After weeks of placing near the top, but never taking the checkered flag himself, Joey Logano shined brightest under the lights at Bristol during the last regular season night race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Circuit. Logano beat his own Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, to secure the win–his sixth career–and third this season.
The Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol is always a fun time and NASCAR adds neat little features, such as drivers choosing their own introduction music, which creates a fun party-like atmosphere. But once the pre-race festivities ended, the real fun began. Pole sitter Kevin Harvick led the first 37 laps but had trouble with Danica Patrick, giving Jeff Gordon a chance to pass into the lead.
Harvick would later spin out Denny Hamlin, who was leading the race. Hamlin then collided with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., knocking the current number two driver in Sprint Cup points out of the race. Hamlin was furious and he threw his HANS (Head and Neck Support) apparatus onto the track towards Harvick. As reported by USA Today, Hamlin spoke of the incident after the race.
“It just didn’t work out. Mistakes happen in racing. I believe Kevin made a mistake tonight. That’s part of it. I was just on the short end of the stick.
“He’s not just going to take somebody out early in the race [on purpose]. I’ve got no problems with Kevin. He was trying too hard too early. These short tracks are about patience. You have to show patience.”
The two drivers took to twitter after the race to address the contact and the HANS incident.
So frustrated man.. Mistakes happen. Just not usually that early. Good job by our team to give me a piece to win with. We will get em in ATL
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) August 24, 2014
And Harvick tweeted an apology.
To many driver mistakes tonight.. Apologize to my team for the speeding penalty to ruin our night & to @dennyhamlin for ruining his.
— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) August 24, 2014
The racing would continue with wild lead changes until Joey Logan finally brought home the win. Matt Kenseth fininshed third, followed by Jimmie Johnson in fourth and Kurt Busch in fifth. Current Sprint Chase leader Jeff Gordon finished 16th after starting second, but he retains his slim lead over Dale Earnhardt, Jr., with 845 points to Junior’s 818.
There are two more races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup regular season with next week’s race at Atlanta, and a return to Richmond Motor Speedway to end the regular season before the ten-race Sprint Cup Chase truly begins. And right now, it looks to be wide open. With the win tonight and third place finish last week, Joey Logan is in the thick of the Chase and is in position to challenge for his first championship. Strap in, it’s going to be a wild ride.
[Images courtesy of Patrick Smith/Getty and AP/Wade Payne]