Matt Kenseth wins Bank of America 500 at CMS
Matt Kenseth may have started second in Saturday's Bank of America 500, but he played second fiddle to no one when all was said and done.
The driver of the No. 17 Fluidmaster Foard passed Kyle Busch with 25 laps to go on his way to his 21st career victory and second-ever win in Chase races.
"It was an awesome win for us," Kenseth said. "I felt like we had a pretty decent car all night. I felt like we had a car that if it would last 150 laps or so that and if we could get it to the front, that it would be hard to beat. It was hard to pass tonight, especially when you got about 20 laps on your tires."
Because of that difficult passing, the majority of the race was dominated by a trio of drivers, including Busch, pole-sitter Tony Stewart and Kenseth's teammate Greg Biffle. The three drivers combined to lead 268 of the 334 laps run, including a race-high 111 by Busch.
That feat by Busch was even more impressive considering he started 43rd after stripping a bolt, forcing an engine change.
"It was a great race for us," Busch said. "Certainly, we started deep in the field and made our way up through there slowly and steadily. It was just really tough to pass and make up ground. You could be two-tenths faster than the guy in front of you, run them down, catch them and then slow down and get stuck. You had to be creative and work your way up."
Stewart dominated the early portion of the race, leading the first 42 laps of the race before having to pit. During the transition in lead, several Chase drivers took advantage of the situation by leading a lap to earn bonus points. Among the drivers earning those key points were Kenseth, Carl Edwards and five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson.
Stewart regained the lead after pit stops, but only for three laps. A surging Biffle caught Stewart on lap 49, passing him to assume the point. Biffle remained dominant in the next two runs, leading a combined 78 laps.
Kenseth entered the first-place picture for the first time after a second cycle of pit stops. He led 19 laps, but was overtaken by Stewart, who finished leading three times for 94 yards.
After working his way through the field, Busch finally managed to take over first place at lap 200 and dominated during his run. He led 109 consecutive laps and appeared headed on his way to series-high fifth win of the 2011 season.
An untimely caution that saw the No. 36 of Dave Blaney smoke cost Stewart valuable track position that he just was not able to make up. A late-race colision with Greg Biffle also dampered both men's chances at a win. Stewart finished eighth in the final results, while Biffle came in at 15th.
"We made it to about halfway on a run and then it got tight," Stewart said. "The clean air was really valuable to us. We'd get tight early in a run, but we'd get out front early enough to hold them off. When we got back in traffic a little bit, we never could get it to cut and turn in the center of the corner. It just kept getting tighter and tighter."
Continuing to press Busch late in the race, Kenseth didn't give up and with 25 laps left, made the final pass for the lead. It was Kenseth's third victory of the year, adding to wins at Texas and Dover earlier in the year, and the performance vaulted the 39-year-old into third in points.
The 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion is seven points behind leader Carl Edwards, who finished third in Saturday night's race.
Edwards entered the race tied for the points lead, but a sixth-place finish by Kevin Harvick pushed him back to second in points, five points from tying Edwards.
"We had this race circled on the schedule as one that our whole Aflac team was nervous about," Edwards said. "We qualified well, but we weren't that fast at the beginning of the race. Bob (Osborne) did a really good job of dialing it in. The track just came to us. Overall, it was a really good night for Roush-Fenway Racing. it was good to see Matt get a win."
Jimmie Johnson's hopes of winning an unprecedented sixth-straight Sprint Cup Series title were dashed with 18 laps to go. After winning last week at Kansas, Johnson got loose in turn two trying to run down Ryan Newman, skirted down to the apron and made a hard right turn, slamming into the wall, cutting his night short.
"That one stung for sure," Johnson said. "I am just thankful to have safer race cars, safe walls, softer walls and everything did its job. It was a pretty big impact. It was unfortunate that we wrecked. We got into turn one, the 39 (Newman) was tight to my inside and it pulled me around on corner entry. From there on, I was just kind of hanging on."
Kasey Khane and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-five finishers in the running order in fourth and fifth, respectively. Earning top-10 finishes were A.J. Allmendinger in seventh, Denny Hamlin in ninth and Ryan Newman in 10th.
NASCAR travels to Talladega, Ala. next Sunday for the Good Sam Club 500 in the sixth race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Coverage beings at 2 p.m. on ESPN.
Bank of American 500 results
Oct. 15, 2011 - Charlotte Motor Speedway
1. (2) Matt Kenseth
2. (25) Kyle Busch
3. (3) Carl Edwards
4. (8) Kasey Kahne
5. (12) Marcos Ambrose
6. (14) Kevin Harvick
7. (4) A J Allmendinger
8. (1) Tony Stewart
9. (17) Denny Hamlin
10. (6) Ryan Newman
11. (11) David Ragan
12. (16) Joey Logano
13. (20) Kurt Busch
14. (32) Juan Pablo Montoya
15. (5) Greg Biffle
16. (26) Brad Keselowski
17. (7) Paul Menard
18. (28) Jeff Burton
19. (15) Dale Earnhardt Jr.
20. (31) Brian Vickers
21. (23) Jeff Gordon
22. (38) J.J. Yeley
23. (18) Martin Truex Jr.
24. (19) Clint Bowyer
25. (21) Regan Smith
26. (29) David Reutimann
27. (27) Jamie McMurray
28. (30) Landon Cassill
29. (22) Bobby Labonte
30. (42) Mike Bliss
31. (10) Trevor Bayne
32. (24) Casey Mears
33. (41) Hermie Sadler
34. (9) Jimmie Johnson
35. (35) Dave Blaney
36. (33) David Gilliland
37. (13) Mark Martin
38. (43) Robby Gordon
39. (37) Michael McDowell
40. (34) Travis Kvapil
41. (36) David Stremme
42. (40) Andy Lally
43. (39) Joe Nemechek