The night race at Bristol is always one to remember due to exciting finishes and driver aggression. With 24 changes for the lead, 8 cautions, and a battle for almost every position on track, this year was no different.
LAP 1: Denny Hamlin started in pole position and got a great launch at the drop of the green flag, leaving 2nd place Kyle Larson and the rest of the field in his rearview mirror.
LAP 15: As the leaders caught lap-traffic, Kyle Larson was able to reel in Hamlin and make the pass for the top spot.
LAP 39: Larson and Hamlin continued fighting for the lead. Swapping the first position 6 times before Hamlin was finally able to pull away.
LAP 69: Joey Logano came to pit road after reporting that the right front tire was going down. Logano’s stop was incredibly slow and put him 3 laps down, an obstacle that the #22 Shell Ford driver was not able to overcome.
CAUTION – LAP 81: The #3 of Austin Dillon had a right-front tire blow and shot up the track in front of Jimmie Johnson. With nowhere to go, Johnson ran into the back of the #3 as they were being lapped by Hamlin. Johnson slid down slightly and scraped the right side of Hamlin’s #11.
During pit stops under yellow, Larson regained the lead once again with Chase Elliott in second as Hamlin dropped farther back in the field.
STAGE 1 END – LAP 125: After a 5-lap, door-to-door battle for the lead between Larson and Elliott, Larson prevailed by only half of a car-length to win the stage and collect the playoff point. Elliott won the race off pit road to pick up P1.
LAP 163: Kevin Harvick made the pass on Elliott for the lead. Though Elliott’s #9 Camaro looked strong in the short-run, it began to fade on long-run speed as he fell back to 4th place, behind Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson.
CAUTION – LAP 189: Aric Almirola was running 14th while passing a lapped car – the #54 of JJ Yeley. Yeley wiggled up the track, hitting Almirola in the left rear quarter panel and sending him into the wall. The left rear of Almirola’s #10 Ford Mustang was heavily damaged, though he was able to continue the race after a brief repair job.
CAUTION – LAP 212: The caution flag waved once again for Aric Almirola. This time, the Ford driver made contact with the #51 of BJ McLeod and spun on Turn 2. Almirola returned to the track once again and continued racing.
CAUTION – LAP 244: The #14 of Clint Bowyer pulled in front of the #27 of Quin Houff without fully clearing him. As a result, Bowyer spun across the nose of the #27 which triggered a 2-lap shootout to the end of the stage. In the pits, Kevin Harvick retired from the race with transmission issues.
STAGE 2 END – LAP 250: Having gained the lead during pitstops, Kurt Busch led the field and held off Daniel Suarez to win his second stage of the season.
LAP 265: After pitting, Kurt Busch lost the lead to his younger brother, Kyle Busch. However, Kyle struggled to maintain the top spot as he battled with Brad Keselowski for several laps.
CAUTION – LAP 362: Continuing with the trend of blown tires, the #88 of Alex Bowman blew the left rear and shot up the track into the wall. With nowhere to go, Joey Logano and William Byron ploughed into the rear of the #88 in a domino-effect pileup.
CAUTION – LAP 372: Just 2 laps after the restart, chaos ensued when Ryan Blaney’s left rear tire blew out. Blaney’s #12 Ford veered up the track, pushing Ricky Stenhouse Jr into the wall and collecting Michael McDowell, David Ragan, and Jimmie Johnson.
LAP 389: Fan-favourite, Matt DiBenedetto, had been running in the Top 10 all night long and with 111 laps to go, found himself in P2. This was an impressive feat for a small team like Levine Family Racing, especially when earlier in the week the team announced DiBenedetto would not be driving for them next season.
LAP 396: DiBenedetto hunted down then-leader Erik Jones. When Jones scrapped the wall, DiBenedetto got past him to lead for the first time all season.
LAP 458: Denny Hamlin, who fought back from earlier issues, got up to second-place and started gaining on DiBenedetto every lap.
LAP 493: When Ryan Newman refused to move for leader DiBenedetto, Hamlin was able to overtake him with just 7 laps to go.
CHECKERED FLAG – LAP 500: Denny Hamlin collected his 4th win of the season, with Matt DiBenedetto finishing just 0.6 seconds behind.
Having been informed earlier in the week that Leavine Family Racing had decided not to renew DiBenedetto’s contract for 2020, this was an emotional race for #95 driver. The fact that he came so close to winning caused him to choke up during post race interviews, as he saw a win as a good way to secure a new ride for next year. Recognizing DiBenedetto’s heartbreak over the loss, Hamlin was quick to apologize for taking the win and assured DiBenedetto his career would flourish.