By: Pete Pistone – @PPistone | MRN.com on May 15, 2016 | 5:08 P.M. EST
Kenseth scored his first win of the season and his third career at the one-mile track. (Photo: Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth held off a furious charge from Kyle Larson to win Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway.
The Joe Gibbs racing driver scored his first win of the season and his third career at the one-mile track.
Kenseth led twice for 48 laps, including the final 47 on his way to Victory Lane.
“It feels good to get this one for sure,” Kenseth said. “We were tight all day on restarts. And on that last one, I got so loose, I thought Kyle was gong to get by me. … Kyle gave me all I wanted that’s for sure.”
Larson tried his best to take his first career Cup win, but was forced to settle for second.
“I wanted to race him with all that respect and felt like I did a good job,” Larson said of Kenseth. “I probably could have got into him in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2 there once and maybe got by him, but I didn’t want to do that. Looking back maybe I should have because I could be in the Chase right now, but we will just keep working hard.”
Chase Elliott, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.
Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr. and Trevor Bayne completed the first 10 finishers.
The Sprint Cup Series now heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for next Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race.
How Kenseth Won: A call by crew chief Jason Ratcliff to take two tires on the final trip to pit road paid dividends for Kenseth. He was able to gain positions and stay in front of the field for the last 47 laps after the race went back to green, although it wasn’t easy. Larson, who had been involved in a stirring battle with Brad Keselowski for the lead earlier in the race, tried several times to get past Kenseth but to no avail. At the checkered flag it was Kenseth showing his rear bumper to Larson and the rest of the field.
Who Had a Good Day: Elliott got into a heated battle with Larson for second place in the closing laps but ultimately finished third, his career best Sprint Cup Series effort…Kahne matched his season-best finish from Richmond earlier in the year with his fourth place performance…Blaney posted his third straight top-10 finish and fifth of 2016.
Who Had a Bad Day: The biggest event of the day happened on a late restart when Jimmie Johnson could not get going when the green flag flew and triggered a multi-car pile-up behind him that caused a red flag and caught up Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle and several others…On the next restart Carl Edwards drove hard into the inside backstretch wall after contact from Kyle Larson…Underdog Matt DiBenedetto had his day end early with a trip into the wall racing through Turn 4…Austin Dillon’s solid start to the year hit a speed bump when something broke and sent him hard into the outside wall just before the halfway mark…Michael Annett made hard contact with the frontstretch inside wall after he got clipped by Jamie McMurray on lap 227…Brad Keselowski was battling for the lead with Larson one minute and then had severe damage after making contact with Dillon after the 3 car came back on track…Tony Stewart’s quest to move up the standings to make the Chase took a hit when he suffered a mechanical failure with less than 70 laps to go. The problem spewed oil all over the track and necessitated a lengthy clean-up period.
What Else Happened: The first half of the race was rather sedate and it looked like Kevin Harvick would run away and hide. But things changed – dramatically – in the second half, which was punctuated by several mishaps, accidents and incidents that completely changed the complexion of the race. The battles for the lead between Larson and Keselowski and then Kenseth and Larson in the closing laps were some of the best racing of the season.
Quote of the Day: “I want to get out and punch somebody — like hard,” Martin Truex Jr. after getting swept up in the late race 18-car accident.
Notables: Kurt Busch scored his first top-five finish at Dover since he won there in 2012…Hamlin scored only his second top-10 finish in the last seven races and was a lap behind Sunday for 123 circuits…All four Joe Gibbs Racing cars have won in 2016.