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Irwin Tools Night Race Rewind

Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013
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    BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 24: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 53rd Annual IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 24, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

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    Getty Images

    BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 24: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, celebrates with champagne in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 53rd Annual IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 24, 2013 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

Observations

• Whatever problems Bristol Motor Speedway may have with its spring race, it hasn’t translated over to its more popular summer night race. There was a great crowd on hand Saturday night, and the atmosphere was electric, due in large part to the entertaining prerace show, which is one of the best in NASCAR. Another popular favorite: the national anthem sung by the children of drivers and crew members. If 5-year-olds can get the song right, professional singers should have no problem.

• Saturday night’s race actually ended with an exciting race to the finish as Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne dueled back and forth for the lead. There will be those – and they were already chiming in on social media Saturday night – who won’t be satisfied because neither driver tried to wreck the other to secure the win. Say what you want about Kahne, but when this season’s championship is decided, he will be among the mix.

• Front Row Motorsports picked up its first win earlier this season at Talladega, Ala., with David Ragan, but that was in a restrictor-plate race where teams are more evenly matched. Ragan’s 12th-place finish Saturday night probably spoke just as loudly about that organization’s potential.

Notebook

Logano follows win with fifth: A week after getting his first win of the season in Michigan, Joey Logano kept his momentum going Saturday night. A fifth-place finish in the Irwin Night Race propelled him into 10th place in the series standings. The top 10 are guaranteed a spot in the Chase.

“That was the hardest-fought top-five I’ve ever had in my life,” Logano said. “We went from 20th there with 40 or 50 (laps) to go to finishing fifth. We’re proud of that.”

Logano’s night started slowly. His right-front suffered severe damage after bumping Kyle Busch early in the race. Logano was later set back by a run-in with Denny Hamlin and a piece of debris on his grille. Each time, he battled back. All in all, it was an eventful night for the driver who looked like a long shot for the Chase a few weeks ago.

“I tell you what,” Logano said, “I’m worn out because that was a lot of work. I dug my heart out and this whole team dug their heart out the whole day and this is what we’ve got to do.”

Martin finishes 20th as sub: Mark Martin ended up 20th in his debut as Tony Stewart’s fill-in for the remainder of the 2013 season. Stewart is recovering from two broken bones in his right leg.

“We missed the set-up really bad at the beginning of the race,” Martin said. “We struggled with the car in trying to get it better, and then I pitted wrong and cost us a lap and that was the beginning of the end.”

Mistakes cost Kurt Busch: Kurt Busch led 54 laps early but a wheel-hub problem compounded by a pit road speeding penalty took its toll on the No. 78 team.

Busch was forced to the garage for repairs and ended up finishing 31st. He dropped to 12th in points.

“Well, we are down, but we are not out,” he said. “We have two races to go, and I heard we are only six points out of 10th.”

Don’t park here: After getting involved in an accident with Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick drove his wrecked car into Hamlin’s pit stall and left. Hamlin was returning to his pit for repairs himself, and when Harvick didn’t move his car, Hamlin shoved it out of the way.

Five key moments

1. Kurt Busch leads 54 of the first 76 laps, but a broken wheel hub and subsequent pit road speeding penalty knock him out of contention early.

2. Clint Bowyer is wrecked while leading the race on Lap 176 as lapped traffic causes the first of many incidents.

3. Matt Kenseth takes the lead for the first time on Lap 236 and he would go on to lead the most laps (149).

4. An eight-car wreck on Lap 447 collects several Chase contenders, including Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

5. Kasey Kahne moves into second with 12 laps left and does everything but wreck Kenseth in an attempt to get around him. Kenseth holds on for the win.

Next race

ADVOCARE 500

Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

TV: ESPN

Radio: Performance Racing Network

Last year’s winner: Denny Hamlin

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