Joey Logano earned his first victory at Bristol Motor Speedway during Friday night’s Food City 250 by surviving an event that produced the most cautions of the 2012 Nationwide Series campaign.

Several drivers suffered ruffled fenders and raised tempers, but Logano was able to put it all in his mirror and come home with a coveted victory at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. The caution flag flew nine times during the event. The previous season high was eight cautions at both Daytona and Montreal.

The win was Logano’s sixth triumph of the season and one he will hold in high regard.

“I thought, ‘Finally,’” an elated Logano said in Victory Lane. “We have been so close to winning here. Four times we’ve led the most laps and not won. It feels good to finally win here. It’s Bristol. This is one of the top three or four tracks to win at. It means a lot.

“It is cool to be in Victory Lane here. It is a cool race track to win at.  There are three or four that are extra special to win at and this is one of them. It is cool to be upstairs in Victory Lane.”

Logano said he used track position to muscle his way to the front.

“It is super, super hard to pass. I had a good enough car to run the top and bottom…I tried to position myself to set up lap cars. I was looking far enough ahead to see if they were running the top or bottom and used that to make my passes.

“It is Bristol. This is one of the coolest tracks we go to. It is one of a few that is very special. As a kid, you watch these races on TV. I always got more excited than any other race to watch the Bristol night race. I was all about it.”

While Logano avoided drama, contact seemed to be the theme of the night with championship contenders Stenhouse and Elliott Sadler creating one of the more exciting moments of the evening. Coming to the white flag, Stenhouse tapped Sadler’s bumper, sending Sadler, who was running second at the time, skating toward the outside wall.

Sadler recovered, but wasn’t happy with the move his championship rival put on him at the end of the race. Stenhouse crossed the line in second.

“He said he didn’t mean to hit us,” a dejected Sadler said. “I told him I’ve always been careful around him. I’m just glad he didn’t wreck us. I really wanted to race that 18 (Logano). We should have finished second at worst. It is a frustrating night to finish fifth. He just opened it up so we can race each other differently the rest of this season.”

Stenhouse accepted responsibility for the accident and said it was not a move he planned. While the two have raced cleanly all season, tempers clearly flared between the two in Thunder Valley.

“It was my fault,” Stenhouse admitted.  “He checked up. I should have lifted and gave him more room. When racing for championships, we need to give more room than that. I’m glad I didn’t crash him. This is our best Bristol finish, and we will settle for that. I hated to get in to Elliott.

 

The late race action between the championship leaders was not the only friction that occurred during the event. Austin Dillon, who finished fourth, was involved in a couple of confrontations during the race.

Early in the race, Dillon and Justin Allgaier made contact, with Allgaier’s machine ending up in the outside wall, effectively ending his night.

Later, on lap 244, Dillon pushed Knoxville-native and pole sitter Trevor Bayne in to the outside wall. Not only did Bayne start from the number one spot, he was the sentimental favorite for the evening. He carried the message of former University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball Coach Pat Summitt’s Foundation across the hood of his Ford.

“Somebody was going to get wrecked at the end,” explained Dillon. “It was a freight train. I think Bristol got what they wanted tonight.

“It wasn’t intentional. I got loose under him. That is part of it. We race hard every week. It is just racing hard and I got loose.”

Third-place finisher Kyle Busch said the revamped Bristol surface had definitely forced the drivers to drive differently around the .533-mile facility.  

When asked about Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race, Busch said he expects much of the same action.

“It is hard to pass out there, so I predict that it will be the same. On the restart, everyone is fighting to boot each other out of the way to get up there. It is not what we (the drivers) want to see around here.

“It is not like before; you could go around the bottom and the top and even the middle. They (Bristol) brought the top closer to the bottom, so that hurts the bottom worse. You don’t have room to move up off the corners. You are at the mercy of the guy outside.”

Sadler finished fifth with Cole Whitt sixth and surprising rookie Ryan Blaney in seventh. Michael Annett came home eighth, with Danica Patrick holding on for a ninth place finish. Sam Hornish Jr. completed the top-10. Bayne finished 16th.

Casey Mears won the pole for Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race based on his quickest lap in the morning practice session for the Sprint Cup Series cars. A brief thunderstorm in the afternoon forced NASCAR officials to cancel qualifying and set the field based on the practice speeds from the morning session.

Brad Keselowski, winner of the last two Cup races at BMS, will start on the outside pole, followed by Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Jeff Burton, Paul Menard, Denny Hamlin, Marcos Ambrose and Kyle Busch. Other notables include Jeff Gordon (11th), Kevin Harvick (13th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (16th) and Tony Stewart (21st).

The IRWIN Tools Night Race is slated to begin at 7:45 p.m. Tickets still are available. For more information, call (423) BRISTOL or 855-888-8545.