How the race was won
Kenseth There were several cars good enough to run up front for periods of time, but Matt Kenseth's No. 17 was one of only two consistently able to get back to and stay up front for extended runs. Despite a couple of surprisingly sub-par pit stops (one of which certainly wasn't his crew's fault) Kenseth worked his way back up front and had plenty left to outrun Kyle Busch down the stretch.
Story of the race
Kenseth's big weekend. Suddenly, he once again is looking like a title favorite.
Standings shakeup – or lack thereof (Mark Martin excepted). Bristol played its role, but this time as a setup man. Fontana and Richmond still can be the closers.
A relatively tame Bristol? More on that later.
Give 'em credit
Kenseth. Back-to-back in Cup, back-to-back Bristol night races, Bristol weekend sweep, closes in on points lead. Not too shabby.
Kyle Busch. Very nice comeback (he's making a habit of it), and he fell just one spot short of picking up for his big bro.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Carl Edwards. Both employed aggressive pit strategy, and both benefited. Neither faded greatly, proving they both belonged at/near the front of the pack. Still, it turned out to be a far better night points-wise for Earnhardt than for Edwards, whose Chase hopes are all but gone.
Scott Riggs. This top-five was no fluke, as the 10 was stout all night and even had to come back from some mid-race troubles. Also, entertaining back-and-forth with Jeff Gordon – who himself had a pretty nice night – both during and after the race. Gordon on Riggs: "It's just when you get more experience racing with the guys up front you do things a little bit different." Ouch (though Gordon also did compliment Riggs on his strong showing).
Are there any Denny Hamlin non-believers out there?
Jeff Burton. OK, maybe he should have won, and certainly he should have finished top-five, but a ninth-place run was more than enough after his Michigan debacle.
By his team's standards, Ken Schrader's actually been running pretty well lately.
What were they thinking?
A reliable source tells me that there were fans at Bristol skipping lines and heading into the exit doors of restrooms while a bunch more continued to politely wait at the entrance. Seriously. C'mon, folks, know your bathroom etiquette!
Gordon. OK, not a huge deal, but choosing to mix it up on-track with Riggs on the final lap probably wasn't the wisest decision he's made. No harm, no foul, and we're not saying he was wrong in his criticism of Riggs, but one last-lap slip-up could have cost him roughly 40 points and four spots in the standings. Too high a cost just to make a point.
Better luck next time
Martin Martin. This team has been inconsistent for a good while now, and on Saturday it finally caught up with the No. 6. Not that Martin's problems were the team's fault (a tough penalty helped do him in), but struggles over the last couple of months made Martin vulnerable to a giant points dive like the one he suffered Saturday. He is, by no means, a Chase lock. Kasey Kahne should be salivating.
Kurt Busch. Actually, for him, it's "better luck next year."
By the way …
In a clear sign that TNT/NBC knows it has been getting ripped for showing too many commercials, announcer Bill Weber bragged about the network bringing the fans 33 laps of green-flag racing from the start of the race before going to commercial. Yes, that's nice, and yes, TNT was OK on Saturday, but keep in mind that these are the shortest laps in NASCAR. It's not like it was 33 laps at Pocono. To put in perspective, the network spent about 10 laps in commercial after the green 33 (no, not Rolling Rock).
Anyone listening to Tony Stewart swear like a, well, you know, over his team radio during the race can understand the need for a time delay when TV telecasts those transmissions. Entertaining, though.
Will the Chase be a Jimmie Johnson-Matt Kenseth show? Not necessarily, which in some ways is good, and in others a shame.
Kahne wasn't great, but he was good enough to keep himself in the hunt with two very good tracks left. The race to the Chase still has the potential for a fantastic finish at Richmond.
Grading the race
This was a good, solid race. No, there weren't a ton of overly memorable moments, but some long green flag runs – including one right off the bat – made this race a little more intriguing (and less ridiculous) than it sometimes is. Sorry to disappoint the wreck-hounds and the fans of the bump and run, but relative the lack of crashes, big or otherwise, should be seen as a positive. Sure, maybe drivers were too polite, but isn't it refreshing to see them and their teams show their stuff without needing to bully their opponents around the track and into the wall? There was some dominance, some on-track battling for the lead, some strategy and just a few surprises and disappointments. Maybe less than usual at Bristol, but in a manner much more befitting what routinely is called one of NASCAR's best events. Not a great race, but simply a very good one. Grade: B+
From the source
Matt Kenseth: "The last two weeks have been unbelievable – to win a couple of races and a Busch race. It's so awesome to win here at Bristol. It's so special."
Dale Jarrett on the give and take at Bristol: "Yeah, [there was] a lot more. I was really surprised. People raced pretty clean and it made for a good night."