Kenseth Conquers California

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FONTANA, Calif. - Last week at Daytona, Matt Kenseth felt he had a car capable of winning the Daytona 500. Until he tangled with Tony Stewart.

Sunday at California Speedway, Kenseth didn't tangle with anyone and sped across the finish line ahead of everyone.

Kenseth was able to hold off Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson on a green-white-checkered finish to win the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway.

It was Kenseth's 11th career victory and completed a sweep for car owner Jack Roush, whose teams won all three NASCAR races at the two-mile track this weekend.

Kenseth led led 40 of the 251 laps in Sunday's race, which was forced into an overtime finish when Scott Wimmer blew an engine on lap 246.

Kenseth was the leader on the restart and while Johnson tried his best to get a good run when the green flag reappeared, the DeWalt Tools Ford was too strong and pulled away to take the checkered flag by three car lengths.

Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Jeff Burton rounded out the Top 5.

Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, J.J. Yeley, Mark Martin and Kyle Busch completed the first ten finishers.

The finish found Roush Racing cars taking four of the first ten positions.

The other Roush entry in the field, Greg Biffle, looked like he would easily repeat his win in last year's Auto Club 500. After starting from outside the front row, Biffle's National Guard Ford was the class of the field for the first two thirds of the race. But Biffle's car dropped a cylinder on lap 225 and his engine finally quit on the 230th lap sending him out of the race.

"We have a lot of loyal people who work hard and want to win," Kenseth said. "I feel bad for Greg, he probably had the best car. But we probably had the second or third best one."

Biffle led a staggering 168 of the first 218 laps before the mechanical problems ended his day.

"I think we had the best car out there," said Biffle, who wound up 42nd. "We might have been better than the 17, but now we'll never know."

Another challenger for the win late on Sunday turned out to be Tony Stewart, who had led early in the event until a pit stop miscue shuffled him back in the pack.

Stewart also suffered a flat tire but was still able to lead 28 laps and challenge for the win until he blew an engine on lap 214, dooming him to a last place finish.

"It was a good day but a bad day," Stewart said. "We overcame some things and I think we're going to have a good car all year. It was really a pretty impressive effort, but I don't think we had anything for Biffle there."

Kenseth, who was furious with Stewart last week after their infamous Daytona incident, took the lead on lap 219 and stayed in front the rest of the race, leading a total of 40 laps.

It marked his first win since Bristol last August and the Ford Fusion's first official NEXTEL Cup Series victory.

Kenseth gave car owner Roush his fourth career California NEXTEL Cup win and capped a weekend that saw teammates Mark Martin win Friday night's Craftsman Truck Series race and Biffle take Saturday's Busch Series event.

Johnson's runnerup finish came one week after winning his first Daytona 500 and marked the second straight race he's performed well in without suspended crew chief Chad Knaus.

"I'm very proud of the guys, but I know Chad is dying to get back," Johnson said. "As happy as he is to see the car run well and perform, I know it is painful to sit at home and watch all this hard work done over the offseason pay off her without him. He is learning his lesson. He is going through a difficult time and we can't wait to have him back."

The NEXTEL Cup Series now takes a week off before returning to action on March 12th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

        

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