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Kenseth snatches dramatic Dover victory
4 June 2006
Matt Kenseth passed his Roush Racing teammate Jamie McMurray with three laps to go to take victory in Sunday's Neighbourhood Excellence 400 at Dover's 'Monster Mile.'
Kenseth's final pass on McMurray was the culmination of a frantic final 30 laps in which the driver of the #26 Roush Ford battled manfully on older tyres to hold off the advances of first Kevin Harvick and then Kenseth.
Whereas Kenseth ran near the front of the field throughout the 400-lap race, McMurray's race began from the rear of the field following a post-qualifying engine change and didn't pick up until he was awarded the Lucky Dog free pass with just over 100 laps remaining.
A flurry of caution periods between laps 250 and 350 gave many teams an opportunity to try a slightly different fuel and tyre strategy with McMurray moving to the front of the pack less than ten laps after getting the free pass and moving back onto the lead lap.
With Harvick, Kenseth and Jeff Burton squabbling for second at the start of the final green flag run McMurray looked on course for just his second career Cup Series victory but when lapped traffic came into play McMurray's older tyres couldn't compare to Kenseth's slightly fresher rubber.
McMurray held on for second despite the close attentions of Richard Childress Racing teammates Harvick and Burton with Hendrick Motorsport teammates Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson completing the top six, also within striking distance of the winner.
Johnson's drive from 42nd on the grid to sixth was masterful, especially considering how poor his #48 Chevrolet was at the start of the race. With only two caution periods in the opening 260 laps there were precious few chances to improve things and at one point the championship leader was in danger of going two laps down.
However seven caution flags between laps 263 and 344 gave Johnson's Chad Knaus led crew ample time to make the necessary adjustments and after using strategy to get him onto the tail of the lead lap for the lap 312 restart Johnson found himself running eighth with 50 laps remaining. Having made quick work of Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kasey Kahne Johnson was easily the quickest man on track at the end and once again salvaged a good result from a weekend filled with hiccups.
Kahne finished seventh with Greg Biffle eighth, Mark Martin ninth after losing the lead for the second time this year when a crew-member failed to tighten a lug nut correctly and Earnhardt Jr rounding out the top ten.
Polesitter Ryan Newman finished 14th while Ricky Rudd crossed the line in 25th place in relief of Toy Stewart after serving a drive through penalty for breaking the pit lane speed limit during a round of green flag pitstops.
In the standings Johnson's fine recovery allowed him to keep the points lead although Kenseth has now reduced the gap to less than 80 points with Martin third, Earnhardt Jr improving one place to fourth and Stewart slipping to fifth.
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