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Matt Kenseth Ends Winless Drought At Bristol Motor Speedway

Matt Kenseth Ends Winless Drought At Bristol Motor Speedway

by April 20, 2015 0 comments

Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images

BRISTOL, Tenn. – After starting from the pole in Sunday’s Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes at Bristol Motor Speedway, Matt Kenseth held on during a green-white-checkered finish to claim his first victory of the 2015.

Kenseth led 47 laps en route to Sunday’s victory. This is Kenseth’s first win in 51 races. The last time he found victory was at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September of 2013. Matt Kenseth now has four (2005, 2006 and 2013) wins at Bristol Motor Speedway. So far throughout the 2015 season, he has one win and four top-10 finishes.

“It means a lot,” Kenseth said. “I have a great race team. Last year was tough and not winning again this year so far has been tough. We’ve been putting ourselves in position. Really need to thank Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and all these guys – our pit stops have been great. I haven’t been doing as great and the cars haven’t been as good, but these guys have been really doing it.”

Weather was certainly an issue heading into Sunday’s race, but NASCAR was able to dry the track and get the race started early afternoon. On lap 20, the first caution flew when Brad Keselowski got loose exiting Turn 2, and his Team Penske teammate, Joey Logano with nowhere to go plowed into the side of him. Both cars bounced off the inside wall and suffered disappointing finishes. Brad Keselowski finished 35th, and Joey Logano finished 40th.

“It happened quick, obviously,” Logano said. “You think you get early in this race and kind of want to settle in and just starting to get the top worked in a little bit there and Brad just got loose underneath that lapped car. You start checking up and it looked like he was gonna have it saved and he checked up more than I expected and the next thing you know I’m in the back of him and we’re both headed towards the fence.”

During the caution, the rain once again consumed the track, and the race didn’t get restarted until hours later. Denny Hamlin was suffering from neck spasms during the long red flag, so when the drivers got the call to return to their cars, it was 18-year old Erik Jones climbing behind the wheel of the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry. Jones finished 26th.

“Obviously, it was a huge learning experience overall,” Jones said. “The FedEx Camry was pretty good, but it just took me so long – really up until the red flag and kind of sitting and thinking about it and really figuring out what I had and what I had to do different from the XFINITY cars was just huge. I learned a ton. I wish we could start the night over and do it all again. It was an interesting situation for sure. I never turned a lap in one of these cars until the green flag dropped. It was interesting and I learned a ton. I can’t wait to try it again.”

Throughout the night, several of the race favorite found trouble. Jimmie Johnson in particular had an extremely rough night. On lap 279, the caution flew when Kurt Busch spun underneath Johnson, causing a chain reaction in Turn 4. Johnson obtained heavy right rear damage, but he was able to soldier on. He was also involved in an accident that brought out the sixth caution of the night on lap 312. In the end, Johnson and the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team were able to pull off a miraculous second place finish.

“And, I’m just really glad we got a second,” Johnson said. “I maybe had a shot at the win, but am just thrilled to get such a great finish here. This is one of the more tough tracks for me, as a driver. So, I’m very stoked to be here. Chevy was fast, and we go on to the next one.”

Championship point leader, Kevin Harvick was en route to a competitive finish until he was caught up in the lap 312 caution. Harvick led 184 laps, most of driver on Sunday night; however, he finished a disappointing 38th.

Defending Food City 500 winner, Carl Edwards spun and crashed while battling Jeff Gordon for second place in Turn 1. The caution came out with only five laps remaining. With nowhere to go, Kurt Busch who led 98 laps throughout the night ran into the back of Edwards. Sam Honrish Jr., Paul Menard and Just Allgaier were involved, as well.

“I was racing really aggressively there at the end and the car was sticking and everything was going great and then I drove into turn one and that was the first time I lifted off throttle and I just pitched sideways,” Edwards said. “I was in deep trouble – I drove it way too deep to be this far sideways. It’s 100 percent my fault. My guys did a great job and we just have to keep digging. The cars are getting faster and faster. The outcome was not what we wanted and I made a big mistake, but it was just a fun race. There were times in the middle of that race where I was just laughing – this was so much fun racing through traffic. I had a good time.”

While the field ran under caution, the skies once again opened up and forced the drivers to pit road for yet, another red flag. NASCAR was able to dry the track, and the fans were treated to a late night, green-white-checkered finish. On the restart, Matt Kenseth on the high side got a great jump, while Jeff Gordon on the low side, didn’t. In the end, Kenseth held on for the victory, and Jeff Gordon just barely edged his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson for second. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished fourth, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-five.

“I was getting tired of that stat of not winning,” Kenseth said. “I want to thank Dollar General and all these guys behind me and all the fans for sticking it out today. We had a pretty good car today and had a lot of speed on Friday. We had really good short run speed today, which the way the race played out – we lucked out that we had a good short run car and not such a good long run car. Everything kind of fell into place today and it feels good.”

Kevin Harvick continues to lead in the championship point standings. Joey Logano trails him by 30 points. Martin Truex Jr. is 33 points back from Harvick, while Jimmie Johnson is 56 points back. Brad Keselowski rounds out the top-five, 59 points back.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will compete at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, April 25 for the Toyota Owners 400. Coverage for the event will air live on FOX and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 7 p.m. ET.

Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes Results:
1.) #20 Matt Kenseth
2.) #48 Jimmie Johnson
3.) #24 Jeff Gordon
4.) #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
5.) #31 Ryan Newman
6.) #14 Tony Stewart
7.) #42 Kyle Larson
8.) #51 Justin Allgaier
9.) #10 Danica Patrick
10.) #3 Austin Dillon
11.) #27 Paul Menard
12.) #15 Clint Bowyer
13.) #43 Aric Almirola
14.) #1 Jamie McMurray
15.) #41 Kurt Busch
16.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
17.) #55 Brett Moffitt
18.) #38 David Gilliland
19.) #9 Sam Hornish Jr.
20.) #7 Alex Bowman
21.) #83 Matt DiBenedetto
22.) #95 Michael McDowell
23.) #46 Michael Annett
24.) #19 Carl Edwards
25.) #34 Chris Buescher
26.) #11 Denny Hamlin; Erik Jones
27.) #35 Cole Whitt
28.) #6 Trevor Bayne
29.) #78 Martin Truex Jr.
30.) #16 Greg Biffle
31.) #32 Mike Bliss
32.) #23 JJ Yeley
33.) #33 Alex Kennedy
34.) #47 AJ Allmendinger
35.) #2 Brad Keselowski
36.) #13 Casey Mears
37.) #5 Kasey Kahne
38.) #4 Kevin Harvick
39.) #98 Josh Wise
40.) #22 Joey Logano
41.) #18 David Ragan
42.) #26 Jeb Burton
43.) #40 Landon Cassill

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Top-16 Point Standings:
1.) #4 Kevin Harvick
2.) #22 Joey Logano -30
3.) #78 Martin Truex Jr. -33
4.) #48 Jimmie Johnson -56
5.) #2 Brad Keselowski -59
6.) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. -73
7.) #5 Kasey Kahne -77
8.) #20 Matt Kenseth -78
9.) #24 Jeff Gordon -87
10.) #43 Aric Almirola -88
11.) #11 Denny Hamlin -91
12.) #1 Jamie McMurray -91
13.) #10 Danica Patrick -103
14.) #27 Paul Menard -104
15.) #19 Carl Edwards -111
16.) #31 Ryan Newman -113

Hunter Thomas
Hunter Thomas is a journalist who grew up in Darlington, S.C. His first motorsports-based endeavor was working as the Public Relations Director at Dillon Motor Speedway in Dillon, S.C., and his journalism start came while he was freelancing at his hometown newspaper, the News & Press while in college.

Hunter has been working within the NASCAR industry since 2010, and throughout the years, he has done everything from PR/Marketing for drivers and teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, to working at Rockingham Speedway. As a journalist, Hunter has covered everything from regional short tracks to NASCAR, ARCA Racing Series, World of Outlaws, Red Bull Global Rallycross, NHRA and much more.

Follow Hunter Thomas on Twitter by following, @HunterThomas08

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