Kenseth ends 76-race drought with Texas win
After going 76 races without a win, Kenseth finally got back into Victory Lane with a dominating run at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night when the entire Roush Fenway team was outstanding.
"As you start to get a little older and start looking up at the results, it's been over two years since we won," Kenseth said. "You can't help but think, is the way it's going to go? Are we going to keep trickling backwards?"
Kenseth led 169 of 334 laps at the 1½-mile, high-banked track for his 19th career victory, his first since California in February 2009 when he won the first two races of that season. Since his other win at Texas in 2002, Kenseth had four runner-up finishes, including last fall behind Denny Hamlin, and six other top-10 finishes at the track.
"It has been a long time," Kenseth said. "I have lost a lot of close ones at this track. It feels good to be able to close it out."
This time, the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford was only trailing late behind Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch when both of those drivers were out of sequence on stops and trying to stretch fuel in hopes of catching a caution. Lucky for Kenseth, there were no yellow flags at the wrong time.
Kenseth went back ahead to stay with 13 laps to go when Busch had to make his final stop and give up a 8.2-second lead. Kenseth finished 8.315 seconds ahead of Clint Bowyer on warm and windy night for the first Texas race under the lights.
"One of the hottest times I've ever had in a car," Bowyer said. "More than anything, my feet were burning up."
Edwards, Kenseth's teammate, joked that he was "hopped up on Pepto Bismol" because of an upset stomach from something he ate earlier in the day. He also dealt with a loose car all night, but still finished third to take over the series points lead by nine over Kyle Busch.
"I was a little sick this morning. I thought I was alright. But my stomach was messed up about 50 laps in. My mom made a dish and I think one of the ingredients was bad," Edwards said. "We were trying really hard to get the car right and we never did. That's why I was happy with third."
It was a weekend sweep in the Lone Star State for car owner Jack Roush after Edwards won the Nationwide race Friday night. Roush has 16 NASCAR wins in Texas — eight in Cup, seven in Nationwide and one in Trucks.
All four of Roush's drivers finished in the top seven Saturday night. Greg Biffle was fourth and polesitter David Ragan seventh, the best finish of the year for both.
"I'm really proud of what we've been able to do in 2011," Roush said. "I can't say how proud I am to be here with Matt. He hasn't gotten the success that his effort deserved in the recent past."
Kenseth led nine times and won with an average speed of 149.234 mph. The race featured 31 lead changes among 13 drivers.
Stewart had gone 58 laps since his last stop with 58 laps to go, and had nearly a 17-second lead over Kenseth and more than 19 seconds over Bowyer when he made his stop.
Any chance for a victory ended when Stewart got penalized for speeding on pit road. He finished 12th, the last driver on the lead lap even though he coasted across the finish line after running out of fuel.
Kurt Busch, who led five times for 50 laps, finished 10th. It was his fifth top-10 finish this season, his best being fifth in the season opener at Daytona.
"Just a hard-fought battle all night," Kurt Busch said. "Overall, we got off-sequence which might have helped preserve that top 10. It's tough. We want to compete for top fives and wins and we're only getting top 10s right now."
While Kenseth had led only five laps in the first six races this season, he got to Texas coming off three consecutive finishes in the top six and had been in the top 12 for every race since an accident in the season-opening Daytona 500 led to a 34th-place finish.
Kenseth became the career laps leader at Texas, pushing his total to 669 laps in 18 starts.
The first night race of the season was also the first at Texas, which hosted its 21st Sprint Cup race since the track opened in 1997.
Hamlin finished 15th and Kevin Harvick 20th, both being denied trifectas.
Harvick had won the last two Cup races this season at Martinsville and California. Hamlin swept both races at Texas last season and was trying to become the first driver to win three consecutive Cup races at the track.
Both had problems early in the race, Harvick getting a penalty in the pits on the first stop and Hamlin with some power problems in his car.
After a runner-up finish last week at Martinsville, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had another strong run and finished ninth. But his winless streak was extended to 100 races since winning in Michigan nearly three years ago. That was his only win in 115 starts since joining Hendrick Motorsports, a span in which teammate Jimmie Johnson has won three season championships.
Johnson finished eighth at Texas, just ahead of Earnhardt.