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Kenseth out-thinks Johnson and Edwards to claim win

Sunday's FedEx 400 race at Dover was all set to be a showdown between points leaders Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards: but Matt Kenseth had a different idea at the final pit stop.
In a weekend that had been plagued with rain, it was a relief that the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway managed to get run at all with only a single brief interruption for precipitation especially as the skies remained threatening over the racetrack for the whole afternoon even when the sun managed to break through.

In the end, the happiest man at the "Monster Mile" in Delaware when it came to how things went has to be Matt Kenseth. But Kenseth had started from an unpromising 24th position, after NASCAR used the new procedure for setting the grid in the event of qualifying being rained off, as it had been on Saturday at Dover: the fastest times set in Friday practice were used instead, which meant that Jimmie Johnson took poll with AJ Allmendinger alongside him and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne immediately behind them on the second row.

Kyle Busch, who should have started from seventh under the new procedure, instead ended up at the back of the field for the green flag after an engine change following the first practice on Friday: "When they checked the valve lash, whatever they used to keep the valve lash correct broke, fell out, so that was the problem there," Busch had said, in what was the latest of a worrying trend of blown engines at Joe Gibbs Racing this season. "I don't know if we've seen that issue - I'm not entirely sure - but we had to change engines and go to the backup engine." Busch then compounded the problem by putting the understeering #18 into the wall off turn 2 just 16 laps into final practice, giving him a mountain to climb even before the race started on Sunday afternoon at 1.17pm.

Johnson immediately took care of the lead at the start and hustled away, while Brian Vickers got loose and nearly brought out a very early caution by tapping the wall down the front straight. After the heavy rain on Saturday, a competition yellow had in any case been scheduled for lap 40 to allow car owners and drivers the chance to assess the state of play, but in fact it didn't make it to that distance before we had a genuine first caution of the afternoon.

That was for Joey Logano, who got loose off turn 2 and went for a spin into the wall on lap 29; debris on track forced the caution, but pit lane was still not open for refuelling for another 20 laps under the scheduled yellow, and so no one was heading for pit road. Johnson led the restart with Allmendinger in second and Earnhardt Jr in third, and Carl Edwards had already climbed four spots to take up residence in fourth ahead of Brad Keselowski; Marcos Ambrose was also a big mover, into the top ten from a 15th place on the start, but unsurprisingly the biggest mover of all during the early laps had been Kyle Busch from the back, moving up 13 positions to 13th within a dozen laps of the start.

By the time we finally arrived at the competition caution on lap 40, Carl Edwards had glided into second position behind Johnson, and then nipped in front during the pit stops to head the field coming back round for the restart. Johnson got the better start and reclaimed the lead, with Allmendinger following him through into second place.

A 118-lap green flag stint now followed, and for much of it Johnson was impervious in the lead even if he was complaining that he was struggling for grip as the rubber started to build up on the previously washed-clean racetrack as the laps ticked by. He was not alone: "It's loose," Kevin Harvick was yelling into his radio. His crew chief Gil Martin confirmed that "The whole field is screaming."

Those on the rise included Marcos Ambrose and Harvick (both into the top five), Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch (running on the edge of the top ten); Jeff Burton and Denny Hamlin were among the midfielders making slow but steady gains. Those having a less successful time included Clint Bowyer (struggling after taking two tyres on the competition caution) and Kasey Kahne (who had falled to 16th after his second row start. Jeff Gordon in 21st had no specific problems but just seemed to be unable to get any momentum going; Brad Keselowski had a scary moment on lap 75 when he got got loose and sideways but he managed to hold it together and carry on.

Green flag pit stops came and went around the 108-lap marker, Johnson taking up the lead again with ease despite having to put in some fancy footwork with lapped traffic. The major drama of the pit stops was supplied by David Ragan, who spun on pit road and nearly blocked the entrance altogether at the critical moment that everyone was needing to come in for gas.




Related Pictures

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AJ Allmendinger`s day ends early as engine trouble forces him out of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks on Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. [Picture Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Matt Kenseth and the #17 Roush Fenway Racing team in Sunoco Victory Lane on Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. [Picture Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Five-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and current points leader Carl Edwards side by side on Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. [Picture Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Matt Kenseth claims the 20th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series checkered flag of his career on Sunday at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. [Picture Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images.]
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Pro Services Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #20 Hisense Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualifies for twelfth position Friday, August 21, 2015 for Saturday night`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. Larson is 19th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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