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Mayhem as Harvick wins and Johnson wrecks

Keselowski got the message and moved up to third place, which became second when Newman finally came in for his deferred pit stop on lap 209 which put Johnson correspondingly up into sixth place behind Hamlin as the race reached the hundred-to-go mark. Busch continued to lead, but once again his pace started to wane the longer the green flag run lasted and soon Keselowski was baring down on him and slicing into his lead: car owner Roger Penske was on the team radio to remind Keselowski "Big picture here," and the driver promised in turn to be "a good boy" as he pulled off a clean pass for the lead on lap 233.

The ball was in Jimmie Johnson's court to respond: and he did it in just the worst way possible just seconds later when the #48 went into the wall on lap 235 after his right front tyre blew out on him from excessive brake heat.

“We were cruising along and I think we would have had a top five day or a top ten day if things worked out at the end," Johnson explained. "I had a slight vibration starting in the right front - I didn't really know where it was coming from but clearly now it was the right front. And as I was coming off of turn four, it went down and I went straight in the wall. If I were another 30 or 40 feet around the corner, I probably would just have had a flat and not hit the wall. But, where it let go, I had a direct line to the wall and knocked it down.”

It had indeed been a hard, destructive hit and Johnson was on the radio to crew chief Chad Knaus to say that the brakes had been damaged - this would be no quick bodywork patch-up job with duct tape, and instead Johnson was ordered to take the car straight to the garage for repairs. It was undeniably a major setback for Johnson's hopes of a sixth championship: providing Keselowski could bring home the #2 safely from here then it gave Keselowski the whip hand in the Chase going into the season finale next weekend.

Meanwhile, the field was able to pit under the ensuing caution, with Busch once again coming out at the front ahead of Hamlin and Harvick as Keselowski dropped back to fourth place ahead of Menard and Kahne. At the green on lap 241 Busch disappeared into the distance ahead of the field, but Keselowski was by no means putting up his feet and cruising to the finish now that Johnson was out of the picture - instead he was fighting Hamlin hard for second place.

A fifth yellow came out for David Ragan hitting the wall in turn 3 on lap 272, and Ragan was puzzled by what had caused the damage to his tyre that had precipitated the accident. "We had no tyre issues all day. Everything looked good on our car. I very well could have run over something, but I don't really know what happened," he said. "I cut a tyre going into turn three and that was ultimately the end of our day."

Ragan's accident occurred at the same moment that Johnson re-emerged from the garage with the patch-up repairs to the #48 sufficient to put him back out on the track albeit 38 laps down and with only the meagre prospect of picking up a single spot in the remaining 40 laps of the day's event by overhauling the stricken Ragan in the race standings.

Eight cars opted not to pit under the caution, including race leaders Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin who took the restart with 35 laps to go ahead of Harvick, Kahne, Bowyer and Gordon. No such reckless thoughts of staying out for Keselowski, who pitted for fresh tyres lest the same fate befall him as had so recently happened to the #48 and duly fell to seventh place.

A quick return to yellow for a spin by Tony Stewart at least put Danica Patrick back on the lead lap on a free pass in 20th, as well as meaning another restart attempt on lap 284. The race ran green to lap 300, at which point Sam Hornish Jr. tangled with Patrick which ended up with a tyre going down on the #22 that sent him slamming into the wall in turns 3 and 4 to bring out the seventh caution of the day.

The restart came with eight laps remaining in the race, and Busch's crew chief Dave Rogers was on the radio to tell his man, "Don't overthink it, just do what you do," adding: "Happy thoughts, happy thoughts. This is a walk in the park." Unfortunately the couching didn't prevent Busch from losing the lead to Kevin Harvick at the green flag on lap 314, while behind them Jeff Gordon's run in third place ended with the #24 sliding into the wall after light contact with Bowyer left Gordon with a puncture.




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson drives the wrecked #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet after hitting the wall in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 11, 2012 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 11, 2012 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Police break up fights in the garage area after an on-track incident between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon (neither pictured) during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 11, 2012 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images_
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, and Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet, collide on track during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 11, 2012 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualified for twelfth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. After a three-race absence, Tony Stewart has returned to the track at Atlanta. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, qualified for fourth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Newman is 9th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualified for third position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Larson is 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, won the Pole position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. It was Harvick`s sixth pole win of the 2014 season. He is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick (L), driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, talks to Regan Smith, driver of the #7 TaxSlayer Bowl Chevrolet, in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart at Dover International Speedway on May 30 2014. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images for NASCAR Media)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Serta/Menards Chevrolet SS, finished ninth and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Great Stuff Chevrolet SS, finished 28th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, finished eighth and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, finished 35th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fifth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, is involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Doublemint Toyota, Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 STP Ford, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, are involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 23, 2014 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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