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FORT WORTH, United States — Matt Kenseth snapped a 76-race Sprint Cup winless streak, and gave Roush Fenway Racing’s Ford stable a sweep of the weekend’s NASCAR’s events, with a victory in the Samsung Mobile 500 that bordered on a Saturday night butt-kicking.
“After two years I didn’t know if I would get here again,” Kenseth said after finishing 8.315-seconds ahead of Clint Bowyer in the first night Cup race in the 15-year history of Texas Motor Speedway. “Yeah, it feels good to get back to victory lane. It’s been a long time. It feels good to have a night like we had tonight with a dominant car and be able to get the win.”
Kenseth posted his 19th career Cup victory, first of 2011 and first since Feb. 22, 2009 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford Fusion, Kenseth led a race-high 169 of 334 laps to become the all-time Cup laps-leader at TMS. Kenseth now has led 669 Cup laps in 18 starts at The Great American Speedway. Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle, who held the mark at 612 laps entering the race, led seven Saturday night to push his total to 619.
“It was probably a little harder than it looked at times,” said Kenseth, at 39 the senior driver at Roush Fenway. “I’ve enjoyed every one of them [his wins]. So you know, I felt better the last six months. Certainly the previous 12 months before that was frustrating for me. As you start to get older and with the results and it’s been over two years since we won, you can’t help but think, ‘Is this the way it’s going to go? Are we going to keep trickling backwards?’ But certainly it gives you a lot of confidence, and it’s a big relief to get back to victory lane and break that winless streak. It feels like we’re back into a contending form.”
The win, played-out in summertime-like conditions before a crowd estimated at 168,400, allowed Kenseth to move from ninth to third in driver points, 13 behind new leader/Roush Fenway teammate Carl Edwards. Kenseth is four in back of runner-up Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyota Camry camp.
The 2003 series champion, Kenseth recorded his second victory and 12th top-10 finish on TMS’ 1.5-mile quadoval. Kenseth won the rain-delayed Samsung/RadioShack 500 here on April 8, 2002—when he was forced to start at the rear of the 43-car field because of an engine change. He also has finished second here in the 2006 spring race, both events in 2007 and last November’s Chase for the Sprint Cup race.
All four cars from Roush Fenway’s stable finished in the top-10, including an ailing Edwards in third; Greg BIffle, fourth in the No. 16 3M Ford and pole-sitter David Ragan in seventh in the No. 6 UPS Freight Ford. Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Scotts Ford, took over the Cup point lead by nine (256-247) over Busch despite dealing with an upset stomach.
“My stomach was messed-up about 50 laps in,” Edwards jokingly recalled. “I hate to throw my Mom under the bus, but she cooked something last night that I don’t think was too good. I think it might have been her first attempt at it. I’d rather not talk about the details. I’m good. No, I kept everything in, so we were OK. I knew in this white fire suit I had to be careful.”
Edwards also won Friday night’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Nationwide Series race in the No. 60 Fastenal Ford Mustang—first NASCAR-sanctioned victory for the iconic Pony Car.
Kenseth, paired with veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig, presented team-owner Jack Roush with his 16th win at TMS in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series since the facility opened in 1997. Eight of those victories have come in the Cup Series.
“Well, I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do in 2011,” Roush said. “You know, we tuned-up our engineering program with Ford’s help over the winter and we got a new Ford nose. Everybody got a new nose this year, but our new nose was better than our old nose, I think. And we’ve had our FR9 engine really up-to-speed. So, all of that is going well.
“I can’t say how proud I am to be here with Matt, realizing that he’s not gotten the success that his effort has deserved in recent past. Of course, Jimmy Fennig isn’t an instant success story. He’s our oldest [tenured] crew chief [dating to 1997]. He’s worked with a lot of different drivers and he and Matt are as good a combination of driver and crew chief as I’ve experienced in my 24 years here.”
Kenseth’s average speed was 149.231 mph in a race that saw 31 lead changes among 13 drivers. Fennig said he and Kenseth tweaked on the Fusion during each of eight pit stops.
“The car wasn’t perfect all night; we didn’t get it perfect,” said Fennig, who won a Cup championship with Kurt Busch for Roush in 2004. “But the speed seemed to be there, so we didn’t want to go overboard [with adjustments]. We were just creeping up a little bit here, a little bit there and what air pressure there was. So that was about it all night.”
Bowyer, driver of the No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet Impala fielded by Richard Childress Racing, earned his sixth top-10 finish in 11 starts at TMS. It also was his third top-10 finish of 2011. “We’ve come on, we’ve had solid runs and we’re clicking now,” said Bowyer, who moved from 16th to 12th in points after his first top-five and third top-10 result of the season. “That’s what it takes in this sport. You’ve got to get on a momentum swing, get some confidence built back up and you have to start with that.”
RCR teammate Paul Menard continued his recent strong showings with a fifth-place finish in the No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevy.
Marcos Ambrose was sixth in the No. 9 Stanley Ford fielded by Richard Petty Motorsports, followed by Ragan’s No. 6 Fusion; five-time/reigning Cup champion Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevy fielded by Hendrick Motorsports; Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevy also fielded by HMS and Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T fielded by Penske Racing.
Meanwhile, Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Andy Lally finished 32nd in the No. 71 Interstate Moving Services Ford in The Racer’s Group debut in customer equipment provided by Roush Fenway Racing and Roush Yates Engines.