Bristol race draws record ratings

Jeff Birchfield • Aug 27, 2013 at 9:20 PM

Saturday’s television broadcast of the IRWIN Tools Night at Bristol Motor Speedway drew the largest audience to watch the race since ESPN and ABC returned to live NASCAR coverage in 2007.An average of 6.3 million watched Matt Kenseth hold off Kasey Kahne for his third victory in the August night race. According to the Nielsen Compnay, that was an increase of more than 400,000 viewers from the previous year’s Sprint Cup race. The telecast earned a 3.9 U.S. household rating, up from 3.7 for last year. This came despite the race not shown on ABC in seven markets which aired NFL pre-season games.There was more good news for Bristol with ratings increase of nearly 100,000 viewers for Friday night’s Food City 250 Nationwide Series race.———Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer each clinched spots in the Chase for the Championship at Bristol.Kenseth clinched a wild-card berth with his series-leading fifth win of the season, while Bowyer clinched a top-10 spot.Points leader Jimmie Johnson had already secured a berth prior to Bristol, while several drivers can clinch on Sunday night. Any driver 49 points ahead of 11th-place will clinch a top-10 spot at Atlanta.Regardless of how any other driver finishes, Carl Edwards will earn a spot with a 38th-place finish or better.Kevin Harvick needs a 31st or better, while a top-10 finish will ensure Kyle Busch’s entry.Other drivers who seem to be in great shape are Dale Earnhardt Jr. with a 33-point lead over 11th, and Kasey Kahne, who is 20 points ahead and also in line for a wild-card spot with two wins.If the season ended today, Joey Logano would have the last entry on points, while Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman would have the wild cards. Three former series champions — four-time champ Jeff Gordon, defending series champ Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch —would all miss the Chase.———Defending NHRA Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson heads to Indianapolis this weekend in search of a first win in the U.S. Nationals.The Greeneville driver has already clinched a spot in the NHRA’s “Countdown” and is currently taking part in a two-day test with teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. at St. Louis. They are scheduled to leave for Indianapolis tonight.It’s been a fruitful summer for the Dodge Avenger driver, highlighted by his fifth win in the past seven years in his sponsor’s NHRA Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Denver. Johnson, a 20-time NHRA national event winner, has reached the semifinals at the U.S. Nationals on five different occasions. ———Bristol Dragway hosts the first-ever Fun Ford Weekend and Mopar Thunder doubleheader this Friday and Saturday.The weekend kicks off Friday at 11 a.m. with a car show featuring both Ford and Mopar favorites, followed by a 6 p.m. test-and-tune session open to all manufacturers. Racing begins at 9 a.m. Saturday with time trials and the first round of an All-Manufacturers Gamblers Race. In addition to the Gamblers Race, Saturday’s on-track action features Mopar and Ford bracket races along with a throwback clash between Nostalgia Funny Cars Solid Rock Mustang and Gold Coast Charger. A second car show also is on tap for Saturday, along with an organized swap meet that provides any car enthusiasts an opportunity to locate those rare parts and pieces needed for their next restoration project.Gates open at 10 a.m. Friday and 8 a.m. on Saturdays.

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