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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.




Related Pictures

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Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 The Home Depot / Husky Toyota, performs a burnout in celebration of winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 11, 2013 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 The Home Depot / Husky Toyota, celebrates with his crew in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 11, 2013 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Emerald Green Chevrolet and polesitter Kurt Busch, driver of the #78 Furniture Row Racing / Serta Chevrolet, lead the field at the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 11, 2013 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 The Home Depot / Husky Toyota, wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 11, 2013 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose in the Richard Petty Motorsport garage at Sonoma Raceway on June 20, 2014 (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field after a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, places his name in the top twelve on The Chase Grid after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, puts the winner`s sticker on his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cars race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Eckrich Ford, races Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, celebrates with his son, Keelan, in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Jimmy John`s Freaky Fast 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Splash-FVP/Menards Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Johnny Sauter, driver of the #98 Nextant/Curb Records Toyota, leads the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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