26 August 2012
Hamlin dances to Bristol victory
"I don't know if an oil line broke or what, but something happened between three and four because I started to slide around in my own oil," he said. "That was kind of the end of our night."
While most of the leaders took the chance to pit - Kahne more than once to get the damage sorted out - Logano stayed out and picked up the lead once more ahead of Brian Vickers, Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose who were all following the same strategy. Vickers was looking ready to pounce on Logano for the lead when the yellows were out for a crash involving Ryan Newman, which started when Juan Montoya tapped Newman coming out of turn 4 and ended with Newman collecting Jeff Burton on the front stretch.
"He just said somebody got into the left-rear of him and cut the left-rear tyre," explained Newman's crew chief Tony Gibson. "The lap before that he started getting really loose and then the very next lap, it just turned around on him. He didn't say anything about the #42 car - I think we were going to spin out no matter what with that left-rear tyre. By the time we saw it he has already spun. It's a shame."
"I saw Ryan got in trouble and he started spinning," said Burton of the incident from his point of view. "He looked like he was going to stay against the wall, and so I committed to the bottom and then he started in and I couldn't get turned back to the right. It was pretty disappointing. We had a really fast car tonight."
Burton was able to get the #31 repaired and rejoin the race after a length delay, but Newman was done for the night: "[The impact] drove the frame into the motor and it's just too far gone. We couldn't fix it; not safe enough to go back out," confirmed Gibson.
Differing pit strategies saw Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Juan Montoya, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer take charge for the restart on lap 200, with Hamlin soon proving the fastest of the pack and taking the lead six laps later. He didn't have long out front before Aric Almirola and David Gilliland got together in turn 1 on lap 224 and found the wall as a result, bring out out another caution during which Hamlin was the first of about half the field to come down pit road.
Now it was Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth in control of the restart with Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski in close support as the race passed the halfway point. However, Keselowski's hopes for a successful day ended on lap 271 when he spun out of turn 2 and slammed the nose into the inside wall to bring out the seventh caution of the race.
"Something happened to the #55 car, Brian Vickers, and he checked-up," said Keselowski. "I don't know if he had an engine problem or something of that nature and it just checked-up the whole line. I couldn't go anywhere and got hit from behind and it put me into the fence. Not really anybody's fault. It's just a combination of factors of the way the racing is now here. We got caught up in it.”
Ongoing off-sync pit strategies meant another change at the front, with Jimmie Johnson now in charge for the restart on lap 276 ahead of Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards, all of whom chose not to pit. That stayed fairly constant through to the next caution on lap 322 for an accident involving Regan Smith and Kurt Busch, and the ensuing pit stops once again changed the line-up at the front.
Now it was Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart on the front row for the restart on lap 328, but this proved a disastrous combination as the two fought over the lead over the next few laps and finally made repeated contact on lap 333, which finally sent Kenseth sliding across the frontstretch into the inside wall where he was collected by Stewart. Kenseth's wounded car was able to drive away from the scene of the accident, but Stewart was left fuming - and when he got the chance, he threw his helmet into the nose of the #17 when it was in range.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Sam Hornish Jr.
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