BRISTOL — Joe Gibbs Racing continues to dominate the IRWIN Tools Night Race.
Matt Kenseth’s close victory over Kasey Kahne on Saturday night was the organization’s second straight win in the event and its fourth in the last five years. Brad Keselowski, in a Dodge for Penske Racing, was the only non-Gibbs winner over the stretch with his victory in the 2011 event.
Roush-Fenway Racing, which previously Kenseth drove for, won four straight races prior to Gibbs’ recent run.
There wasn’t a sellout for Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race, the eighth race since the track last had a capacity crowd.
A streak of 55 consecutive sellouts came to an end in March 2010, and the track has experienced up- and-down attendance since then.
NASCAR now longer gives estimates for attendance, but there were quite a few empty seats on the backstretch and between turns 1 and 2.
The crowd was definitely down from a near capacity crowd for August 2012, but well ahead of the last two crowds for March. Judging from past estimates, it looked around 140,000 fans, still the largest crowd to attend a sporting event in Tennessee this year.
Kyle Busch fell short in his bid for a weekend sweep of NASCAR Truck Series, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races.
While he won each of the first two races, he had to start last place in Saturday’s race.
Pit strategy put Busch in second place on a lap 256 restart, but he wasn’t able to maintain the position. Still, Busch posted a solid run with a 11th-place finish.
Mark Martin, in his first race substituting for the injured Tony Stewart, was never a factor.
Starting 11th, Martin faded early to the back of the lead lap. It got worse for the veteran driver who suffered a flat tire around lap 300 and lost three laps in the pits.
Martin ended with a 20th-place finish.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. led from laps 94 to 125 on Saturday night.
The 32-lap stretch marked the most laps led by Earnhardt at the high-banked short track since he was front for 35 circuits at the 2006 August night race.
Bristol Motor Speedway proved to be a tough place for Ryan Truex to make his Sprint Cup Series debut.
The 21-year-old younger brother of veteran driver Martin Truex Jr. bounced off the wall on the first lap, causing damage to his No. 51 Chevrolet.
He lasted just 39 laps before retiring his car.
The racing is not over yet.
Kingsport Speedway is hosting a 250-lap race for the CARS Pro Cup Series (formerly Hooters Pro Cup) today at 2 p.m.
The Rookie Pure 4 and Pure 4 classes and the Legends division will also be in action.