Some thought Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth had peaked too early in the season. With only two top 10s in the last six races, it appeared the No. 20 team had hit a slump heading into the Chase.
The former champion put that notion to bed Satuday night in Bristol, as he held off an impressive charge from Kasey Kahne to score his fifth victory of the season.
Leading the series in victories with only two races left before the Chase field is set, Kenseth is re-emerging as a title favorite.
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"I am a believer in momentum as far as performance, and I think this weekend was huge for us," Kenseth said. "The next 12 weeks are the most important 12 weeks of the season."
Unwilling to put the bumper to Kenseth for the win, Kahne was proud of his effort and reputation as a clean racer.
"I think at the end of the day I just don’t wreck people," he said.
Along with the dramatic late-race battle for the win, Saturday night’s race a Bristol was full of bent sheet metal and ruffled feathers.
A multi-car wreck on Lap 448 collected a number of Chase hopefuls, changing the outlook of many drivers heading to Atlanta and Richmond. Among those involved included Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman.
After Harvick parked his wrecked machine in Hamlin’s pit stall, it looked as if there would be off-track fireworks as Harvick walked to Hamlin’s window. A short conversation later and cooler heads prevailed.
While not involved in the late-race wreck, Kurt Busch fell outside the top 10 in points after what looked like a stellar day went from bad to worse early on.
Running at the front of the field, Busch came to pit road under green for a loose wheel, then was hit with a pit road speeding penalty, and was finally sent behind the wall to replace the hub. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Busch’s No. 78 hit a large piece of debris late in the going.
Looking for the weekend sweep, Kyle Busch was faced with the task of doing so from the 43rd starting spot. His night was full of action, as he tangled with former teammate Joey Logano and made an epic save.