Fortunately for Truex there was a sixth caution minutes later on lap 344 for debris in turn 2 and Truex got his lap back by claiming the lucky dog free pass. All the leaders came in and opted for four-tyres, knowing well that they would need at least one more trip down pit lane before the end of the race.
At the restart on lap 350, Jimmie Johnson led Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne to the green flag, which saw Johnson race off to a 1.4s lead leaving the Busch brothers to show a side-by-side display of high speed sibling rivalry for second, with the #18 came out top in. In fact, Kurt's form seemed to have peaked, and he was soon passed by Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle as he started to fall off the lead pace.
Johnson had just succeeded in putting Tony Stewart a lap down when the seventh caution flew on lap 427 for a spin by David Gilliland on the front straightaway. Stewart got the free pass back onto the lead lap as the cars came in for what looked to be their final stop of the day - and once again tyre wear was on everyone's minds, none of the leaders trying a two-tyre strategy this week.
Pit stops have all too often proved to be the bane of Jimmie Johnson's racing day, and it proved the case once again at Bristol: Johnson's rear tyre changer slipped while running from the right to the left side of the car, costing Johnson valuable time and two positions. "Amazing, one little slip on pit road, what it equals on the racetrack," observed Johnson afterwards. "The race off pit road is what got us."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. could sympathise with that feeling. He had worked his way up into the top ten by this time despite having gone a lap down early on and needing the free pass under the third caution to get back onto the lead lap. But during this round of pit stops he got a pit lane speeding penalty that put him all the way down the back of the leap lap again. "I gave up about four spots with that speeding on pit road. Should have finished in the top 10," he said, but remaining upbeat: "Pretty good finish otherwise. We didn't really have a very good car when the race started. [Crew chief Steve Letarte] and the whole team have made the car better every day, every race. It's been awesome."
"Our guys on that last pitstop won this race coming out of the pits firs," agreed Kyle. "I don't know if I could have got by Carl," he conceded, adding: "Carl was good."
That left Kyle Busch in charge at the restart on lap 435 ahead of Edwards, Biffle, Johnson and Harvick. But it was a very messy one: Kevin Harvick made contact with Mark Martin through turns 3 and 4 and spun, and with the field so bunched up on this cramped half mile circuit the fall out behind them was inevitable, inflicting heavy damage on Martin, Jamie McMurray, Trevor Bayne, Juan Montoya, Clint Bowyer and others.
The track went green again on lap 444 but once again soon hit trouble and went back under caution for a spin in turn 4 by Travis Kvapil on lap 450. With just 50 laps to go till the end, some cars - including Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. - came into the pits, but the leaders stayed out and so Kyle led the now-usual suspects of Edwards, Biffle, Johnson and Menard to the green flag ... and once again the track almost immediately went yellow, this time because of smoke coming from the blown engine of the #33 of Clint Bowyer. At least Brad Keselowski was happy with the caution, as the free pass put him back on the lead lap at just the right time of the day.
Fortunately this staccato green/yellow/green/yellow period was now behind them, and once the track went green again on lap 463 it ran caution-free all the way to the chequered flag. Kyle Busch had led the restart but almost immediately Carl Edwards turned on the pressure and the two were locked in combat, with Jimmie Johnson soon arriving on scene to make it a three-way battle for the lead. Edwards briefly led on lap 474, and minds flashed back to the history of Edwards/Busch encounters at Bristol at the past - when Edwards had won by bumping Busch out of the way in 2008. But Kyle could see a slice of history in his sights with the chance of that second consecutive clean sweep of Sprint Cup/Nationwide/Truck events in a single weekend and he was not going to be denied - he pushed his way back in front and started to pull away, pulling out a 0.5s lead with ten to go that survived even coming up on the back of lapped traffic.
As the laps counted down, the only driver to hit problems inside the last ten was Joey Logano, who suffered a broken wheel and contact with the wall; but he held it together and NASCAR resisted the temptation to show the yellow as Logano successfully made his way back to pit lane without causing anyone else any problems.