Matt Kenseth clinched his spot in the 2006 Chase for the Nextel Cup when he won Saturday’s round at Bristol, his second win in two days at the Tennessee oval.
But the Ford Fusion driver’s fourth Cup victory of the year didn’t come easy.
“I didn’t think we had quite the car today to tell you the truth,” he said. “I thought Jeff Burton had everyone covered, but once we got to the lead, even though it’s only a half mile track, when we got in clean air we were pretty good (and) we had great pitstops.”
Kyle Busch overcame early problems to bring the Kellogg’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo home second. He’d been itching to take the fight to Kenseth. “It was a strong run to finish second. I wish I could have gotten to Kenseth, that would have been a heck of a show.”
Dale Earnhardt Junior (Chevy) was third. “Friday was hot here and we were not very fast,” he said. “That was the hardest I have seen (the pit crew) work in the heat like that. I just told them that that is motivation for me and I tried to do what I could on the racetrack.
“Our pitstops were the best they have ever been (and) we gained spots on every stop. That was a great car. (The crew) turned a pile of crap into a pretty decent race car.”
Scott Riggs (Dodge Charger) and Jeff Gordon (Chevy) completed the top five.
“Everyone on this Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge has done a great job all year,” Riggs said. “We’re a new team and we’re just trying to prove ourselves. We finally had a good car and got some breaks and had good pitstops all night.”
Pole winner Kurt Busch led the first 12 laps until Burton passed him. Burton led until lap 54 when Kenseth got past.
Kenseth still led when the first caution flew on lap 64, but Kurt Busch won the race off pitroad and took the lead. Burton, led through a string of
cautions, before losing it to Earnhardt, chose not to pit. Gordon was leading on lap 202 when Kevin Harvick hit the wall.
After pitstops, Gordon continued to lead till Burton was fastest off pitroad.
Kenseth made the crucial pass to take the lead on lap 402.
He hung on to the lead after Elliott Sadler (Dodge) hit the wall causing the 10th
caution, and led unchallenged over the closing laps. ?