Check out the top moments from all three series at Bristol Motor Speedway in this edition of Weekend Top Five.
What: 55th annual Irwin Tools Night Race . Where: Bristol Motor Speedway , .533-mile oval in Bristol , Tenn. When: Saturday, Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m. ET. TV/Radio: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Distance: 500 laps, 266.5 miles. Pit road speed: 30 mph. Caution car speed: 35 mph. Fuel window: 150 laps. On the front row: " Full lineup Denny Hamlin , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota (131.407 mph) Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (131.263 mph) Did not qualify Travis Kvapil , The Motorsports Group No. 30 Chevrolet; Jeb Burton , BK Racing No. 26 Toyota; Reed Sorensen, Premium No. 62 Motorsports Chevrolet Fastest in practice First practice: Kyle Larson , Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates No. 42 Chevrolet (129.833 mph) " Results Final practice: Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (131.146 mph). " Results Driver rating (Best driver rating average at Bristol based on past 21 races): Matt Kenseth (104.6) Jeff Gordon (100.3) Last year's winner Joey Logano , Team Penske No. 22 Ford. Milestones in the mountains Two drivers in the field will click off landmark starts in NASCAR's premier series Saturday night. Ryan Newman is scheduled to make his 500th Sprint Cup appearance in Bristol's annual night race, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr . will be making his 100th start in the series. For one of the two, the occasion came as a surprise. "I honestly had no idea until someone informed me of it this week," Newman said. "500 is definitely a career milestone but for me, the biggest career start was my very first one. You got to have people who believe in you enough to just give you a chance and for that I am truly grateful." Gordon's landmark The return of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevy's rainbow paint scheme may be a 'one weekend only' occurrence, but Bristol Motor Speedway gave Jeff Gordon a sustaining gift Friday that will last ages. A swath of seats in the mammoth grandstands will be known as the Jeff Gordon Terrace, joining sections named for stock-car racing legends -- Earnhardt, Allison, Petty, Pearson, Waltrip, Johnson, Wallace, Yarborough and Kulwicki. History lesson Then named Bristol International Speedway , the .533-mile track debuted with the Volunteer 500 on July 30, 1961. Jack Smith was credited with the inaugural victory, but he was behind the wheel for only the first 290 laps, giving way to relief driver Johnny Allen for the final 210 circuits in the searing summer heat. They said it "One in 43." -- Matt Kenseth on weighing his chances of securing a second consecutive Sprint Cup victory, and a Bristol season sweep, this weekend. Former Bristol winners in field Kurt Busch , Kyle Busch , Jeff Gordon (5); Matt Kenseth (4); Carl Edwards (3); Brad Keselowski (2); Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Denny Hamlin , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Joey Logano , Tony Stewart (1)
RELATED: Bristol results " Chase Grid " By the numbers since Busch's return With only two races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, it's time to check in on Kyle Busch , driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing , as he tries to rebound from missing 11 races to early season injuries and make the Chase. He is currently the only driver with multiple wins who has yet to mathematically clinch a spot in the Chase. WHAT JUST HAPPENED: Busch started second in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway , sharing the front row with pole-sitting teammate Denny Hamlin 's No. 11 Toyota. He followed a win in Friday night's green-white-checkered finish in the XFINITY Series with an eighth-place finish in the Sprint Cup race. A green-flag stop for a loose wheel and a penalty for speeding on pit road cost Busch a shot at winning the race despite leading the most laps, 192 of 500. WHAT HE NEEDS: Staying out of trouble remains a priority. Busch must remain in the top 30 in the drivers points standings and is in 29th after Bristol , 46 points ahead of 31st-place driver Cole Whitt . But after Saturday's race, Busch is closer to 28th place, just one point behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., who finished 21st at Bristol . There is a good chance Busch could lock up his Chase spot at Darlington next week. WHAT'S NEXT: The Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles' Southern 500 on Sept. 6 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "The Lady in Black" is a tough track to tame, and the low downforce package that teams ran at Kentucky Speedway will also be used at Darlington. Busch won at Kentucky and was among the drivers who raved about the new aero package. He also has one win at Darlington, in 2008, and has an average finish there of 13.6.
RELATED: Bristol schedule " Paint schemes for Bristol It's no longer the pits, figuratively speaking, when setting up shop in a pit stall on the backstretch at Bristol Motor Speedway . Because it is the only track that still features pit stalls on the front (Nos. 1-22) and back (Nos. 23-43) of the track, teams forced to pit on the backside of the tiny, half-mile bullring often found themselves at a competitive disadvantage, hitting pit road only after those stopping on the frontstretch had already been in for service. Teams pitting on the frontstretch entered pit road at the exit of Turn 4 while those pitting on the back remained behind the pace car until they reached the exit of Turn 2 and were allowed to drop down onto the backstretch of pit road. That changed in 2002 when track officials began requiring all cars to enter pit road in Turn 2, regardless of where their pit stall was located. Now, teams pitting on the frontstretch must maintain pit road speed all the way around to their respective pit stalls before returning to the track in Turn 1. Those pitting on the backstretch get service first, but must also maintain pit road speed all the way back around to Turn 1, still utilizing pit road, before returning to the track as well. It hasn't lessened the advantage of qualifying on the pole and choosing the first pit stall closest to the pit-out area in Turn 1 – that remains a prime piece of real estate regardless of track location. Matt Kenseth , winner of the spring race at BMS, started on the pole and was pitted in pit stall No. 1. But Kenseth also won from a backstretch pit stall (in the 2013 night race at BMS) as did Kasey Kahne (in the spring race of '13). Four of those finishing in the top 10 in this year's spring race at Bristol pitted on the backstretch. When under green, teams pitting on the frontstretch enter pit road off of Turn 4 while those pitting on the backside of the track enter at Turn 2. BMS hosts the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Wednesday night with the running of the UNOH 200 . The Food City 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race is set for Friday night and on Saturday the track hosts the annual Irwin Tools Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM). Split Decision NASCAR officials took no action beyond obtaining the splitters from the Team Penske No. 2 and 22 entries prior to last weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway , leaving most folks to wonder what all the fuss was about. On Sunday morning, officials said the splitters on the cars of Brad Keselowski (No. 2) and teammate Joey Logano (22) were "so close ... we just asked the team to err on the safe side and asked them to switch to a clean splitter." The two pieces were evaluated this week at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. A Reason for Increase in Violations There number of violations on pit road this past weekend at Michigan tripled compared to the series' visit there in June. However, the June race was cut short by rain, with only 138 of the scheduled 200 laps completed. This past weekend's race saw 24 penalties handed down for pit road miscues compared with eight in the series' first stop at the 2-mile track. Tires Good to Go The tire codes for this weekend's Sprint Cup , XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series races at Bristol are unchanged from recent combinations used at the concrete half-mile, according to Goodyear officials. It is the only track where this particular set of tire codes are currently used.
Practice 2 " Complete final practice results After coming in third in opening practice, Kyle Busch 's No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota rocketed around Bristol Motor Speedway and to the top of the leaderboard in Friday's second practice session. "Rowdy" recorded a fast lap of 131.146 mph, a speed that rivals the previous qualifying track record Kevin Harvick set in 2014 (131.362 mph). David Ragan made a late run to earn the second spot on the leaderboard, maneuvering his No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota at 130.646 mph around the short track. Having led the opening practice, Kyle Larson 's fast lap of 130.018 mph allowed him to spend some time at the top of the leaderboard before setting for third on the board in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet. Team Penske 's Joey Logano came up next, wheeling a fast lap of 129.587 mph for the fourth position, while Joe Gibbs Racing 's Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five (129.404 mph). Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick posted the sixth-fastest speed, recording a high speed of 129.334 mph in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Jimmie Johnson , Martin Truex Jr ., Aric Almirola and Jeb Burton all experienced trouble in the opening session, but were back on track in the final session. Johnson led the corral, posting the ninth-fastest speed (129.073 mph) in his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, while Martin Truex Jr .'s No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet was 21st (127.724 mph). Several drivers attempted qualifying runs during the second session, bringing several drivers' speeds up from the previous session. The Sprint Cup Series is back on track tonight at Bristol at 5:45 p.m. for Coors Light Pole Qualifying (NBCSN). Practice 1: Complete opening practice results Kyle Larson surged to the top of the leaderboard in the final minute of Friday's Sprint Cup practice at Bristol Motor Speedway , propelling his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet around the short track at 129.833 mph to lead the session. Matt Kenseth also made a late run, briefly topping the leaderboard before settling into second with a fast lap of 128.597 mph from his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. The leader for the majority of the hour-and-a-half session, Kyle Busch came up third after Kenseth's late run. "Rowdy" wheeled his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around the short track at 128.580 mph. Michael Waltrip Racing 's Clint Bowyer (128.099 mph) and Joe Gibbs Racing 's Carl Edwards (127.707 mph) rounded out the top five. Wheeling the iconic No. 24 rainbow paint scheme at 126.637 mph, Jeff Gordon posted the 14th-fastest speed in the field. Chase Elliott , who will take Gordon's place in the No. 24 ride next season, watched Gordon from the top of the No. 24 hauler following his own XFINITY practice. Jimmie Johnson missed 38 minutes of the practice after his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet got up high on the track and made contact with the wall nine minutes into the session. He returned to the track and posted the 18th-fastest speed. Jeb Burton and Aric Almirola also hit the wall during the session. Martin Truex Jr . slammed into the wall in the final 10 minutes of practice, forcing the No. 78 team to bring out the backup car.
RELATED: Complete starting lineup BRISTOL , Tenn. -- If it's pole day in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Joe Gibbs Racing must be celebrating. Denny Hamlin powered his No. 11 Toyota around .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway in 14.602 seconds (131.407 mph) on Friday to win the pole for Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race (on NBCSN at 7:30 p.m. ET). In breaking Kevin Harvick 's August 2014 track qualifying record by .005 seconds, Hamlin won his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his third at Bristol and the 22nd of his career. JGR swept the top three spots in qualifying for the second straight week, having accomplished the feat last Saturday on the two-mile track at Michigan International Speedway . The pole was JGR's fifth straight on an oval track ( AJ Allmendinger , in a JTG Daugherty Chevrolet, claimed the top starting spot for the Aug. 9 race on the road course at Watkins Glen). Hamlin edged teammate Kyle Busch (131.263 mph) by .016 seconds. Carl Edwards (130.655 mph) took the third starting spot, followed by David Ragan in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota (130.460 mph) and Joey Logano in a Team Penske Ford (130.344 mph). Hamlin also won the pole for Friday night's NASCAR XFINITY Series race. "To have that two nights in a row here is hopefully going to pay dividends," Hamlin said. "We're excited. Bristol's been a great track for me in the past, and we've got nothing to lose this weekend, just gearing up for the Chase, so I think our FedEx team's ready." Hamlin has a victory at Bristol in addition to his two poles, and with a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup position guaranteed by virtue of his victory at Martinsville in April, he can go all-out for a win on Saturday night without fear of consequences. Busch fought handling issues in the final two rounds of knockout qualifying and went for broke on his final attempt in the last round. "We were just a little too free there the second segment and the first run of the third segment," Busch said. "It's a little edgy up there, so you try not to push too hard, but still make a good lap and come back safely. "Then there at the end we tried a ‘Hail Mary' and it worked. It picked us up speed, but it didn't pick us up that spot." Brad Keselowski , Kevin Harvick , Ricky Stenhouse Jr . Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson grabbed the sixth through 10th spots on the grid, respectively. The qualifying effort was Stenhouse's best of the year. Jeff Gordon will start 24th in his last race at Bristol as a full-time Sprint Cup driver. Travis Kvapil , Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field.
RELATED: Full results from Bristol " Updated standings BRISTOL , Tenn. -- With Kevin Harvick hounding him mercilessly for 63 laps, Joey Logano kept his No. 22 Team Penske Ford out front after taking the lead on a Lap 438 restart and held on to win Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway . Successfully defending last year's victory at Thunder Valley, Logano won his third race of the season, his second at the .533-mile short track and the 11th of his career. Harvick recovered from two pit-road penalties to finish second, a mere .220 seconds behind Logano. Polesitter Denny Hamlin ran third, and Clint Bowyer got a much-needed fourth place result in his No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. RELATED: Ragan, Bowyer get turned at Bristol It was a fascinating chase over the final 63 laps, as Harvick would bury his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet into the corner at the top of the track, catch Logano in the turns and watch as Logano dived to the bottom on corner exit and pull away. "There's not much time to look in the rearview mirror, but I realized how different his line was than mine," Logano said. "He'd drive in so hard and almost get to my back bumper, and then I'd drive off really good. "It's kind of interesting to watch a race like that, when two cars are a similar speed, but in two completely different ways. That's what's so fun about Bristol is you can drive the car about five or six different ways and make it fast, so it's fun to race here." Harvick said Logano's ability to diamond the corner gave the Ford an advantage when it came to working traffic. "He was just one step ahead of me in traffic," Harvick said. "I couldn't get my car to rotate across the center like I needed it to, and every time I tried to force it, it would snap the back out. He was able to go in really high and before the center of the corner drive down the corner and I was just having to wait just a split second to be able to put the throttle back down, and I couldn't do that, that huge diamond all the way to the bottom like he could, and that was really beneficial for him through traffic… "He was able to get those huge runs up off the exit of the corner and just stayed one step ahead of me through traffic, I felt like, and in clean air we probably were a little faster, but it didn't really matter. I had to be in front of him to show that." Brad Keselowski came home fifth, followed by Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch , who led a race-high 192 laps but was hit with a pit road speeding penalty on his last stop under yellow on Lap 432. Logano took over from there and racked up 176 laps out front in a race that saw 14 lead changes among five drivers. The runner-up finish was Harvick's 10th of the season. Dale Earnhardt Jr . finished ninth, followed by Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray , who solidified their positions in the fight for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths on points. McMurray and Newman are 10th and 11th in the standings, respectively, the highest-scored drivers without a victory this season. Given that there have been only 11 different winners in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year, at least three drivers are certain to qualify for the Chase on points. Kyle Busch , a four-time winner and 29th in the standings, also moved closer to locking up a Chase berth, padding his advantage to 46 points over 31st-place Cole Whitt . Busch, who missed the first 11 events of the season because of injury, must remain in the top 30 for the next two races to qualify for the Chase. Busch wasn't pleased when NASCAR flagged him for the speeding penalty, but he made a masterful drive from the rear of the field to eighth place. "I was proud of Kyle, keeping his cool and getting back up, because I think that gave us some more points, some more cushion there," team owner Joe Gibbs said. "I think he's doing a really good job of focusing and not losing his poise."
RELATED: Complete lineup for Bristol night race " Drivers' intro songs BRISTOL , Tenn. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Managing Director Richard Buck made a point to reiterate restart rules in Saturday's pre-race drivers' meeting at Bristol Motor Speedway , leading to a spirited discussion among drivers and car owners alike. The comments came just hours ahead of the annual Irwin Tools Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM), and three days after Ryan Blaney was black-flagged for jumping a restart during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at the .533-mile track. "Starts and restarts: We need everybody's help tonight to tighten up the starts and restarts," Buck told the group. "That means nose-to-tail, door-to-door. It's a small restart zone, we all know that, so we need everybody's help. The leader is the control car and it's his responsibility or her responsibility to bring the field down at the caution car speed and restart at the restart zone." The reminders sparked a question from team owner Chip Ganassi about whether brake-checking and other forms of gamesmanship would be ruled a penalty. Buck replied that the leader (or "control car," in race officials' parlance) would have the ultimate responsibility for restarting the race in the designated zone. That led to three follow-up questions from Carl Edwards , who referenced Austin Dillon pulling away from him on a restart during last weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway . Buck said that while he applauded Edwards' enthusiasm, race officials have the ultimate say. "We also have multiple resources and multiple people that watch that, OK?" Buck said in response to Edwards' question whether race officials could determine if the leader had pressed the accelerator. "As Chip's question alluded to, there's a lot of gamesmanship going on, but we need you guys to do to be nose-to-tail, door-to-door, be in line when you come to the start. The control car's responsibility is to restart in the restart zone or we will restart it. If there's a judgment call that has to be made, we will make that." Denny Hamlin , Edwards' teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing then asked whether NASCAR officials could revert to the previous rule for double-file restarts, when second-place cars were not allowed to beat the control car to the start-finish line. "That's a longer discussion that we can have," Buck said. "OK, we appreciate the input, but it is the way it is today." Clint Bowyer added the final voice from the assembled crowd, questioning why -- in his opinion -- restart penalties were only called in the Camping World Truck Series. Buck's response: "Trust me, we'll reinforce the rule and I hope you are not it."
Three Sprint Cup Series teams will lose 15 minutes of on-track time this weekend as a result of recent minor infractions. According to NASCAR, the Nos. 27, 32 and 88 teams will serve 15-minute practice time deduction penalties during opening practice at Bristol Motor Speedway , site of Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN). The No. 88 team of Dale Earnhardt Jr . failed race inspection three times at Michigan International Speedway , leading to a warning and time penalty, while both the No. 27 team of Paul Menard and the No. 32 team of Josh Wise were late to qualifying, resulting in their penalties. The splitter was confiscated from Brad Keselowski 's No. 2 Team Penske Ford -- along with his teammate, Joey Logano 's No. 22 -- but no penalties were issued for that. However, the No. 2 team was warned for failing race inspection twice, as was the No. 47 team of AJ Allmendinger . RELATED: NASCAR confiscates Penske splitters First practice is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET on Friday with coverage on NBCSN.
RELATED: Full NXS practice results from Bristol Brendan Gaughan led NASCAR XFINITY Series practice Friday morning with a quick lap of 125.289 mph in the No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet at Bristol Motor Speedway . Another RCR Chevrolet, the No. 33 of Brandon Jones , was quick at the end of practice, notching the second-fastest speed of 124.995 mph, edging out teammate Brian Scott . Scott's No. 2 Camaro was third-fastest with a speed of 124.914 mph at the 0.533-mile concrete oval in Bristol , Tennessee, under clear skies. Sprint Cup regulars Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were fourth- and sixth-fastest, respectively, in their Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. Hamlin's No. 20 posted a speed of 124.897 mph, and Busch's No. 54 was clocked at 124.549 mph. Ty Dillon rounded out the top five in his No. 3 RCR Chevrolet, posting a fast lap of 124.792 mph. Series points leader Chris Buescher was eighth-fastest in the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford at 124.444 mph. The Food City 300 is scheduled for 7:30 ET tonight (NBCSN/Live Extra, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR).