano and Kahne cracked the top 10 with good finishes tonight.

This accident did however knock Brad Keselowski out of the top 10 and also puts Truex Jr two spots back to 14th. Kurt Busch’s aforementioned problem put him 12th in the point’s standings and is now one of the odd men out heading into Atlanta because of his goose egg in the wins column.

Wild Card Standings heading into Atlanta
9. Greg Biffle -123
10. Joey Logano -136
11. Brad Keselowski -140
12. Kurt Busch -142
13. Jeff Gordon -147
14. Martin Truex Jr. -158 WC (1 Win)
15. Ryan Newman -162 WC (1 Win)

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

It was extremely exciting to see such an awesome battle for the lead late in this race. This is Bristol racing at its finest and we got exactly what we expected from Thunder Valley! I mentioned Kenseth in my Bristol preview as I felt this race was the turning point in his season as he had hit a lull of mediocrity since Kentucky. Kenseth needed to win one of the next three races to regain some momentum. With Jimmie Johnson getting wrecked out past midway in this race, Kenseth has taken over the momentum as we approach two races to the Chase. The amazing race that was the Irwin Tools 500 sets the stage for the Labor Day speed fest that is Atlanta. The race for the wild card spots will be all of the rave next Sunday night as well as which drivers will be locked into the Chase heading into Richmond for the final race before the chase.

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Analysis
Tags bristol, chase, crashes, kahne, kenseth, montoya, nascar sprint cup, night race, wild cards