NATIONWIDE Nicorette 300Final
Kenseth wins Nationwide Nicorette 300Mar 8, 2008 - 11:01 PM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor
HAMPTON, Georgia (Ticker) - Matt Kenseth was able to shake Kevin Harvick during a green-white-checkered-flag finish to win Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Kenseth's Ford finished 0.159-seconds ahead of Harvick's Chevrolet. Jeff Burton's Chevrolet was third followed by Carl Edwards' Ford and Bobby Labonte's Chevrolet was fifth.
Kenseth said he wouldn't have won unless Kyle Busch had a problem late in the race.
"That opened the door for everybody because he had everybody covered before that," Kenseth said after scoring his 24th career Nationwide Series victory.
Harvick's runner-up finish allowed him to take over the points lead. He has a 25-point edge over Edwards after four races but he was more concerned after a slow pit stop late in the race affected his chances at battling for the win.
"I'm disappointed we gave it away on pit road at the end," Harvick said. "When you have an opportunity to capitalize, you have to pounce. I think we were better than the 17 (Kenseth) but after the tires came in we were pretty good. I at least want to have the chance to win.
"We had a good car today. We weren't quite as good as the 20 (Busch). We didn't have enough time to get back up through there. I'm proud of everything they've done but disappointed we didn't capitalize on them. We didn't need any cautions at the end. I needed a few laps to get to where I needed to be to be able to pass him back."
Busch was leading the race when another right front tire blew up for the second week in a row. His Toyota went into the first turn and when the tire blew up it went into the outside wall with 25 laps to go.
Busch was able to get the car back to the pits and repair the damage during the caution period. He returned to the race in 17th place, the last car on the lead lap. He would pit again to change a damage shock absorber. He finished 24th, one lap down.
"We had the dominant car and Toyota should be very proud," Busch said "I'm sorry for the fact we blew the right front tire."
With 11 laps to go, Kenseth's Ford challenged Burton's Chevrolet for the lead. One lap later, he made the pass and began to pull away before a big crash involved Bryan Clausen, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Eric McClure on the backstretch with six laps to go.
NASCAR displayed the red flag in order clean up the massive debris field from the crash.
"We were there and had nowhere to go," Clausen said. "I hate it for all my guys to have something happen that wasn't of our doing."
Kenseth brought the field to the green flag with three laps to go ahead of Harvick and Burton as David Ragan's car hit the wall, leaving more debris on the track to set up a green-white-checkered finish.
"It played out perfect," Kenseth said. "We made some good changes and a lot of adjustments today and got it as good as we need it to be."
Kenseth won at an average speed of 131.29 miles per hour in a race that had 22 lead changes among 11 drivers.
The victory ended six a run of second-place finishes for Kenseth in the Nationwide series.
"I didn't think of my other finishes but we've had a few finishes where we came up short at the end of the race," Kenseth said. "I really thought on the restart we had a 50/50 chance of beating Harvick. I just didn't know on that short run.
"Kevin got around Jeff Burton, but to be totally honest with you, I didn't really know where he was at with seven laps to go."
- Nicorette 300 Preview Mar 8