The NASCAR Cup Series has returned to Bristol Motor Speedway for the most notorious night race in all of stock car racing. Saturday nights race started with Penske teammates on the front row, and Gibbs teammates in the rear after failed pre-race inspections.
Brad Keselowski quickly jumped out to the lead, but only held the top spot until lap 18 when Kevin Harvick took control of the race before Rickey Stenhouse brought out the first caution of the night on lap 29 after contacting Jimmie Johnson. This caution would replace the competition caution originally scheduled for lap 30.
Tyler Reddick and Matt DiBenedetto win the race off pit road with two tires, but Keselowski quickly moved to the lead after the restart. Before the end of the first stage it would be Chase Elliot taking the lead and winning the stage.
Kyle Busch managed to race from the back of the field to second. Unfortunately for DiBenedetto he was unable to maintain a spot in the top ten to capitalize on stage points with his teams’ pit strategy. After the pit stops it was Busch out first and bringing the field to the green flag for the start of stage two.
Dibenedetto took a huge blow to his championship opportunity as he was forced to pit with a loose wheel on lap 185. With 38 laps to go in stage two it was Martin Truex Jr. pitting with a loose wheel. Shortly after leaving pit road Truex slid up the track and got hit hard from behind by teammate Denny Hamlin who received most of the damage from the incident.
It was not long after the incident between the Gibbs teammates that William Byron made hard contact with the #95 car trying to avoid lapped traffic. Byron would bring is car to the garage, ending his race and championship hopes.
Kyle Busch would maintain the lead through the pits and to the end of the stage which came with another caution as Ryan Newman went spinning. In a turn of events it was DiBenedetto earning the free pass. Busch maintained the lead for another 31 laps until Kevin Harvick found his way around the #18.
Problems continued for several playoff contenders as Keselowski loss power steering while Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman were both forced to pit with loose wheels.
Green flags stops started around lap 370, but would be interrupted by a caution on lap 407, leaving only six cars on the lead lap for the final 82 laps.
The final run was an epic battle between two NASCAR legends. Busch only managed to take the lead for a moment, before Harvick surged upfront once more. Busch continued bring pressure but could not get to the Harvick’s bumper before the end of the race.
Kevin Harvick is the sole championship favorite after scoring his 58th career win and a league leading 9th win this season.
Top 5: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola
Eliminated: Cole Custer, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto
The NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action on September, 27th at 7:00PM ET for the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.