AVONDALE, Ariz. - Matt Kenseth gambled on the final pit stop of the Phoenix Winston Cup race, taking only two tires on lap 259, to put himself into the race lead and score his fifth victory of the season. "That was unbelievable," Kenseth said in...
AVONDALE, Ariz. - Matt Kenseth gambled on the final pit stop of the Phoenix Winston Cup race, taking only two tires on lap 259, to put himself into the race lead and score his fifth victory of the season.
"That was unbelievable," Kenseth said in Victory Lane. "We had a great day, that's the first time Robbie's ever ran me out of gas and I thought we'd ruined the race. The DeWalt Ford Taurus handled flawlessly all day. It was great."
"It has been an unbelievable year," Kenseth recounted. "Never thought we'd be in Victory Lane, thought it was going to be hard to get here once let alone five times."
Rusty Wallace, still searching for his first win since California 2001, finished second for the fourth time this year. He ran strongly all afternoon, but did not have enough to catch Kenseth as the races final laps wound down, and finished two seconds behind the leader.
"We gained a lot of points," Wallace said. "Darn! Haven't won one yet. I'm getting closer and closer and closer. One more race to go, I hope we can do it."
Defending Winston Cup champion, Jeff Gordon brought home his career best Phoenix finish of 3rd.
"Great solid run today," said Gordon. "I mean I thought we had one of the best cars. Unfortunately 2-tires won and 4-tires didn't. So, we'll take third, it's the best finish we've ever had here."
Championship leaders Tony Stewart and Mark Martin both had top ten finishes at Phoenix: Martin finished fourth, Stewart eighth. Only 89 points separate the two as the Winston Cup series heads into Homestead for the season finale.
"I think we raced as tough as we could today," commented Martin. "I'm proud of this whole Viagra team. It was a great car, great effort. Things could have easily gone our way. We had a car that was good enough to contend for the win and that's all I can ask for."
Stewart seemed upbeat, even though his points lead has been sliced, "Just another day in paradise," he joked. "We weren't bad. We didn't have a bad car. "
"I'm really proud of Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) and the guys," Stewart continued. "We made some pretty big changes last night. Didn't know how it was going to affect the car - but the car was pretty good today. Just something we missed that kept us from being as good as the guys at the front."
Fifth place finisher, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was the favorite to win the race early on as he led almost every lap between lap 7 through 117. The team made a huge mistake, however, not calling Earnhardt in before lap 117; as a result, the #8 coasted on empty on the backstretch.
"I'm pretty happy," laughed Earnhardt. "We ran out of gas which is really stupid of us, but we miscalculated. Made a lot of mistakes on pit road, we're just struggling. We've got a lot to prove during out pit stops. I think the guys are really going to buckle down hopefully, in the off season."
Kurt Busch overcame a pit road incident that caused right front fender damage to the #97 Ford after contact with the #23 Dodge of Kenny Wallace early in the race. Busch led the most laps and finished 6th.
Rounding out the top ten were Dave Blaney (7), Dale Jarrett (9) and Elliott Sadler (10).
In other noteworthy news, Christian Fittipaldi, making his first career Winston Cup start in the #44 Petty Enterprises Dodge, had his day ended early after contact with the #7 Dodge of Jason Leffler.
"It was a pretty hard hit," said a disappointed Fittipaldi. "The #7 was down on the inside of me, I was down a couple of laps cause I had run out of fuel. So, we were a couple of laps down, I just wanted to finish the race. I don't know if he got distracted or something, he just ran into the back of me, spun me, and I went straight into the wall backwards."
Fittipaldi was classified 42nd.
Scott Wimmer, yesterdays Busch series winner, made his fourth Winston cup start this season, without much success. On lap 133, Wimmer crashed hard into the inside retaining wall ending his day after contact with Robby Gordon, Wimmer wound up 42nd.
Mr. October, Jamie McMurray's luck seems to have finally run dry, after a lap 13 accident yesterday in the Busch race; McMurray brought out the races first caution on lap 28 after reporting a tight race car that would not turn in the corners. McMurray hit the wall in turn 4, he finished 40th.
The Championship points battle takes another turn this week, as positions 3 through 6 are now separated by just 9 points. Busch moves up two spots into 3rd, Jimmie Johnson 4th, Rusty Wallace 5th, and Jeff Gordon 6th. Pole sitter Ryan Newman, falls 3 spots into 7th in points after pit road problems saw Newman finish the race in 18th, one lap down.