Denny Hamlin won the first two segments of the race and, even though he was at the back of the pack late in the event, was still the car to beat. Hamlin grabbed the lead for good on lap 74 and held off a charge by Brad Keselowski to claim his second Sprint Unlimited victory.
They say it takes a combination of luck and skill to be successful in racing, and nobody took that to heart in the Unlimited more than Kyle Busch. After getting together with Brad Keselowski in the final segment, Busch looked to be toast—but somehow managed to hang on to his racecar and contend for the win. He had an almost identical wild ride in the 2012 version of the Unlimited and won that one. He didn’t quite get there this time, finishing third to teammate Denny Hamlin, but Busch again treated fans to his amazing car control. The luck factor also worked in Busch’s favor as the rest of the field avoided his spinning Toyota. But Busch was both lucky and good in this one.
Brian Vickers spun in turn three on lap 396 to bring out the final caution flag of the night. It brought most of the field to the pits, scrambling the running order and cost Juan Pablo Montoya his first win on an oval.
On lap 16, Tony Stewart attempted to change lanes and make a move on race leader Matt Kenseth. While he wasn’t cleared by his spotter, Stewart chose to shift down low which resulted in his left rear corner making contact with the right front of Marcos Ambrose. Stewart’s car got out of shape, made contact with the apron and sent a shower of sparks over several cars that were pursuing him. Jimmie Johnson checked up in the high line, which caused Denny Hamlin to make contact with the five-time champ, turning him down in front of the oncoming pack and ultimately taking out one-third of the field. The accident eliminated defending champion Kyle Busch, two-time Unlimited champion Jeff Gordon, 2006 winner Denny Hamlin and 1999 winner Mark Martin. Just like that, the field was reduced by one-third, many contenders sat idle in the garage and the drafting – along with the racing – became a shell of its former self.
Jeff Gordon intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer, collecting Joey Logano and Aric Almirola as the field was coming to the white flag. The result was a green-white-checkered finish, one that saw Danica Patrick wreck on the first of two laps, lay down a large amount of oil on the track, then cause a complete melee on the front straight as the cars came to the checkered flag. The final wreck tore up over half-a-dozen race cars while the incident between Gordon and Bowyer set off a rumble in the garage, one reminiscent of the Tide team vs. the Kodiak crew at the 1989 Winston.
There was a time when racing hard with the title contenders would have brought out the worst in Kyle Busch. But this time around, Busch put on a clinic of how to do it right. Busch had a top-three car, and when late-race cautions bunched up the field, he had a shot to race Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson for position — and he did it in the best possible way. He didn’t roll over and give either Chase driver a spot; instead, he raced them both with maximum effort, balancing that with controlled aggression. Busch didn’t race them checkers or wreckers; he raced them hard and clean.
The crew chief situation at Richard Childress Racing is in revolving door mode again, as it was announced this week that Drew Blickensderfer would be departing from the organization, while Shane Wilson will finish out the final three races of the year. Elliott Sadler’s Nationwide Series crew chief Luke Lambert will take over as crew …
There were a few typical Martinsville skirmishes on Sunday. Kurt Busch called Kevin Harvick “half-assed” when Harvick refused to cut him some slack as Busch wanted to move into the bottom groove and Harvick got into him instead spinning him around. Johnson was upset with Mears after Mears got into his right front, wrenching the steering wheel from his hands, though no damage was done. Montoya was upset with Johnson, who shoved his way underneath the No. 42 in the closing laps, sending him up the track.
The team and crew chief merry-go-round at RCR continues, with Shane Wilson out as Kevin Harvick’s head wrench starting this Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Gil Martin will return to the role he held last year as Harvick’s signal caller, before being reassigned as the Competition Director for their Nationwide programs. Harvick currently sits …
All the NASCAR world was atwitter this week regarding Kevin Harvick’s comments following the New Hampshire Nationwide Series race. With 22 laps to go, he ran up on the (multiple) lapped car of Amber Cope. While she was passed by two other back markers on the outside in the middle of turn 2 without issue, …