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( – All the ingredients for a playoff duel between Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch came together after the Sharpie 500 at the latest: The two major title rivals harped on each other for 500 laps before Edwards took Kyle Busch by surprise with an easy tap with 30 laps to go. © NASCAR Carl Edwards celebrated his sixth win of the season in Bristol, but the championship leader repaid the maneuver twice with the same weapons, which only earned him a second-place finish and a summons to the stewards, because the second action happened on the out lap, when Busch, visibly angry, drove into the side of Edwards’ Roush Ford without a major braking maneuver. #w1# The Saturday night race at Bristol is quite rightly regarded as the craziest NASCAR party of the year: more than 160,000 spectators populate a battle arena just 800 meters long, where 43 Sprint Cup drivers each with over 800 hp V8 bolides deliver a bone-crushing battle with plenty of temperament. The golden rule at Bristol Motor Speedway is simply to get through the 500 super-fast short-track laps in as good shape as possible. But usually this endeavor falls far short of all the Sprint Cup celebrities – and the spectacular 2008 edition of the night race was no exception.

Early death of the favorites – Montoya tough

© NASCAR Pole setter Carl Edwards defended his starting position in BristolZoom It all started before the green flag: NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. saw a gap in the top lane and picked up a drive-through penalty for overtaking before the start line right at the beginning of the race. As a result, he lost an entire lap early on that he was never able to make up during the race. Jimmie Johnson was hit even worse shortly afterwards after a paint swap with Sterling Marlin’s Phoenix Chevrolet. Johnson lost a whopping 13 laps and was hopelessly set back after less than 40 of the 500 laps, while at the front of the field pole setter Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon set a hell of a pace. The front runners quickly caught up with Juan Pablo Montoya, who again fought off the impending lapping with all his might. Kyle Busch came shooting from behind – and said “Thank you very much: While Edwards and Gordon cut their teeth for many laps on the extremely tenacious Colombian, Kyle Busch stole his way to the front relatively unmolested on the very inside past this trio preoccupied with itself. After all, 97 laps were fought in typical Bristol fashion, leg-hard but clean and accident-free at a stretch under green flag, before Martin Truex Jr. (DEI-Chevrolet) after a puncture took the unfortunate Red Bull Toyota of A.J. Allmendinger on target.

Pileup on lap 217

© NASCAR Crash: Bitter pill for Kasey Kahne and Gillett Evernham MotorsportsZoom In addition to the top trio of Kyle Busch, Edwards and Jeff Gordon, the orange Gibbs Toyota of Tony Stewart attracted the most attention: After 150 laps, the No. 20 car already appeared in the top 5, although two-time NASCAR champion and future team owner Stewart had only started from position 28. In addition, all three Childress Chevrolets of Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer were running in the top 10, along with the third Gibbs Toyota of Denny Hamlin, and the two Dodge Chargers of Ryan Newman (Penske) and Kasey Kahne (Evernham). There was nothing to be seen from the Roush Fords – with the exception of Edwards, of course. Burton subsequently became the next prominent Bristol victim when he was innocently involved in a chain reaction between Marlin, Stewart and Sam Hornish Jr (Penske-Dodge). The Bristol early season winner was rear-ended by Joe Nemechek (Furniture Row Chevrolet), which took Burton’s Childress Chevrolet out of the race. The next classic Bristol crash happened on lap 217 – and this one had bigger proportions: Michael Waltrip and Casey Mears tangled, dragging Clint Bowyer, Hornish Jr, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Reed Sorenson and Robby Gordon.

Edwards strong after restarts

© Ford Carl Edwards put pressure on Kyle Busch for 500 lapsZoom This pileup, known as the “Big One” in NASCAR parlance, blocked the narrow lane and officials had no choice but to issue a red flag. Johnson, Burton, Kahne – the list of Chase contenders affected was already really well filled before race half-time. Bowyer – with a slightly bent track – and Hamlin only suffered grazes and kept up the top speed with their damaged bolides. The Kahne retirement was also good news for Roush youngster David Ragan, who started from the very back of the field in his back-up car, but was knocking on the door to the top 10 again by mid-race. The Gibbs-Toyotas couldn’t care less about all the confusion: In addition to leader Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Stewart were also in the top 5, with only Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon mixing in the Toyota party at Bristol at the halfway point. As the race progressed, it also became apparent that Kyle Busch had significant advantages over Edwards, especially on the long runs, which allowed the Roush-Ford to be increasingly aggressive, especially in the periods after restarts.

Bitter rivalry boils over

© NASCAR Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards – did a rivalry start in Bristol?Zoom With 46 laps to go, another debris caution came after a lengthy green period that made fuel poker impossible. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick were the order of the top 5 going into the Bristol finale. This was to be a tough one, as Edwards now really put the pressure on. With 30 laps to go, he took on Kyle Busch in Turn 1, knocked his rival out of rhythm with a very light tap and pushed the nose of his Ford Fusion into the front. Kyle Busch tried to counter just one straightaway later, but Edwards kept his lane tough as nails. Bad luck for Kyle Busch, as his Gibbs teammate Denny Hamlin also slipped through, and it took a full ten laps for the two Toyota Camrys to get the order back in order. But by that time, Carl Edwards was already a second adrift, winning his second consecutive Bristol night race after 2007. Kyle Busch found it difficult to cope with his second-place finish and gave the Edwards Ford a strong push after crossing the finish line, which Edwards promptly countered – Bristol continues to keep the fuses glowing on heavy current.

Tough battle for Chase spots

© NASCAR Kyle Busch lost out at Bristol despite leading 415 lapsZoom Hamlin finished a good third ahead of Kevin Harvick, who took down Jeff Gordon, while Ryan Newman took an unchallenged sixth. Clint Bowyer fought like a lion with a bent track and held off Tony Stewart for seventh. Two more Roush Fords, Matt Kenseth and David Ragan, rounded out the top 10. Juan Pablo Montoya met a similar fate to Dale Earnhardt Jr.: The Colombian was stuck after lapping and did not get the “Lucky Dog” in any of the caution periods. In the end, Montoya ranked 19th, one place behind the NASCAR superstar. Another position back, an inconspicuous Brian Vickers brought his Red Bull Toyota home in 20th. His unfortunate teammate A.J. Allmendinger finished a chance-less 34th after a long repair break. Things are coming to a head in the battle for twelfth place: Kasey Kahne slipped from eleventh overall to 14th, while Hamlin, Bowyer and Ragan each moved up one position. However, the gaps are minimal, as eleventh and 14th place are separated by less than 100 points two races before the Chase decision. Windows 7 Boot Usb Tool.

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