Jerry Markland - Getty Images for NASCAR
Clint Bowyer stretched his fuel over the final 56 laps to win the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It is Bowyer's third victory of the 2012 campaign and the eighth of his Sprint Cup career. Denny Hamlin finished second to cut into Brad Keselowski's point lead.
Clint Bowyer: Gasmaster.
For the third time this season, Bowyer won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and for the second of those three, he stretched his fuel tank to do it.
Bowyer pitted 56 laps from the finish in the Bank of America 500 and saved just enough gas to make that distance without another pit stop. It is Bowyer's eighth-career win and his first on a 1.5-mile race track. All of his prior wins had come on flat tracks of a mile or less (Richmond and Loudon) or the superspeedway at Talladega and the road course in Sonoma.
Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson also stretched their fuel to make it to the end of the race without running out of gas. They both cut into Brad Keselowski's point lead, with Johnson slicing it in half to now sit seven points behind. Hamlin now is 15-points in arrears to the Blue Deuce driver.
Keselowski ran out of fuel on lap 275 and lost significant time there, then had to pit again - like all but the top-three finishers - and wound up a disappointing 11th after largely dominating the race.
Greg Biffle, the polesitter, finished fourth. He led late before having to pit for gas and led the way for the drivers forced to pit road late. Kyle Busch was fifth and Mark Martin took sixth to round out the lead-lap finishers. Carl Edwards had a strong run all night - a positive sign after a dismal (by their standards) campaign for the No. 99 team - and wound up seventh. Coca-Cola 600 winner Kasey Kahne was solid most of the night, but he finished eighth and was unable to make up much-needed ground in the points battle.
Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. completed the top-10 finishers. Six of the top-10 - Bowyer, Hamlin, Busch, Martin, Logano, and Truex - were Toyota Camry pilots.
As far as other Chase contenders went, Tony Stewart recovered from damage sustained in an early restart jam-up to finish 13th, Matt Kenseth overcame a lap-11 spin to come home one spot behind Stewart, Kevin Harvick was solid for much of the night before taking 16th at the end, and Jeff Gordon was victimized by a speeding penalty and wound up 18th.
Regan Smith, substituting for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., drove into the top-10 before blowing an engine on lap 61. He wound up a disappointing 38th but showed tremendous promise when given the opportunity to pilot a top-caliber race car like Earnhardt's No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports entry.
As far as Georgian drivers go, Unadilla's David Ragan was involved in the same restart snafu that damaged Stewart's car. Ragan got much more serious damage and was forced to the garage for repairs. He ultimately finished 34th, 47 laps off the pace. Peachtree City's Reed Sorenson ran just 32 laps before parking Randy Humphrey's Chevrolet in 41st place.
It was a solid night for Atlanta-based sponsorships, as Aaron's Sales and Leases (Martin), The Home Depot (Logano), and NAPA Auto Parts (Truex) all claimed top-10 finishes.