Kenseth Survives Talladega

Matt Kenseth

Kenseth celebrates his 23rd career win. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – Matt Kenseth came back from an early race spin and then made it through a 24-car crash on the final lap to win Sunday’s Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver scored his second victory of the season to go along with his win in the Daytona 500 and the first of his career at Talladega.

Tony Stewart was leading the field as the pack raced through turns three and four on the final lap but moved in front of a fast-charging Michael Waltrip and Casey Mears. Contact was made and Stewart slid up the track triggering the massive pile-up that collected nearly the rest of the field.

Kenseth was ahead of the melee and declared the winner for his 23rd career Sprint Cup Series triumph.

“I kind of let Tony have his spot there,” Kenseth said of the wild dash to the checkered flag. “It didn’t look like he had a big push behind him and lined up with Kevin (Harvick) and we pretty much stayed locked together there until we got to turn three and I thought it was gonna be a drag race to the finish. I didn’t know what was gonna happen and I’m still not sure what happened. Somehow I think Tony got turned and caused a big wreck.”

The green-white-checkered finish was set up on Lap 184 of the scheduled 188 laps when Jamie McMurray got turned around in the tri-oval by Kevin Harvick to bring out the caution flag.

As most of the lead lap cars came to pit road for fuel, the field lined up for the two-lap shootout that ended with battered cars all over the frontstretch at the finish.

“I just screwed up,” said Stewart. “I turned down across, I think it was Michael (Waltrip) and crashed the whole field. It was my fault blocking to try to stay where I was at. So, I take 100% of the blame."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who rallied back from losing a lap after a pit road speeding penalty, expressed his displeasure with what transpired on the final lap.

“If this is what we did every week I wouldn’t be doing it I will just put it to you like that,” said Earnhardt Jr. “If this is how we raced every week I would find another job.”

Kenseth’s day was nearly over before it began when he slid earlier in the race as the pack raced through turn two. He made a miraculous save as his car slid down to the apron without damage or contact with any other cars.

“I was trying to go to the bottom, but not that far,” Kenseth said laughing. “That’s one of those I’d love to take the credit for but it’s pretty much lucky. I just kind of held the wheel and the car sort of caught itself and thankfully we were able to straighten it out with no damage.”

Jeff Gordon was able to snake through the carnage to finish second and has now come home inside the top three in every race since his 35th at Chicagoland to start the Chase.

But Gordon made it clear that he’s not a fan of the style of racing that punctuated the day at Talladega.

“I mean, do we have a choice? I guess we do, but I don't feel like I really do,” Gordon said about racing at Talladega. “It's just part of racing here at Talladega. You have to accept it. You have to know that you're going to be going through that at certain times during the race, but at the end, for sure, especially with a green/white checkered. You put a lot of faith in your safety equipment and you kind of white-knuckle, hold on tight.”

Kyle Busch, David Ragan and Regan Smith rounded out the top five.

Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski, Travis Kvapil, Ryan Newman and Jeff Burton completed the top-10.

“Just a bunch of guys running four-wide,” said Keselowski, who maintained the series point lead. “You know it’s a matter of time before they wreck. We all did.”

Keselowski now has a 14-point lead over Jimmie Johnson in the Chase standings with Denny Hamlin 23 behind. Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer round out the top five.

There were 54 lead changes among 18 different drivers in Sunday’s race.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway next Saturday night for the Bank of America 500.

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