BUSCH: Points Race Tightens after Michigan

Kenseth tightens up point race By Shawn A. Akers BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 15, 1998) If Matt Kenseth is going to win the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division championship this season, he's keenly aware of one obvious fact -- no matter...

Kenseth tightens up point race By Shawn A. Akers

BROOKLYN, Mich. (Aug. 15, 1998) If Matt Kenseth is going to win the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division championship this season, he's keenly aware of one obvious fact -- no matter what he does, he's got to finish ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. in each race.

And while his third-place performance in Saturday's Pepsi 200 Presented by DeVilbiss wasn't exactly one of his best races of the season, Kenseth did exactly what he needed to do -- gain ground on Earnhardt.

Kenseth picked up 10 points on Earnhardt -- the current NASCAR Busch Series points leader -- on Saturday after Earnhardt finished fifth in the Pepsi 400. Earnahardt now leads Kenseth by 48 points with nine races remaining in the season.

"We gained some points on Dale Junior, but he's been about impossible to beat all season," Kenseth said of Earnhardt Jr., who has five NASCAR Busch Series wins this season. "I think we've been consistent all year, but we've still got a little bit to go. Ten points is 10 points, and any little bit helps."

Indeed. Especially on a day when Earnhardt Jr. looked as if he would own the 43-car field early on. Earnhardt Jr. started 10th, but by the first half lap he had already made his way to sixth place.

Earnhardt was in fourth after only three laps, and eventually grabbed the lead away from Jeff Burton on lap seven. Earnhardt would only lead for 13 laps, however, before Burton, the eventual race winner, would regain the lead again and lead for the majority of the race.

"We had a blistering fast race car for about 10 or 15 laps on new tires, and the car got so tight that it just wouldn't turn in the corner," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We pulled a rubber out on the first pit stop and that helped it for a little bit, but it was just too tight to race with them guys (Burton and Bobby Labonte, who finished second).

"Maybe if we had a caution with 10 or 15 to go, we could have waxed them pretty good, but we just didn't have enough time. We lost a little bit of points to Matt, but we gained a lot on Mike McLaughlin."

McLaughlin, the driver of the No. 34 Goulds Pump Chevrolet, came into the race in third place, 127 points behind Earnhardt Jr. He finished 15th on Saturday, however, and left the race track a whopping 169 points behind the leader.

Kenseth wasn't pleased with how his No. 17 LYCOS.com Chevrolet was running in the final NASCAR Busch Series practice on Friday, but from the drop of the green flag, he was able to stay in the top-five throughout most of the 100-lap event.

"We were terrible in happy hour yesterday, but it turned out okay today," Kenseth said. "It was nice to be a little bit faster today. The car was decent all day, good enough to run third. We were a little loose to run up front, but it was a nice, safe race, especially with everybody finishing. We made a four-tire pit stop, but in all honesty, I don't know what we could have done to win."

The race was run caution-free, the first time that has happened in a NASCAR Busch Series race since Michigan in 1995.

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Mike McLaughlin