Kenseth charges late for Southern 500 victory

Many like to call Matt Kenseth NASCAR’s present-day David Pearson.

Known for his stealth-like driving style, Pearson wasn’t always the one who led the most laps in the race, but he was always there at the finish when it mattered.

That’s the exact trait Kenseth has been known for over the course of his thirteen full seasons at NASCAR’s top level.

With Pearson being known as the master of Darlington Raceway with nine victories to his name at the track that’s nicknamed “Too Tough To Tame”, it would only be fitting that Kenseth showed his stealthness again Saturday night at Darlington.

Kenseth’s car was by no means dominant, that car belonged to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch.

Busch led an astounding 265 of the 367 laps on the night and went without a challenge throughout most of the night.

On a restart with under 40 laps to go, Busch was lined up next to Kasey Kahne. The two drew even into the first turn, then all heck broke loose.

Attempting to pull off a class Darlington crossover move, Busch drove his car to the bottom of turn one, sliding up the track, sending the No.5 of Kahne into the outside wall.

Busch’s challenge appeared to be gone, getting out to a sizable lead on the final restart of the race with under 30 laps to go.

But then, Kenseth’s No.20 began to lurk and finally close up to Busch’s bumper and finally was able to bypass Busch to take the lead of the race for the third and final time of the night.

Leading seventeen laps on the night, Kenseth drove off into Darlington’s night sky to win Saturday’s Bojangles Southern 500.

“Honestly, I’ve only dreamed of winning the Southern 500,” Kenseth said in victory lane after picking up his first career win at Darlington.

“This to me probably feels bigger than any [race win] in my career.”

Kenseth was able to record his twenty-seventh career victory and third of the 2013 season without his crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, who served his one-week suspension by NASCAR this weekend.

“I really feel bad that Jason’s not here,” said Kenseth. “This is obviously his team and his effort.

“But Wally (Rogers, interim crew chief) did a great job.”

Kenseth was followed across the finish line in the fastest Southern 500 in the race’s sixty year history with an average speed at over 141 mph by his teammate Denny Hamlin who returned to his first full-race of competition after suffering a compression fracture in the March 24 race at Auto Club Speedway.

Hamlin was followed by Jeff Gordon in his seven-hundreth Sprint Cup start, 2012 Southern 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick.

Busch would wind up sixth in the final result after a cut rear tire caused him to drop back through the field late.

Johnson holds a 44-point lead over Carl Edwards heading into the May 24 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the Coca-Cola 600.

Next up for the Sprint Cup Series is the annual Sprint All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 18.

Bojangles 500 Unofficial Results 

  1. Matt Kenseth 
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Jeff Gordon
  4. Jimmie Johnson
  5. Kevin Harvick
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Carl Edwards
  8. Juan Pablo Montoya
  9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  10. Ryan Newman
  11. Clint Bowyer
  12. Martin Truex Jr.
  13. Greg Biffle
  14. Kurt Busch
  15. Tony Stewart
  16. Jamie McMurray
  17. Kasey Kahne
  18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  19. Paul Menard
  20. Aric Almirola
  21. Jeff Burton
  22. Joey Logano
  23. Travis Kvapil
  24. Regan Smith
  25. Mark Martin
  26. Bobby Labonte
  27. Dave Blaney
  28. Danica Patrick
  29. David Gilliland
  30. Landon Cassill
  31. Joe Nemechek
  32. Brad Keselowski
  33. Timmy Hill
  34. Marcos Ambrose
  35. JJ Yeley
  36. David Reuitmann
  37. Casey Mears
  38. Josh Wise
  39. David Ragan
  40. David Stremme
  41. Scott Speed
  42. Michael McDowell
  43. Mike Bliss

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