Jeff Burton led only the last two laps of the Food City 500 to claim his first Sprint Cup series victory of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway, heading the first ever 1-2-3 for Richard Childress Racing.
Burton picked up the pieces as the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart, which were the ones leading the most laps in the afternoon, ran in trouble in the last ten laps.
Hamlin looked set for his first victory of the year but his Toyota was apparently too low on fuel on the final restart and he lost power when he accelerated to the green-white-checkered finish. Then, it was Burton's race.
"This team won this race today, I was just lucky to be driving," said Burton, who had the benefit of fresher tyres on the final sprint after following his teammate Kevin Harvick into the pits on the penultimate caution.
"We had a good car today, didn't have the best car out there but a had a really good car. We just kept ourselves into position, drove real smart.
"We had only a small scratch on the car. One time the 48 (Johnson) and I got together but other than that I don't think we had a scratch on the car all day. We drove it real cautious, real smart and tried to stay out of trouble. When you're there at the end you never know what can happen."
Kevin Harvick finished second taking four tyres on the penultimate caution when he was sitting behind race leader Tony Stewart. With less than ten laps to go it seemed and odd move from his crew chief Todd Berrier, but as others behind him pitted as well he was left fourth for the restart.
On fresh tyres Harvick then drove hard into the inside of Stewart and made contact with him, sending the No. 20 car against the wall and putting him out of contention for victory. The incident caused the final caution of the day, after which he picked up second place thanks to Hamlin's fuel problems.
"I just lost it," Harvick admitted about his contact with Stewart, before reminding of a similar incident last year at Indianapolis, where he was on the receiving end.
"Indianapolis was one of those deals where he just got into me and I just got into him there, so if he wants to have a bad attitude about it then (he should) come over here. We'll fight."
"It was a great day for RCR but it just pisses me off that Tony has it one way and don't want to take it the other."
Clint Bowyer, who led the most laps among the RCR drivers rounded up the full sweep of the top three for his team, followed by Greg Biffle and a steadily recovering Dale Earnhardt Jr, who struggled to get the right balance on his car in the early part of the race.
Hamlin could only salvage a sixth place finish in the end, which was a big shame for him after having recovered well from contact with a backmarker on lap 278 when he was leading the race.
His car was damaged in the incident and he dropped down the order but fought his way back to regain the lead, only to lose the race on the penultimate lap.
"I know I could have held those guys off there at the end, but we were either out of fuel or it was a fuel pickup problem like we had here last year," Hamlin said.
"By all of calculations were good on fuel to the end, including a green -white-checkered, but we just couldn't seem to pick all of it up.
"It's been that kind of season for us - we can't get a break."
Kasey Kahne was sixth ahead of Aric Almirola who filled in for Mark Martin in the No. 8 DEI car for the first time this year. In only his seventh Sprint Cup Series start, he stayed out of trouble in a track where it's tough to do so, claiming his best result ever in NASCAR's top series.
Kyle Busch was able to recover to finish 17th after spinning out of the lead at turn two on lap 290. He made contact with the wall damaging both ends of his car but a number of stops during caution allowed his team to carry out repairs.
He drove hard and wasn't far from getting back on the lead lap, his efforts being rewarded with staying at the top of the standings for another week.
Dario Franchitti had a tough baptism at Bristol suffering from brake issues. He was involved in two incidents, which dropped him down the order and a number of laps back. His 36th place finish means he is now outside the top-35 in the owner standings and will have to qualify on speed for next race at Martinsville.
Sam Hornish, who was out of the top-35 in the owner standings before this weekend, finished 29th and just makes the cut in the points to maintain his qualifying privileges into next race.
Pos Driver Team Laps 1. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 506 2. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 506 3. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 506 4. Greg Biffle Ford 506 5. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 506 6. Denny Hamlin Toyota 506 7. Kasey Kahne Dodge 506 8. Aric Almirola Chevrolet 506 9. David Gilliland Ford 506 10. Matt Kenseth Ford 506 11. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 506 12. Kurt Busch Dodge 506 13. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 506 14. Tony Stewart Toyota 506 15. Juan Montoya Dodge 506 16. Carl Edwards Ford 506 17. Kyle Busch Toyota 504 18. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 504 19. Elliott Sadler Dodge 504 20. David Reutimann Toyota 504 21. David Ragan Ford 504 22. Scott Riggs Chevrolet 504 23. Michael Waltrip Toyota 503 24. Robby Gordon Dodge 503 25. JJ Yeley Toyota 503 26. Regan Smith Chevrolet 503 27. Travis Kvapil Ford 503 28. Kyle Petty Dodge 501 29. Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge 501 30. Jeremy Mayfield Chevrolet 500 31. Reed Sorenson Dodge 500 32. Paul Menard Chevrolet 499 33. Ryan Newman Dodge 499 34. Dave Blaney Toyota 498 35. Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 498 36. Dario Franchitti Dodge 497 37. Dale Jarrett Toyota 496 38. Bobby Labonte Dodge Cheerios 489 39. Brian Vickers Toyota 486 40. Mike Skinner Toyota 441 41. Ken Schrader Dodge 420 42. Casey Mears Chevrolet 417 43. Jamie McMurray Ford 373
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