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Kenseth rediscovers that winning feeling

Matt Kenseth finally bounced back from a 76-race winless streak with a dominant display at Texas Motor Speedway putting him back in victory lane for the first time since February 2009.
"Show me where to park this thing!", Matt Kenseth said over the radio to his crew chief Jimmy Fennig in recognition of just how long it's been since he's needed to know where to find Victory Lane.

It's been 76 races since Kenseth's last wins at the Daytona 500 and Auto Club Speedway in February 2009 (and nine years since his last win at Texas), and the pressure - both internal and external - had been building on him. It all came right on the night in the evening darkness of Texas Motor Speedway, where he led 169 of the 334 laps - by comparison, he led only 61 laps in the entire 2010 season. He admitted that staying in front in the clean air was the secret of his success: "A couple of times, when we got behind a little bit, it took awhile to get to the front.

"It feels good to get back to victory lane. It has been a long time and we have had a lot of second place finishes and gotten beat at the end here a lot," said Kenseth. "Last fall I had to come back and look at my guys after leading and then not winning. That is always really disappointing. It is nice to have this night and get this win."

Despite having found wins elusive until this weekend, Kenseth's consistently strong finishes so far this season had already been catching the eye: he has finished in the top 10 for his fourth consecutive race, having finished 12th or better in the past six races. His 19th Sprint Cup career victory this weekend boosts him up to third place in the Sprint Cup points standings.

Kenseth wasn't without his worries during the race - an issue on pit road left him short of fuel at one point - but the long green flag runs during the race that saw only five cautions proved to be key, as the #17 just got better and better during long stints, and the race finished with an unbroken run of 114 caution-free laps.

Car owner Jack Roush paid special tribute to the role played by Kenseth's crew chief: "Jimmie Fennig is a great success story. He is our oldest crew chief ... He has been with us longer than anybody else and has worked with a lot of different drivers. He and Matt are as good a combo that I have experienced in my 24 years here."

Instead, it was Tony Stewart who ended up the the biggest fuel heartache of the night. He delayed his final pit stop until 58 laps to the end, thinking that would see him through, but the lack of any late cautions meant that while he started the last lap in third, the car then ran dry and barely cruised to the chequered flag in 12th place at the very back of the lead lap. Stewart might even have been taking the white flag in the lead if it had not been for a drive-thru penalty for speeding in the pits during that final stop.

"It took almost the whole race to crack the top ten, so to be in the position we were in there at the end, I guess is a good thing," Stewart said. "But when you're in that position and you can't capitalize, it's pretty frustrating. Speeding on pit road didn't exactly help the cause either."

Unfortunately, Kenseth's pace and Stewart's ill fortune meant that the Texas crowd were denied a thrilling close finish at the end of the evening's proceedings. Second-placed Clint Bowyer was a distant 8s behind, having almost spun out while in the lead while trying too hard to put a lap on Brian Vickers, and Carl Edwards was a further 9s back down the track despite feeling seriously unwell with suspected food poisoning.




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Texas by night
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, August 17, 2014 in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS finished second. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates with a burnout after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
With General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, holds the Michigan Heritage Trophy after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. In 2013, MIS began awarding the Michigan Heritage Trophy as a recognition and celebration of the automobile and it`s importance to the race track and the manufacturers competing in NASCAR. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates with his crew after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, Trevor Bayne, driver of the #21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford, Justin Allgaier, driver of the #51 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet, and Michael Annett, driver of the #7 Allstate Peterbilt/Pilot Chevrolet, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, lead the field to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, races Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
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Chris Buescher, drives the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford during the Nationwide Children`s 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Nationwide Children`s Hospital Ford Mustang Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the Nationwide Children`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Sam Hornish Jr., driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads the field at the start of the Nationwide Childrens`s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16, 2014 in Lexington, Ohio.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Johnny Sauter, driver of the #98 Nextant/Curb Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Careers For Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Johnny Sauter, driver of the #98 Nextant/Curb Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Careers For Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway on August 16, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan.  (Photo Credit: Will Schneekloth/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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