Kenseth Strikes First in Chicago

Matt Kenseth

“I’ve always wanted to win here in Chicago. It’s only a couple hours from where I grew up, up in Wisconsin." (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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JOLIET, Ill. - Matt Kenseth, the top seed in the 2013 Chase, opened the post-season with a victory in Sunday's rain-delayed GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kenseth passed teammate Kyle Busch with 22 laps remaining and drove away to the checkered flag. It was the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s sixth win of the season and 30th career Sprint Cup victory.

“Well I mean it’s the first race,” said Kenseth. “It feels great to win. It always feels good to win. We’re going to enjoy this a lot tonight and go to work on New Hampshire in the morning.”

The Wisconsin native enjoyed winning at Chicagoland near his midwestern roots.

“I’ve always wanted to win here in Chicago,” said Kenseth. “It’s only a couple hours from where I grew up, up in Wisconsin. So it feels great to finally get the win here. We’ve been close a lot. Man it’s been a long week for everybody. So it feels great to finally race and be here in Victory Lane.”

Busch finished second, giving Joe Gibbs Racing a one-two sweep.

“There’s no doubt it’s great,” said Busch of his second place finish after winning Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series race and Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at the track. “Certainly you’d rather win one. I felt like we had a chance of that tonight. There is still nine more week – nine long weeks to go.”

Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson completed the top five.

Johnson had to rally back from an early pit road problem when an official inadvertently called a loose lug nut during a stop and then a broken jack on another trip.

“Just a great effort you know we never gave up just got to keep working through things,” said Johnson. “That second to last run we had a very fast race car and got up to the front and thought I had a chance to win this thing, but that last run we just didn’t have what we needed and came home in fifth.”

Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman completed the first 10 finishers.

“Well, that was an incredible accomplishment,” said Gordon, who was added to the Chase field as a 13th driver on Friday and fell back in the field early Sunday. “It just shows how much fight this team has in them. We never give up. And, what an awesome Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet racecar we had tonight. Whoa! Man, it was so much fun!

“To think how far down we were with 40 laps to go, I know we were like 18th on one of those last restarts. So, to be able to come up through there and get 6th and have a shot at a top-5 was a lot of fun.”

Kenseth was the leader when the weather took a turn for the worse on lap 109 and the race went under caution, just 25 laps from the halfway mark.

Heavy rains hit the track just past 4 p.m. central time and the combination of the wet weather and cold temperatures forced the delay to just past 9 p.m. local time.

Once the green flag returned, drivers faced higher speeds in the cooler weather but several experienced problems including engine issues.

Joey Logano (Read More) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were two Chase drivers who suffered blown engines and finished 37th and 35th respectively. Other Chase finishers included Carl Edwards in 11th, Kasey Kahne 12th and Greg Biffle 16th.

“We have some pretty tough competition in the Chase,” said Earnhardt Jr., who was also involved in an incident on pit road. “The average finish is going to be inside the top 10 to win the championship. So you can do the numbers, you can do the math.”

Kenseth leads Busch by eight points in the Sprint Cup Series standings with one Chase race in the book.

There were 25 lead changes among 16 different drivers, both series records at Chicagoland Speedway.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s Sylvania 300.

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