The last time Matt Kenseth was in victory lane, the year was 2009, and he cruised to an easy win at California in the black, Carhartt number 17 car. In last night’s race, Kenseth dominated the race by leading 169 of the 334 laps. What color was his car? Black, but this time the sponsor was Crown Royal Black. It has been a while, so what did Kenseth have to say? “It has been a long time. I have lost a lot of close ones at this track. It feels good to be able to close it out.”
Kenseth’s win gave owner Jack Roush his eighth cup win at the track. Overall, it was a great weekend for Roush-Fenway racing. Carl Edwards won the Nationwide Series race on Friday night, and all of Roush’s cup cars finished in the top ten; Edwards finished third, Greg Biffle fourth, and pole-sitter David Ragan, who led 11 laps in the race, finished seventh.
The Samsung Mobile 500 was relatively a clean race. There were only five cautions and three of them were debris or fluid on the track. The fifth caution was the highlight of the night. On lap 216, three laps after the restart from the fourth caution, Martin Truex Jr. lost the handle of his car in turn two, while trying to avoid Brad Keselowski, and slid into the wall. Mark Martin and Regan Smith had nowhere to go, as Truex bounced off the wall, and they plowed right into him.
This was the second week in a row that Truex was involved in a hard crash. Last week, at Martinsville his gas pedal stuck to the floor and he barreled into Kasey Kahne and the wall. The impact with the wall was so hard that a hole formed. Following the Texas wreck, a frustrated Truex said, “We had a slow stop under green and lost a lap. We tried to take two (only took two tires to gain track position) to make up for it, but after you make one mistake it snowballs.”
The last 114 laps were finished under green which meant that pit stops would be crucial for the drivers, as they would determine the outcome of the race. Many drivers suffered problems on pit road. On lap 12, under the first caution, Tony Stewart collided with Dave Blaney and spun Blaney out. As a result, Jeff Gordon was blocked in and he was never able to move up through the field. Stewart sustained minor damage, and the team had to change their pit strategy in order to have a shot at winning the race.
Then on lap 48, David Reutimann collided with Joey Logano and spun out. Kevin Harvick, who won the last two weeks, was boxed in and could never make up the track position either.
The other key pit road incident occurred on lap 277. Stewart was one of a handful of drivers that decided that their best shot at winning was fuel strategy. He came down pit road for his last stop, with most of the field still having to make one more pit stop. If Stewart had a clean stop, and if the race stayed green to the finish, then he would have stolen a win. However, NASCAR said he was speeding when he entered pit road, and gave him a penalty. All Stewart could say to his crew was, “Sorry, I knew I did it.”
Other than Stewart’s gamble, Kenseth had no other challengers except for Clint Bowyer. Bowyer led 44 laps, but after Kenseth passed him, he could never catch up to him. Bowyer ended up finishing second, followed by Edwards, Biffle, and Paul Menard, the surprise of the season so far, rounded out the top-five.
How do the points stand after Texas? Edwards’ strong finish propelled him into the points lead. He now leads Kyle Busch by nine points.
Kenseth’s dominating performance moved him up six spots, and into third in the standings, heading into next week’s race at Talladega. The points will probably be shaken up again next week at Talladega, as it is usually one of the wildest and most exciting races of the season.
Images courtesy of: Star-Telegram.com, wfmz.com, wtnh.com, and Google Images
Quotes courtesy of: Fox Sports.com and NASCAR.com