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Good Ol' Boys - NASCAR

Rain Doesn't Delay Matt Kenseth's Reign
By Frank Ryan
June 1, 2000


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It took more than 4 hours of racing and a lengthy rain delay before the reign of rookies continued to claim their 3rd Winston Cup victory of the year. But it wasn't Dale Earnhardt Jr, but instead Matt Kenseth who overpowered the field and claimed his first victory of his short Winston Cup career. Kenseth, in his DeWalt powered Rousch owned machine, started further back than any other previous winner, 21st starting position, to win the Coca Cola 600 from Lowes Motor Speedway. 


Matt Kenseth on way to Victory in Roush Ford

Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the race from the pole and looked as though he had perhaps made a deal with the devil as he led 48 of the first 50 laps. After a round of pit stops it became apparent that Jerry Nadeau and the Hendrick Motorsports Michael Holigan sponsored Chevrolet was on fire. Nadeau had one of the most dominant cars until the rain delay at lap 254. Nadeau led five times for 115 laps but a decision not to pit with the rest of the field before the rain delay cost him the lead, eventually relinquishing him back to 25th place when his engine expired on lap 357.

After the rain delay Earnhardt Jr. once again established himself as the car to beat. Little E had a 4 second lead when the 7th caution flag of the night flew on lap 362. Five cars beat Earnhardt Jr. out of the pits, and you could tell from the huge chorus of cheers and boos that Jeff Gordon was the first car out of the pits. When the green flag dropped for the final time Gordon could only hold off Bobby Labonte for two laps before Labonte quietly slid under Gordon to grab the lead for the second time that night. As the laps counted down both Earnhardt Jr. and Kenseth were gaining ground but Earnhardt Jr's car was loose and didn't seem to be quite as dominant as before the pit stop, while Kenseth's car appeared to be on a rail. Kenseth wrestled the lead away from Bobby Labonte on lap 375 and never looked back. Leading for the final 25 laps to claim his first victory by a mere half a second in the 600-mile contest.

Watching Kenseth on his cool down lap he reminded me what the sport is all about. Motoring back down the front stretch and approaching the start finish line, Kenseth put the car into a big lazy slide through the Lowes Motor Speedway - Coca Cola 600 signage painted on the grass through infield between the track and pit road. With grass, paint, and dirt flying, Kenseth fired it up and proceeded to spin donut after donut for the ecstatic crowd. Then it was the backwards victory lap to honor the late, great Alan Kulwicki. 


Doing victory donuts

This year's rookie crop is here to stay. With Matt Kenseth claiming his first Winston Cup victory at perhaps the toughest race of the year and Dale Earnhardt Jr already winning 2 races, will Stacy Compton, Dave Blaney and others add to the phenomenon?


Enjoying the spoils of victory

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Memories of Speedweek at Charlotte
By Mark Baudermann 5/26/00
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by Frank Ryan 5/23/00
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