Halfway through the Chase, Clint Bowyer is winning his way back into the title race.
Bowyer stretched his fuel just enough and held off Denny Hamlin to win Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The win is Bowyer's third of the season the most he's had in any season of his career and his first at Charlotte. Bowyer finally ran out of fuel while attempting to do a post-victory burnout on the frontstretch.
Asked if his No. 15 Toyota team was in the championship hunt, Bowyer's crew chief, Brian Pattie said, We're going for it.
Brad Keselowski, who finished 11th, still leads the series standings by seven over Jimmie Johnson. Bowyer has now moved within 28 points of the lead with five of the 10 Chase races remaining.
This has been my worst race track. We just did an unbelievable job and it was such a team effort, Pattie said in Victory Lane. I can't do a burnout right. Don't have enough fuel to do a burnout and it's so much fun to burn rubber.
But I don't care. It's a lot more fun getting handed this trophy.
Johnson finished third in the race, Greg Biffle was fourth and Kyle Busch was fifth. Mark Martin was sixth and the last car to finish on the lead lap.
Bowyer has now won a three completely different tracks this season his first with Michael Waltrip Racing. He won on the road course at Sonoma, Calif., a short track at Richmond, Va., and earned his first win on a 1.5-mile track at Charlotte.
Realistically, we're still in this (title hunt). We just need to keep doing what we're doing, Bowyer said. Going home next week (at Kansas), it will be fun. Who knows what that will hold?
With 40 of 334 laps remaining, Biffle held a sizable lead over Kyle Busch followed by Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Bowyer.
Several teams began a round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 309 but it became apparent Bowyer would attempt to make it to the finish without stopping.
When Biffle elected to pit for fuel on Lap 311, Bowyer moved into the lead.
Biffle, the pole-winner, started strong, leading 35 of the first 37 laps . Last week's race winner, Matt Kenseth, fell behind early, bringing out the first caution on Lap 12 spinning off Turn 4. Kenseth lost track position but received no damage to his car in the incident.
Jeff Burton and David Ragan wrecked on Lap 17 to bring out the second caution of the race. On the restart on Lap 22, Biffle continued to hold the lead.
Paul Menard had a tire go down and wrecked off Turn 4 on Lap 36 to bring out a caution. While most lead-lap cars pit during the caution, Keselowski stayed out and took over the race lead on the restart on Lap 42.
Regan Smith, substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet, was running 10th when he lost his engine and was forced to the garage on Lap 61.
A round of green-flag pit stops began on Lap 83. When the cycle was completed on Lap 87, Keselowski was the race leader followed by Johnson and Hamlin.
Johnson ran down Keselowski and moved into the lead on Lap 98.
Johnson remained out front until another round of green-flag pit stops began on Lap 130. Once the cycle was completed on Lap 138, Hamlin took over the lead followed by Keselowski and Johnson.
Debris in Turn 1 brought out the fourth caution of the race on Lap 167. All of the lead-lap cars pit for fuel and tires with Johnson taking over the lead on the restart on Lap 173.
On the restart, Biffle who was fourth at the time went three-wide into Turn 1 running on the outside and bolted into the lead on the backstretch.
Keselowski moved ahead of Biffle on Lap 180 to retake the lead.
Yet another round of green-flag pit stops began on Lap 216. Once the cycle was completed on Lap 223, Keselowski remained the leader followed by Hamlin and Kyle Busch.
Jeff Gordon, who was running 14th at the time, was penalized by NASCAR for speeding on pit road during his pit stop and fell a lap down.
Debris on the frontstretch brought out a caution on Lap 224 and many of the lead-lap cars pit for fuel and tires. Keselowski elected not to pit and remained in the lead on the restart on Lap 228.
Martin Truex Jr. was the first to pit on another round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 261. Once the cycle was completed on Lap 282, Biffle moved back out front.
During the round of green-flag stops, both Keselowski and Johnson ran out of fuel before reaching their respective pit stalls. Keselowski lost considerable ground and returned to the track in 14th while Johnson rejoined the field in 10th.
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