Kenseth Powers Past Edwards For Nationwide Win
Matt Kenseth continued the Roush-Fenway streak at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a victory over teammate Carl Edwards in Saturday’s Top Gear 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
Kenseth passed Edwards with three laps to go to record his 26th-career Nationwide Series victory in his first start of the season - filling in for the ailing Trevor Bayne in the no. 16 Ford Fusion.
Edwards held onto second, followed by Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and Reed Sorenson.
It was the third straight Nationwide Series victory for Roush-Fenway Racing, and the third victory for the team at Charlotte the span of a week, with David Ragan winning last Saturday’s Sprint Showdown, and Edwards taking the checkered flag in the Sprint All Star race.
Edwards also captured the pole for Sunday’s Coca Cola 600, while RFR driver Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. sat on the pole for the Nationwide race.
“That was fun,” said Kenseth. “It was fun to fill in. This is the first Nationwide COT race I’ve run. I haven’t run (in the Nationwide Series) in over a year, so it was nice to get in this car and come out here and have some fun on Saturday.”
“What a difference a year makes,” said team owner Jack Roush. “Last year it seemed we couldn’t buy a win.”
The Roush teammates dominated the race, leading a combined 104 laps, including the final 65 laps with Kenseth and Edwards trading the top spot following a round of green flags stops on lap 150 - putting Edwards back out in front and Kenseth running fifth with four fresh tires.
“We had to pit early because I had a tire shaking a little bit, so we had more laps on our tires than those other guys and we were short on fuel,” said Kenseth. “We were the first one off pit road with four and lined up fifth, so I thought that would give us a shot at least.”
After a brief side-by-side battle with Kyle Busch, Edwards moved out to a two-second lead, hoping to gain enough of a cushion to be able to conserve fuel, but once Kenseth cleared Busch to move into second place he turned up the wick - closing to within two car-lengths of Edwards with ten laps to go.
On lap 194, Kenseth dived under Edwards in a bid for the lead, but Edwards pulled a crossover maneuver to regain the lead as they came to the backstretch.
Kenseth battled back, and with three laps to go tried the bottom again, this time clearing Edwards to into the top spot and moving out to a five car-length lead as Edwards began to fade back, having used up his car trying to hold off Kenseth.
“I couldn’t get back to him,” said Edwards “Matt (Kenseth), there at the end, he was better and he had kid gloves on with me there. He was taking it easy on me and when it was time to go e dispatched me pretty quick.
“I was just trying to get everything I could, but the car just kept getting tighter and tighter. I just needed the race to be five laps shorter and it would have been pretty good.”
After leading much of the middle part of the race, Kyle Busch came up short of eclipsing Mark Martin on the all-time Nationwide win list, coming home with a third-place finish leaving him tied with Martin at 48 wins.
“There’s a little disappointment, but there’s plenty of time left to get there,” said Busch, whose next scheduled Nationwide Series start is June 18 at Michigan International Speedway. “We just have to wait another couple of weeks before we can try to get it done.”
Former Formula One Champion Kimi Räikkönen, who made his NASCAR debut in last Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race driving for Kyle Busch, struggled in his Nationwide debut with an ill-handling racecar, eventually finishing 27.
“The car was getting more and more difficult,” said Räikkönen. “It really turned out to be a really bad day with the handling just because I couldn’t get the car to turn and had to almost stop in the corners because it was pushing all the time.”
Elliott Sadler battled back from a lap down late in the race to finish in tenth place to retain the points lead by one point over Stenhouse, Jr.
* Denotes Rookie
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