It has been a long time since Matt Kenseth visited victory lane: fifty-seven races, to be exact. But at Bristol Motor Speedway today, Kenseth led 415 of 500 laps to take his 10th career victory. It was a superior weekend for the No. 17 Roush Ford...
It has been a long time since Matt Kenseth visited victory lane: fifty-seven races, to be exact. But at Bristol Motor Speedway today, Kenseth led 415 of 500 laps to take his 10th career victory. It was a superior weekend for the No. 17 Roush Ford team, with their first pole in three years and their first win of the season.
The stellar weekend puts Kenseth back into the hunt for the chase for the championship. Things looked dismal for team 17 just a few weeks ago when they trailed tenth by some 300 points. The win grabs Kenseth four spots moving him to 11th, just 11 points out of tenth place.
"It means a lot," Kenseth said. "This base group has been together for a long time and they do an awesome job every week. Our performance has been better and you knew we had a fast car when we're on the pole.
"We were awesome all day. I'm just so thankful to have an opportunity to drive these race cars. It's a lot of fun."
Jeff Burton tried to get past Kenseth after a late race caution set-up a two lap shoot out to the checkers, but Burton just didn't have the juice to overtake him. He finished second.
"That was all we had," Burton commented. "Matt had the best car tonight and he was really fast. We were real fast there at the end. We had run well all night - the Cingular Chevrolet was fast. We put ourselves in position to knock one off and came up just a little bit short."
Greg Biffle was third, "I used up my tires, I thought maybe I had something for Burton, but we just didn't."
Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace complete the top five.
"The guys did a great job in the pits," Rudd said. "We just sort of tried to stay out of trouble. We've wrecked out of this race like the last three times. It's usually been a good race track for us and we were lucky we got a good qualifying spot and just tried to keep our nose clean all night."
Tempers flared at Bristol, not unusually for a Saturday night short track race. The battle royale of the night started on lap 210 when Ryan Newman spun Dale Jarrett. Veteran Jarrett got his revenge on lap 317 by returning the favor.
"Mine was unintentional and his was intentional and that's all I am saying," Newman explained. "NASCAR can do what they want."
In the process, the 88 wound up wrecking himself as well as the No. 12 Dodge. Kevin Harvick's spotter did not indicate that there were cars in his path and he wound up trashing the No. 29 Chevy. Also involved were Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Mike Bliss and Jamie McMurray.
"Just got caught up in the wreck there," said Harvick who finished 37th. "Turned down and thought I had the wreck cleared and the 25 (Vickers) popped left and I hit the 12 (Newman). Spotter never said nothing, so I wrecked."
NASCAR penalized Jarrett for rough driving and held him for 2 laps on pit road. The inability to control his ire pretty much diminishes any chances of the No. 88 Ford making the chase for the championship.
It also dashed all possibility of Harvick participating in the playoff field. Harvick drops 2 positions to 16th, while Jarrett freefalls three spots to 14th.
Tony Stewart continues to head the 2005 Nextel Cup class, Jimmie Johnson (-213) Greg Biffle (-224), Rusty Wallace (-271), Mark Martin (-396), Jeremy Mayfield (-427), Kurt Busch (-428), Carl Edwards (-561), Ryan Newman (-591) and Jeff Gordon (-611) complete the top ten.
Stewart, Johnson, Biffle and Wallace have all mathematically clinched positions in the chase for the championship.
There were 16 cautions for 88 laps and nine lead changes among 17 drivers.