Kenseth Triumphs For Second Straight Week
Triumphs in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the second straight week
Victory Lane is beginning to feel like a second home for Matt Kenseth.
For the second consecutive week, Kenseth (#17, Carhartt Ford) was victorious, driving flawlessly to win the Auto Club 500 and become the fourth NASCAR driver in history to start the season with two wins. It was also Kenseth's third win at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
Unlike last week’s rain-shortened victory at the Daytona 500, Kenseth did it in dramatic fashion Sunday, holding off Jeff Gordon (#24, Dupont Chevrolet) over the final 20 laps for a winning margin of victory of 1.463 seconds. Ironically, Kenseth became the first driver since Gordon to open the season with two wins in the first two races. In 1997, Gordon won Daytona and at Rockingham, N.C.
“Great team. Great victory,” Kenseth said. “Pit stops were very important to our outcome. It wasn’t easy but we had just enough to hold him (Gordon) off. I thought he was going to pass me. Some people think I’m a pessimist. I think I’m more of a realist.”
Gordon got close, but couldn’t quite catch Kenseth, who saw Gordon in his rear with 20 laps to go but never flinched. At lap 246, Kenseth led by just 0.9 seconds.
“I’m so excited about this race team right now,” Gordon said. “We’re head and shoulders above where we’ve been. To be able to battle like that. I’m just really excited. I felt we had the car. Matt was awful good in the pits and on the track tonight. When I ran him down I thought we were going to get him but but we just couldn’t catch him.
“Matt is off to a great start. I have a ton of respect for Matt. We’ve had our differences over the years. I drove as hard as I could but Matt didn’t mess up tonight.”
Kenseth led for 84 laps (most by any driver on the day) including the last 38. The victory was the fifth consecutive for owner Jack Roush at a February race at Auto Club Speedway.
Kyle Busch (#18, Interstate Batteries Toyota) came close in his bid to become the first NASCAR driver to win three races in the same weekend, but came up short finishing third.
“We got to sixth, fifth, fourth and then third and would have loved to have made it a three-way battle but couldn’t quite get there,” Busch said. “It was a good points day for us. I never thought it was a winning car tonight. I had the best seat in the house for that battle. It was a good show for the fans. To see two superstars put on a show like that was great.”
Greg Biffle (#16, 3M Ford) was fourth and Kurt Busch (#2, Miller Lite Dodge) fifth. Said Biffle, who slid through a pit stop and ran over an air hose on pit road. “They should fire me. I can’t believe I let a car that fast finish fourth.”
Now it’s off to Las Vegas next weekend where Kenseth, a two-time winner there, will attempt to be the first to win NASCAR’s opening three races.
“It doesn’t come very easy to win two in a row let alone two in a row to start the season,” Busch said. “Matt will be fast in Vegas and might have a shot to win in Vegas.”