Elliott Sadler was celebrating in victory lane for the second time in 2012 - and the season's only four races old. This one at Bristol Motor Speedway was particularly special to him, however.
"What a great day. This is Bristol. I wanted this worse than anything because I love this track so much," he said. "To win two of the first four races is awesome, and we've got to keep adding to them. There's blood in the water is what they say."
The Ford EcoBoost 300 got underway with the green flag being waved by former series champion Carl Edwards, and then settled into the longest ever caution-free stint ever to open a race on the half mile concrete oval, with no yellow for 104 laps.
Joey Logano had earlier won pole position with a lap of 15.448s (124.210mph) just 0.132s ahead of Trevor Bayne, and the two comfortably led the race for more than 50 laps until Kyle Busch arrived on the scene, having worked his way up from a starting position of eighth. He slid past Bayne on lap 54 and then took the lead from Logano on lap 68, showing just why he's won so many times at Bristol.
With such a long caution-free period, many cars were chased off the lead lap - including Danica Patrick - before a yellow finally emerged for Joey Gase hitting the wall, just in time for the field to make their pit stops. It proved a problematic stop for Busch, who dropped behind Logano again and then made slight contact with the #18 at the restart and then made an unscheduled pit stop less than 20 laps later with a serious vibration caused by a loose right front wheel. Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Scott also had stops to forget after they picked up speeding penalties.
Busch was now well down the running order (a lap down in 19th place after his emergency stop) leaving Logano to lead the race with Elliott Sadler in second at the midway point, when Sam Hornish Jr. went for a spin in turn 2. The leaders both came in for another pit stop, and the restart on lap 164 saw Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne, Justin Allgaier slot in ahead of Logano.
It was a very brief green flag, with TJ Bell hitting the wall hard in turn 2 on the very first time around, but that was a big boost to Busch who was able to get the wave-around back onto the lead lap. Bayne led again at the restart, but was soon under pressure from his Roush Fenway Racing team mate Stenhouse, the two of them running side-by-side at the front as the race entered its final 100 laps.
"It is good for us to be battling like that for the lead," insisted Bayne of the battle royale with Stenhouse, before admitting: "It's not fun when you are holding your breath every corner trying to hang on to one at Bristol!
Bayne held on, but he found himself held up by the lapped Danica Patrick and that gave Stenhouse the opportunity to slip past for the lead on lap 224, with Brad Keselowski also quickly getting past Bayne for second place. Elliott Sadler had just demoted Bayne to fourth when a new caution came out: Kyle Busch's recovery operation had ended up in a thumping encounter with the wall in turns 3 and 4 after a tyre seam melted on lap 260 with 40 laps to go, leaving Busch with right side damage albeit still running in 14th place and without losing a lap.