By AMANDA VINCENT
Joey Logano repeated as winner of the Irwin Tools Night Race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway on Saturday night, claiming his third win of the 2015 season.
Kevin Harvick finished second after overcoming two pit road penalties, one for his crew going over the pit wall too soon and the other for speeding on pit road.
“I’ve just got to thank everybody on the Jimmy John’s/Budweiser team for just doing what they had to do to stick this out,” Harvick said. “I made a mistake there on pit road and got us behind and just didn’t get our Budweiser Chevy through traffic like Joey did. There were a couple of times when it was pretty close, but I wasn’t letting off the gas. I just needed to be a little bit closer to him to make something happen. But all in all, I’m really proud of my team. They showed the heart and determination that you have to have.”
Logano took the lead from Kyle Busch on lap 225 but fell back to fourth on pit road during a caution just past the halfway point of the race. Carl Edwards got off pit road first to assume the lead, but his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Busch, retook the lead on lap 281. Busch and Edwards then battled back-and-forth for the top spot until both had to make unscheduled green-flag pit stops, Busch for a loose wheel just before lap 350 and Edwards for a cut right-front tire on lap 353.
With Busch and Edwards both heading for pit road, Logano reassumed the lead and ran up front most of the remaining distance, except for some laps led by Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski when Keselowski stayed out during the eighth and final caution of the race with 70 laps to go.
“We’re hitting it at the right time, that’s for sure,” Logano said. “There was a point in the season that we were racing top-10 a lot, but not necessarily for a win. 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.”
JGR teammates Hamlin and Busch started the race on the front row and combined to lead the entire race until Logano took his first lead on lap 225. Throughout the first half of the race, teammate Carl Edwards ran near the front with Hamlin and Busch, and the fourth JGR driver Matt Kenseth joined them near the front, moving toward the front after the first caution on lap 51. Kenseth’s night was cut short, though, with his engine expiring just past lap 100.
Hamlin finished third. Jimmie Johnson finished fourth for his first top-five since the July 4 weekend race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Keselowski finished sixth, and Edwards was seventh. Busch, in addition to his wheel issue, also overcame a pit road speeding penalty during the final yellow flag to finish eighth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman finished ninth and 10th.
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