With some drivers, an almighty accident can shatter their confidence as well as their bodies. But with Brad Keselowski, his Road Atlanta testing smash and consequent broken ankle seems to have transformed him into a race-winning machine instead.
Having already won at Kansas at the start of June, Keselowski bounced back just days after his accident to win at Pocono in one of those comebacks that wins the hearts of even hardened hacks. But he wasn't stopping there, following it up with second at Watkins Glen and third at Michigan to send him shooting up the Sprint CUp championship points.
His run of good fortune has to stop sometime. But it certainly didn't stop at Saturday evening's Irwin Tools Night Race on the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway oval.
Ryan Newman had led the field to the green flag just before 8pm on Saturday evening before an estimated audience of 156,000. He was alongside Carl Edwards on the front row, with Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon starting immediately behind them at the start of 500 laps that would take almost three hours to complete.
Newman would lead only the first four laps for the whole night, before Jeff Gordon flexed his muscles and put the #24 into the front through the inside of turn 4 to lead the next 26 laps which included putting Andy Lally and Scott Speed, who had qualified the Whitney Motorsports #46 for the first time but who retired early with brake issues.
A debris caution put Lally back on the lead lap on lap 31 and also put Brad Keselowski into the lead for the first time at the restart after he won the first race off pit road of the night. Keselowski got loose after the green flag and handed the lead to Matt Kenseth who would go on to hold the position for the next 67 laps until the second caution of the night - also for debris - on lap 105, which was considerately timed for the next round of pit stops as well.
Jimmie Johnson won the race off pit road this time and led Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman to the green flag, but it was Jeff Gordon who immediately leapt into action and was challenging Keselowski for second within a lap. He found it tricky to complete the pass and had only just sealed the deal with Travis Kvapil's engine blew down the back straight on lap 128 to bring out the third caution of the night.
After this there was a lengthy 162 lap stint under green for drivers to settle into, which meant that a lot of big name drivers went a lap or more down thanks to the 15s laptime on a half mile oval. Kevin Harvick fell off the lead lap on lap 197, David Ragan and Kasey Kahne soon followed suit, and Tony Stewart (who had started at the back after a miserable qualifying) and Clint Bowyer were two laps down. By lap 233 only 20 cars remained on the lead lap.
Johnson had continued to lead until lap 183, but then Jeff Gordon proved too strong and got around the #48, which promptly slumped back to third behind Matt Kenseth as well. Gordon and Kenseth broke away from the pack and pulled out a 3s lead before the green flag pit stops cycled through just before the halfway point of the race.