Going into Charlotte, we all knew that this race was going to be intense, wild, crazy and test tempers of the drivers, crews and fans. And with this being the last night race on the schedule, Charlotte was not disappointing to watch at the end. The beginning was leaving the fans a little disappointed and then BAM the race heated up and turned a little ugly.
Saturday night’s race began with a long green flag runs, interrupted briefly by three separate debris cautions. Greg Biffle, who took the lead from Tony Stewart at lap 50 just after the first round of green flag stops, led 68 laps just before a mistake on pit road at lap 126. Biffle’s crew left a left rear lugnut off during a green flag stop at lap 126, forcing Biffle to come back down pit road, putting Biffle one lap down in 28th. Biffle battled back for a 15th place finish.
Despite starting from the rear due to an engine change, Busch cracked the top 10 as Biffle was shuffled out. Busch continue to work his way through the feel, eventually passing Stewart for the lead at lap 200. Busch led 109 laps but lost the lead to Kenseth with 25 to go.
Eight laps after the pass for the lead, contact between Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman sent Johnson sideways in turn two, slamming the outside barrier. Johnson’s No. 48 machine sat limp on the backstretch with severe front end damage, ending Johnson’s night and possibly his shot at a sixth straight title. And Fans, there is never a reason to cheer when a driver you may not like hits the wall. NEVER something to cheer about when there is a possibility of being hurt and thankfully, Jimmie was not hurt.
“Unfortunate that we wrecked. We got into turn one and the No. 39 (Ryan Newman) was real tight on my outside and pulled me around, from there on I was just hanging on,” said Johnson after being checked and released from the infield care center.”
Johnson finished 34th and now sits 35 points back in eighth.
“We just have to go racing. That is all there is to it,” Johnson stated. “Definitely not the night we wanted. This is not going to help us win a sixth championship. Promise you, this team and myself, we won’t quit. We will go for every point we can from here on out and hopefully we are still champions at the end of the year.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s title hopes took a massive hit as did his teammate, when an unscheduled pit stop at lap 252 due to a vibration relegated him to 30th, two laps down. Earnhardt Jr. finished one lap down 19th and now sits 60 points out of the lead.
But, Matt Kenseth won the Bank of America 500at Charlotte Motor Speedway, stretching his lead over the field in the final laps en route to his third win of the season. Kenseth maintained his lead on the final restart with 12 to go, beating Kyle Busch to the line by 0.968 seconds. Points leader Carl Edwards finished third. Non-Chase drivers Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose brought home top five finishes with their fourth and fifth place finish, respectively.
“It was an awesome win for us,” said Kenseth. “We had a pretty decent car all night. I felt like we had a car that probably the last 150 laps or so that if we could get it to the front it would be hard to beat.”
Kevin Harvick, five points back from Edwards in the points battle, finished sixth. A.J. Allmendinger, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 10. And all the drivers in the top 10 battled to get each of those spots. Kasey Kahne battled back from being spun out by David Ragan proving that he may not be in the Chase for the championship but there is no reason to count Kahne out.