Kenseth Drives to Five
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on August 24, 2013 | 11:00 P.M. EST
Matt Kenseth scored his third win at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
BRISTOL, Tenn. - Matt Kenseth held off Kasey Kahne in a thrilling final laps battle to score his fifth win of the season in Saturday night's IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Kenseth fought back from a pit road speeding penalty on lap 259 and wound up leading twice for 149 laps, including the final 126 to notch his series-leading fifth victory of 2013.
“It's a huge win for us,” said Kenseth. “The Bristol night race is one of the biggest races of the year. It's one of the most fun races to win. It's been a while since we won one. Man, it was a dramatic finish.”
Kenseth took blame for putting himself in a hole with the pit road speeding penalty that dropped him to the rear of the field.
“I really put (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) in a box by speeding on pit road so we had to do a strategy different, because of that my car got so tight and could barely hang on there at the end,” said Kenseth. “I'm glad we were able to pull it out. If we wouldn't have, it would have been totally my fault, so I was glad we were able to come back from that. I had a great engine and had just enough speed to hang on.”
Kahne battled Kenseth for the final 20 circuits trying to find a way around on both the high and low sides of the race track. Although it appeared Kahne might have been able to move Kenseth out of the way by making contact, the Hendrick Motorsports driver said he refuses to race that way.
“I was trying to get there," Kahne said. "I would have wrecked probably both of us. It would have just been a wreck. I just tried to pass him as clean as I could, and race him as hard as I could. I thought I had him at one point. I had a good run. I tried to slide across him, but he just kept position. We were rubbing all the way down Turn 4. I just didn’t clear him. I just didn’t get it done and I’m upset with myself for not figuring out how to win tonight because I clearly had a better car at the end of the race.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, Brian Vickers and Joey Logano rounded out the top five. Montoya challenged for the lead and was also penalized for speeding on pit road.
"We had a really good car all night," Montoya said. "We were a little tight at the start of the night and we made some good changes. The car had good speed. I got caught speeding there with like 170 to go or something, and that kind of hurt us. But I'll tell you the truth, I think it helped us because if it would have played right, we probably would have run out of gas. Our fuel mileage wasn't as good as the 20.
"I'm still running until the end of the year with Target, and I want to make sure I can do the best for them."
Logano was swept up in an early race incident but battled all night to come back for the top five run and moved up three spots to 10th in the standings. He’s currently eligible for bonus points with his Michigan win.
“That was the hardest fought top five I’ve ever had in my life," Logano said. We had a right-front knocked in once. We got blocked in by the 11 once. We got a piece of garbage on the front. Every time this happened we had to go all the way to the back, so we came from the back three times to get a top-five finish. They can’t put us down and can’t keep us down. This team is awesome. We deserve to make this Chase and if we keep doing this on days that they’re trying to put us down, we deserve it."
Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the first ten finishers.
Carl Edwards had a dominant car and led 119 laps before an engine failure eliminated him from the race.
“I didn’t have any warning," Edwards said. "I’ve just got to thank all the guys. That’s the most fun I’ve had in a race car in a long time. Jimmy did a great job. The car was almost perfect and the engine ran awesome until it broke. We had great pit stops and I think we’ve got some good things to get forward to. This is what we needed, a race like this – with the engine aside – I think we were the dominant car here tonight. We’ve got some good races coming up.”
For the second week in a row, series point leader suffered a frustrating race. Johnson had a blown engine last week at Michigan and was involved in a multi-car accident and wound up finishing 36th. His lead over Clint Bowyer in the standings shrunk to 18 points.
However, Johnson is already locked in the Chase and Bowyer and Kenseth - at least a Wild Card - joined him this week securing spots with two races left in the regular season. (Read More on Bowyer)
“We will definitely come back next week and do all we can,” Johnson said. “We had a decent finish. Last week I really thought we had a shot to win and had an engine failure. This racing stuff happens. Luckily, we had a big point’s lead that we can kind of deal with right now. We’ve locked into the Chase.”
Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman have the Wild Card spots after 24 races.
Kahne and Logano moved into the top 10 while Kurt Busch, who had mechanical issues early, and Brad Keselowski dropped out. (Read More)
“We had a right-rear hub fail where the studs pulled through or they weren’t tightened or assembled," said Busch who dropped from 10th to 12th. "I don’t know just a right-rear hub failure. Now we have to go back and diagnosis that. When you are 20 laps down there is nothing you can do. We just rode around and we are down, but we are not out. I guess at the end of the race we gained a bunch of points back with guys having trouble. My thoughts all through the race were we just have to go to Atlanta and Richmond and win them both.”
Keselowski was one of several Chase contenders who saw their championship hopes impacted by a late race crash that included Truex Jr. and Newman.
The biggest incident on the night came on lap 448 that involved a number of drivers including Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and pole winner Denny Hamlin.
“He (Harvick) was under the impression that I caused it," Hamlin said. "He didn’t see the replay. I talked to him. Luckily, we were able to talk right away and hash it out. The 55 (Brian Vickers) just cut down on us right in the middle of the straightaway and it cut my right front tire. I’m just in the car and a steering wheel holder at that point. It caused a huge accident. It sucks, but I didn't cause it. I was one of the guys who got cut off. We can’t catch a break."
Harvick after his conversation with Hamlin: "It’s all good it’s Bristol racing and it’s just something I wanted to know."
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next Sunday night for the AdvoCare 500.