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Bristol, TN (August 24, 2013) - Matt Kenseth held off a fast charging Kasey Kahne to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway tonight. Meanwhile Kyle Busch battled from the back of the field to finish 11th and a late accident left Denny Hamlin to finish 28th.
Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the fifth position and was able to run in the top five through the first couple of green flag runs. Different pit strategies would drop Kenseth outside the top ten and he was running 12th on lap 150. He would re-enter the top ten just a few laps later and was up to eighth by lap 175 and then up to sixth when a caution came out three laps later. Kenseth would come down pit road and restarted seventh. He was able to drive his way back into the top five and was still fifth for another restart on lap 209. A great run on the outside lane would allow him to jump up to second and on lap 237 he would pass the leader to take the top spot. NASCAR ruled Kenseth was too fast on pit road and the penalty sent him to the back of the lead lap cars in 27th. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make a call for two tires under caution which allowed Kenseth to gain 10 spots and restart sixth on lap 344. Another caution would come just a few laps later and he would restart third on lap 368. He would regain the lead on lap 375. He would continue to hold the lead through multiple restarts. With fears of running out of fuel and racing on old tires, the veteran driver managed to navigate his way through the closing laps while holding off a fast charging Kasey Kahne to win.
After winning both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Wednesday and dominating the NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night, Kyle Busch entered Saturday night seeking another Bristol sweep. The challenge would be made a bit more difficult when a spin during his qualifying lap resulted in starting the No. 18 Doublemint Toyota in 43rd. He would patiently work his way forward and was running 13th as the race passed 100 laps. A short time later Busch would get loose and ran up the track into the outside wall and receive contact from the 22 car. The Doublemint team was able to make repairs on pit road to keep him on the lead lap but the handling of the car had changed and the 18 car was back to 30th.
Crew chief Dave Rogers would bring the No. 18 Camry back down pit road for more repairs and adjustments to help improve the handling on the car. He would restart 26th on lap 185 and continued to run in the mid 20s at the halfway point. The Doublemint Camry would not pit under caution allowing him to restart second on lap 265. Busch was able to keep the car in the top ten despite a long green flag run on older tires. He would restart seventh following a caution on lap 368 and was running sixth with 100 laps to go. He would remain out the rest of the way with tires wearing down and attempting to save enough fuel to make it to the end, Busch would bring the 18 Camry home in 11th.
Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota on the pole and led the opening 22 laps of the race. He was running second when the first caution came out and the team made the call to remain out with the other leaders. Hamlin would get caught on the bottom line and fell back to fifth on the next run. Various pit strategies would leave Hamlin back outside the top 15 and the handling on his FedEx machine was not the same back in traffic. Crew chief Darian Grubb would call for two-tires while under caution and the team was able to gain Hamlin 13 spots on pit road allowing him to restart third on lap 185. He would settle into the second spot following the restart. Hamlin would hold that spot for several laps but the long green flag run on older tires would cause him to fall back several spots. He would restart 10th on lap 368 and continued to hold that spot with 100 to go. Hamlin would pit when a caution for debris came out on lap 438 for tires, fuel and adjustments to help with tight conditions on his FedEx Camry. He restarted 12th but was caught up in an accident on the restart when the 55 came down on him making contact and causing his right front tire to go down. That forced Hamlin up the track setting off a large accident. The team fought hard to keep him on the track but the damage would prove too costly and he would fall several laps off the lead. He would finish 28th.
Kenseth won for the fifth time this season, followed by Kasey Kahne, Juan Pablo Montoya, Brian Vickers, and Joey Logano rounded out the top five. There were 11 cautions for a total of 74 laps and 16 lead changes among nine different drivers.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head south to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week for a Sunday night race under the lights. ESPN will have live coverage beginning with its pre-race coverage at 7 PM ET (race begins at 7:30 PM ET).