11 March 2013
Kenseth celebrates birthday win
Despite appearances, Johnson insisted it had been real racing between himself and Kahne during this period and not just team mates trading the lead at will: "We were racing really hard," said the five time Cup champion. "It's fun to race that fast. We were flying!"
At the restart on lap lap 166, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne led the restart but it was Kyle Busch - back up to third place after his earlier mishap - who risked an audacious ultra-low line under Kahne to seize the lead. For a moment it looked like the Las Vegas native might just be able to run and hide from there, but the #18 started getting loose soon after which allowed Kahne to reel him in and retake the lead on lap 181. At the next restart on lap 200 following a spin by Bobby Labonte, Busch once again leapt into the lead but in a case of deja vu all over again it was once again only a matter of time before Buch started to get loose, the #5 came good and Kahne re-passed for the lead once again.
Two final caution periods for engine blow-ups for BK Racing's Travis Kvapil (lap 224) and Stewart-Haas Racing's Ryan Newman (lap 236) allowed Matt Kenseth to take the lead by opting for fuel-only while most other teams took varying two- and four-tyre strategies in their final pit stop. Kahne had dropped down to sixth after finding himself blocked in by Tony Stewart as he'd tried to exit his pit stall, and Busch was down to seventh after needing set-up adjustments to overcome the #18's tendency to looseness.
At the restart, Kenseth was able to stay ahead despite his older rubber, and while Kahne was rapidly back into second spot with 25 laps to go he still needed those crucial few laps to get the #5 back into its sweet spot again, just as had been the case earlier in the day. Once it was, Kahne was back to being the fastest man on the track; but by this point, Kenseth had managed to pull out enough of a lead to allow him to just hold off Kahne to the finish line.
"I was real nervous," said Kenseth, admitting that it had been a close-run thing with Kahne at the end. "All day he had the best car ... I was getting too tight and I was killing the right front. I just had to make sure I stayed in front of him. Didn't have quite the fastest car there at the end, but we had it where it needed to be.
"Great pit stops, great pit strategy - we were in the right place at the right time and took advantage of it today," he added, before going on to pay special credit to his new crew chief and the pit team at JGR. "Jason Ratcliff and this whole Dollar General crew back here, these guys are just awesome. I'm just real proud to be in the seat, just glad I didn't mess it up for them today."
"I had an unbelievable Farmers Insurance Chevrolet," said Kahne of his own race on Sunday. "Tough to say if we would have gotten by him, but I think just two cycles on left sides I wasn't quite as good. I couldn't turn down the track quite as well as I could the runs before. It just got greasy out there and that was it.
"He beat us, but I had a great day," Kahne insisted. "I drove so hard every single lap today and I think that is just the new Gen-6 car and the Chevy SS. It was a lot of fun. I love it. I had the car to beat today, we lost, but it was still a great run for all of our guys."
Behind them, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch had a fierce door-to-door battle for third place which was finally settled in Keselowski's favour.
"I thought we had some really good speed there at the end," said Keselowski. "I almost want another yellow to race the #5 and the #20. Matt did a great job executing the restarts really well. We were so close.
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