Kenseth lucks out as Busch gets flat tire
Matt Kenseth followed up his record-breaking performance on Friday with a victory in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Diamond Hill Plywood 200 at Darlington Raceway.
Just hours after setting a track record in qualifying for Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Southern 500, Kenseth picked up his first Nationwide win after Kyle Busch was forced to pit during the final caution flag with two laps to go.
Jason Leffler was second, followed by Carl Edwards, Erik Darnell and Justin Allgaier.
Kenseth trailed Busch going into the final five laps, quickly gaining ground before pulling to within a few car lengths of Busch just as the ninth caution flag of the night waved with two laps to go.
With a green-white-checkered finish looming, Busch reported to his crew that he had a flat right-rear tire caused by debris from the caution, forcing him to relinquish the lead to come to pit road. Kenseth inherited the lead, and led the field to the green flag for the three-lap shootout.
The dash was short-lived as the caution flag was displayed yet again for Brad Keselowski’s spin, ending the race under caution.
“Today couldn't have gone any better than it did, that's for sure," said Kenseth. “Like I said earlier, it's all really about the cars and the people that work on them and your pit stops and all that.
“I can't go fast with slow cars, which I proved over the last couple months. It feels good to be able to win one of these things… On the Cup side, it feels good to make changes today, and the car actually reacted to it and seemed to drive a lot better than our stuff has lately, so it's been a good day for us. Hopefully, that will continue (Saturday).”
Leffler’s second place finish was his fifth straight top-10 finish and his second runner-up showing in the last four races, keeping him third in the series points behind Busch and Edwards, who are both splitting time in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.
“I would like to tell you that we had something for him (Kyle Busch), but we were running for second,” said Leffler. “You never know on the restart because everyone’s car runs good for one or two laps. Our car was stout, but I was running my own race and concentrating on the 16 (Matt Kenseth).
“Right now that is the only way we’re going to beat him (Busch) is when he has issues
Busch, who had led 143 laps and had the dominant car for much of the race, ended up 16th after coming within two laps of his second consecutive victory.
Busch’s right-rear tire was apparently punctured after he ran over debris while under caution for a wreck between Scott Lagasse, Jr. and Joe Nemechek.
“I hate it for these guys on this Z-Line Designs team and for Kyle (Busch),” said Busch’s crew chief Jason Ratcliff. “He drove a great race like you said. That’s part of this sport. One day you’re on top then it can humble you pretty quick.”
Busch continues to lead the points standings by 37 points over Carl Edwards. Leffler, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski held onto the top five positions in the points standings.
Only 18 cars finished on the lead lap, while 10 cars failed to finish the event.
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