Kenseth Survives IROC Slamfest

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Charging from last starting position, Matt Kenseth took the lead on lap six and led the rest of the way to win Friday’s opening round of Crown Royal IROC XXV at Daytona International Speedway. Kenseth fought off several challenges and avoided a pair of incidents – including a violent flip by sprint car legend Steve Kinser – that eliminated half of the 12-car field.

Kenseth held off IndyCar Series star Sam Hornish Jr. by .168 seconds at the finish, followed by seventh-time ARCA champ Frank Kimmel, sports car racer Max Papis, 2005 Busch Series champ Martin Truex Jr. and Rolex Series champ Wayne Taylor – the only cars running at the finish.

Pole sitter and defending Daytona winner Mark Martin led the opening two circuits, then Ryan Newman – with a push from Kinser – paced three circuits. Kenseth, who had help from Ted Musgrave, then took over. While he led the rest of the distance, the fireworks were just beginning.

On lap 11, Martin, Tony Stewart and Hornish were battling for position when Martin was turned around, hit the wall and spun into the grass. Newman sustained damage that led to his eventual retirement, while Stewart lost his left-front wicker that affected his handling.

Kenseth held on, holding off challenges from Musgrave, Stewart and Truex – all of whom briefly held the lead on the back straight – and was chased by Papis, Hornish, Kinser and Kimmel when the competitors were told five laps remained in the race.

"They said on the radio, ‘five laps to go,’ and I was thinking, ‘they shouldn’t have said that,’ said Kimmel, running in his first IROC race. “I knew it was going to get wild."

Kimmel was right.

With three laps left, Stewart and Truex began a charge on the outside lane. Hornish, seeing them coming, shot to the outside and pulled alongside Papis – waiting for help from Stewart & Co. for a push to the lead. Meanwhile, Papis, Kinser and Kimmel engaged in a series of bump drafts. One knocked Kinser to the outside, directly in front of Stewart, sending the 20-time World of Outlaw champ high in the air.

Kinser came to a stop on his roof. He was trapped in the car, requiring a lengthy extracation, but sustained only a black eye and a few bruises in the incident.

"Maybe Tony (Stewart) knows what they’re talking about," Kinser said. "There’s too much pounding around on the back ends of them. That’s part of it, I guess. I was getting hammered for the last three laps, hard. I was clear against the car in front of me, getting beat on from behind, turning me sideways, it was bang, bang, bang, right down through there."

Scott Sharp dove to the inside to avoid the wreck. When he came off the apron, he was tagged by Stewart, sending Sharp into the wall. Both Sharp, Stewart and Ted Musgrave were also eliminated in the incident.

Kenseth got a good jump on the restart, and held off a strong challenge by Truex – who got out of shape but managed to save his car.

While competitors were warned against excessive bump drafting -- the bumpers on most of the identically-prepared stock cars got a major workout throughout the 40-lap event.

"They throw the rules away that late in the race," Kinser said.

The next IROC round will be April 7 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2006, Matt Kenseth

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