BRISTOL -- The rough-and-tumble racing was back at Bristol Motor Speedway for Saturday night’s IRWIN Tools Night Race.
The race featured 22 lead changes among 13 drivers and 13 caution periods for 87 laps. Most notably was a crash between leaders Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth on lap 333.
Stewart reacted to the accident by throwing his helmet and hitting Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford. He promised further retaliation.
“I checked-up twice to not run over him (Kenseth) and I learned my lesson there,” Stewart said. “I’m going to run over him every him every chance I’ve got from now until the end of the year, every chance I’ve got.”
Three drivers officially were locked into NASCAR’s ‘Chase for the Cup’ playoffs after Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race, while three others essentially made it due to their wins on the season.
Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned spots in the Chase due to their place in the point standings.
Race winner Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and defending series champion Tony Stewart are virtually locked in, due to three wins this season.
Kyle Busch moved back into the lead for the final wild-card spot for ‘Chase for the Cup’ playoffs. With a sixth-place finish, Busch passed Ryan Newman in the standings. He now holds just an eight-point lead over Jeff Gordon with the series next heading to Atlanta, site of Gordon’s last win.
Denny Hamlin’s victory on Saturday night was the 200th for the No. 11 in the Sprint Cup Series.
It is the winningest number in NASCAR history. Cale Yarborough has the most wins in car No. 11 with 55, followed by Ned Jarrett with 49 wins in the number and 43 wins for Darrell Waltrip. Hamlin is fourth on the list with all 20 of his career wins coming in the No. 11.
Brad Keselowski’s bid for a third straight Sprint Cup Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway came to an abrupt end on lap 270 after a tap from Bobby Labonte on the backstretch.
Keselowski, who ran all three NASCAR national touring series races at Bristol over the week, didn’t finish higher than 25th in any of the three races.
He was 32nd in Friday’s Food City 250 Nationwide Series race and 25th in Wednesday’s UNOH 200 Camping Truck Series race and 30th on Saturday.
It was a miserable night for Stewart-Haas Racing with all three of their cars crashing on the inside retaining wall of the frontstretch.
Defending series champion Tony Stewart was racing Matt Kenseth for the lead on lap 333 when both of them crashed.
Rookie Danica Patrick was running on the lead lap at lap 434 when she slammed into the wall after contact from Regan Smith.
A third team driver, Ryan Newman had contact with Juan Pablo Montoya and smashed the wall on lap 190. He then got hit on the driver’s side by Jeff Burton’s oncoming car.
Stewart finished 27th, Patrick was 29th and Newman wound up 36th.
Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue made her first visit to BMS on Saturday. It was her second trip to a NASCAR race, previous attending a Nationwide Series race at Nashville.
Donahue won a gold medal as part of the 4x100-meter medley relay team at the recent London games.
“The coolest part was when I touched the wall,” she said. “I had three goals -- to have fun, to have a best time and to place well. I did all three of those and I was so excited. You can’t be much happier than that.”
Since winning the gold, the 23-year-old from Lenoir City has been busy from daylight to dark.
“The last month has been pretty crazy,” she said. “The first day was a little overwheming, and ever since then it’s been wild. I’ve really enjoyed going to different schools and I went to a (Tennessee) Smokies baseball game last night. It’s an honor to go to all these things.”
Jason Clarke, one of the busiest actors in Hollywood, was at BMS on Saturday to promote his new movie, Lawless, which will hit theatres on August 31.
The story is based on a Franklin County, Va., bootlegging family. The 43-year-old Australian actor spent weeks in what’s been called the “Wettest County in the World” doing research for the role.
“There’s something mysterious and provocative about the place, the stuff of legends,” he said. “Out of the place were a bunch of free-spirited people who couldn’t be tied down, boxed in or pushed around. At the heart of it, they’re good people. There’s something very appealing about the place.”
Clarke, star of the Fox television drama “Chicago Code” has a pair of other highly anticipated films coming out in the upcoming months.
Zero Dark Thirty, a movie about the decade hunt for Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will debut in December. He also stars with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby scheduled for release in the summer of 2013.
Kingsport Speedway hosts its final race of the season today with the Food Country USA 250 for the CARS Pro Cup Series.
There will also be a $1,000-to-win race for the Street Stock division.
Grandstands open at noon with qualifying starting at 1 p.m. The 75-lap Street Stock feature is slated for 2 p.m. with the Pro Cup race to begin around 4:30 p.m.