NASCAR » 12 May 2013
2013 Darlington NASCAR: Kenseth back on a winning streak
"We all wanted this 700th start to be a memorable one," he said afterwards, crediting his crew and the crew chief Alan Gustafson for making it happen. "Alan called great calls and the pit stops were fantastic; especially when it counted the most there at the end.
"We were just bouncing between tight and loose and right there at the end, it was about the best that it had been all night," he said. "To be able to have good track position and have the car pretty well working for you; so, it was a really solid night. I'm very proud of this."
Gordon finished one place ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports team mate Jimmie Johnson, who retains a comfortable 44 point lead in the Sprint Cup standings as a result of another strong finish this week.
"It was just a great 500 miles here at Darlington," said Johnson. "There is nothing easy about this race track. It keeps you on your toes all night long. We had a great car. we lost a little track position at the end but we still got back into the top five.
"I kind of ran second and third all night long; wish I was a little bit better, but this Emerald Green Lowe's Chevrolet was doing a good job," he said. "We had fun! I love this place. I wish we could race here three or four times a year."
The race had been marked with very few yellows, the first 124 laps going completely caution free before a caution for debris and then no further interruptions until lap 302. Those long green stints were what first Kurt Bursh and then his little brother Kyle Buch to enjoy such long untroubled stints at the front with the only breaks in their reign coming as a result of pit stop cycles.
The long green runs meant that a lot of big names were forced off the lead lap relatively early on by the hard-charging leaders, and the lack of cautions robbed those backmarkers of a chance of a lucky dog free pass to allow them to recover.
“Those long green flag runs just killed us,” said Stewart/Haas Racing's Danica Patrick, who was already on the back foot having been forced to switch to her practice car after a wreck in Friday's practice session. "It's tough because you get behind, and it's hard to get caught back up when the pace is that fast and there are so little yellows at the beginning.
"We had a setback in practice, and that cut into our practice time and because of that we didn't get to make any qualifying runs, which led us to going out cold in qualifying, which is not a strength of mine anyway," she admitted. "So it was just a tough weekend. Nothing is wasted. No run or no lap is wasted, but sometimes the fruits of your labor aren't realised until later on."
When the cautions came - and there were only four more of them - they were all packed into the last 65 laps of the race. Regan Smith spun out in turn 2 on lap 302; Casey Mears hit the wall coming out of turn 4 and collected Brad Keselowski shortly after the restart, also nearly taking Kurt Busch with them; there was another accident in turn 1 a dozen laps later involving David Reutimann and Josh Wise; and the final caution came on lap 334 when Kasey Kahne spun and hit the wall while going side-by-side with Kyle Busch for the lead of the race.
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