Matt Kenseth’s 2016 season has been defined by bad luck. Whether it’s his team not telling him he was penalized at Atlanta, or a late race crash at Las Vegas. None of the incidents derailing good, solid runs for the No. 20 have been Kenseth’s own doing. However, this past Sunday at Dover International Speedway – he ended up in victory lane.
Kenseth was able to hold off Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet in the closing laps. Leading only 48 of the 400 laps, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was able to wheel his Toyota to victory lane in the AAA 400 for the first time in 2016, and third time in his career at the Monster Mile.
“It all worked out for us, kind of the opposite as I feel like it’s been going the last couple months,” said Kenseth to FS1. “We’ve had really fast race cars. We’ve been in position to win a lot. This wasn’t our fastest car by any means. But we were able to be there at the end of the race and pull it off.” This is only his second top five of the season, with the other one coming the weekend prior at Kansas Speedway. All four JGR cars have now clinched playoff berths.
Larson got to Kenseth’s bumper and door multiple times. However, he raced the No. 20 clean, and ended up with a runner-up finish, tied for a career best.
“I had gotten close to his bumper a couple times. I may have even got into him once. I didn’t want to do anything dirty,” Larson said to FS1. “I respect Matt Kenseth a lot. He’s definitely in my eyes the cleanest racer out there. He always races me with respect. I try to do the same with him.”
Larson ended up leading 85 of 400 laps. He admitted his car wasn’t a winning one, but a call to stay out and get track position midway through the event changed their race. With a couple cautions falling the Larson’s way, he was right in the thick of a battle for a win.
Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott finished in third place, a career-best. He got close to the two aforementioned drivers that finished first and second, but ultimately had to settle for third. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne finished fourth, with Kurt Busch rounding out the top five. Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. (led 47 laps), and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top ten finishing positions.
There were some big names are missing. Why is that? Three words: Miles got hungry.
On lap 354, an 18-car pileup ensued on the frontstretch. Race leader Jimmie Johnson’s shifter stuck while shifting from second to third gear, forcing an extreme bottleneck/accordion effect, which damaged to multiple cars. Some notable names involved were Johnson, Kevin Harvick (who led 117 laps early before hit pit crew lost him more than 12 positions all day on pit road), Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman.
“I got a great start in second gear,” said Johnson to FS1, who finished 25th. “As I went to put it in third [gear] and came across the shifting gate it never went into third. It actually got locked in the neutral area of the transmission. I had plenty of time. Martin [Truex Jr.] was plenty patient with me and I was trying to get third and I couldn’t. Just a freak deal with something with the transmission. I’ve never had that happen to me in my career.”
Aric Almirola was also involved in the crash, and suffered a broken pinkie finger during the accident. Jamie McMurray, who was involved but not hurt in this crash,suffered a rib injury in practice on Friday due to the lack of safer barriers on the frontstretch.
Some other notable drivers who have not been mentioned in this article are Danica Patrick (finished 13th), Carl Edwards (finished 28th), and Tony Stewart (finished 34th).
Next week, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads home to Charlotte Motor Speedway to begin “10 Days of Thunder” with the Sprint All-Star Race and All-Star Showdown this weekend. The big show can be seen on Saturday evening on FS1 at 7:00 p.m. ET.