May 11, 2013; Darlington, SC, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth celebrates with a burnout after winning the Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Kenseth Wins His First Southern 500

Matt Kenseth passed teammate Kyle Busch late in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway taking the checkered flag for the 3rd time this season. He had interim crew chief Wally Brown on the box while Jason Ratcliff serves his one race suspension but it didn’t seem to bother this team any. Kyle dominated the race leading 265 laps but his Achilles heel turned out to be a flat tire that was slowly going down in the closing laps of the race. It cost him the victory and multiple spots falling all the way back to 6th. Kenseth has never won at Darlington and says that this win ranks right up there as one of his favorites.

The race started with Kurt Busch driving away from the field for about 70 laps or so before his little brother Kyle made his way by. The first caution didn’t fly until lap 124 and that was for debris leaving just 17 cars on the lead lap.  There was another very long green flag run and with less than 10 cars on the lead lap, the caution flew for Regan Smith who spun out on the backstretch with a flat tire. They say cautions breathe cautions and that turned out to be true tonight. Just a few laps after the restart, Paul Menard made contact with Casey Mears sending him into Kurt Busch’s door and back across the track slamming the wall collecting Brad Keselowski.

Another incident involved Front Row Motorsports driver Josh Wise who spun off the door of Marcos Ambrose leaving David Reutimann nowhere to go but into the back of the #35. The wow moment of the race occurred very late in the event between the leaders. Kyle Busch and Kasey Kahne battled fiercely for the top spot and came very close to hitting one another in some breath-taking passes as they swapped the lead multiple times. Busch dove down under Kahne attempted to retake the lead and before we knew it, Kasey went slamming into the wall ruining his day. It’s unclear whether Kyle hit the #5 or if he simply took the air off his left rear but it was certainly close. Kasey salvaged a 17th place result with his wounded car.

On the final restart, Kyle Busch pulled out to a 1 second lead over Matt Kenseth before Matt quickly began to close in. In fact, he was catching Busch so fast that it raised some discussion as to whether or not Kyle had some kind of problem. He went by the #18 with just over 10 to go and Kyle failed to make the cross over move work quickly falling back. Matt Kenseth set sail and cruised to the victory with Denny Hamlin finishing an impressive 2nd in his comeback race. Jeff Gordon finished 3rd in his 700th NSCS start which also marks his 300th career top-5 finish. Points leader and defending race winner Jimmie Johnson finished 4th with Kevin Harvick 5th, Kyle Busch 6th, Edwards 7th, Montoya 8th, Earnhardt Jr. 9th and Newman 10th.  Johnson’s points lead is up to 44 over Carl Edwards who finished 7th and Kenseth has moved passed Dale Jr. taking 3rd. The Coke 600 is the next points paying race on the schedule but this upcoming weekend marks the 29th running of the All-Star Race. No points, just $2,000,000 on the line and it is sure to be exciting!

Tags: Darlington Joe Gibbs Racing Kasey Kahne Kyle Busch Matt Kenseth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

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