NASCAR Recap: Irwin Tools Night Race



Bristol made headlines all right, just not for the reason most fans expected.

Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race featured a battle between two Chase contenders, technical troubles and another win for Roger Penske. Here’s why his team wasn’t the big winner of the night.

Win: Stewart Haas Racing

Kevin Harvick didn’t win but notched his 17th top 5 and 21st top 10 of the 2015 Sprint Cup season. As the Chase nears, points matter. Harvick is a points machine. If he weren’t racing to defend his Sprint Cup title at Homestead, I would be stunned. Add Kurt Busch’s reclamation and Danica Patrick’s new sponsor, it makes you forget about Tony Stewart’s struggles on the track.

Lose: Roush Fenway Racing

Bristol is Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s best track. Tennessee is Trevor Bayne’s home state. Greg Biffle has good history here. The best anyone could muster for Jack Roush was a 15th place finish for Bayne.

Of greater concern, Kyle Busch, in spite of missing the first 11 races of the 2015 Sprint Cup season, could pass Stenhouse Jr. and Bayne in points over the next two weeks. Both were considered can’t miss prospects years ago. In this world of immediate gratification and shrinking sponsorships, I wonder how much leeway Jack Roush has.

Draw: Joe Gibbs Racing

Kyle Busch led the most laps and increased his Chase chances by finishing eightth. Denny Hamlin owned the poll. Carl Edwards finished seventh.

The one thing that might strike some concern in the heart of Joe Gibbs is an engine, in particular the failure for Matt Kenseth in his quest to sweep at Bristol. If this were a Chase race, Kenseth’s superb season would be a lost cause. Engine issues have plagued JGR in the past. As the team has rolled through the middle of this Sprint Cup season, it could be the concern that derails the team’s 2015 title hopes.

There are two races left until the Chase. Let’s see how Darlington shakes things up in two weeks, and insert a random catchphrase here.