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NASCAR

Instant replay – Kenseth, Busch finish 1-2

  • NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth celebrates in Victory Lane with a lobster after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

    NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth celebrates in Victory Lane with a lobster after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

  • NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne (5) spins on the front straightaway during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne (5) spins on the front straightaway during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • Driver Matt Kenseth takes a victory lap with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

    Driver Matt Kenseth takes a victory lap with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)

  • NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth (20) takes the lead during a restart in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. Kenseth won the race.  (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth (20) takes the lead during a restart in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. Kenseth won the race. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne (5) spins on the front straightaway during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

    NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne (5) spins on the front straightaway during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

  • A fan signs the track. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    A fan signs the track. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Clint Bowyer gives a hat to a young fan. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Clint Bowyer gives a hat to a young fan. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Crew members push Matt Kenseth's no. 20 car to the starting line. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Crew members push Matt Kenseth's no. 20 car to the starting line. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Matt Truex Jr. stands near his car before the start of the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Matt Truex Jr. stands near his car before the start of the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Drivers follow the pace car at the start of the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Drivers follow the pace car at the start of the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Jeff Gordon stands with his wife Ingrid Vandebosch next to his car before the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Jeff Gordon stands with his wife Ingrid Vandebosch next to his car before the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Jamie McMurray ends up backward before Kevin Swindell collided with his no. 1 car. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Jamie McMurray ends up backward before Kevin Swindell collided with his no. 1 car. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Wendy Law of BBE & TCC, an event services company, works to wrangle balloons before the start of the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Wendy Law of BBE & TCC, an event services company, works to wrangle balloons before the start of the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Jeff Gordon finished fifteenth. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Jeff Gordon finished fifteenth. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Flames linger on tires swapped from Jeff Gordon's no. 24 car. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Flames linger on tires swapped from Jeff Gordon's no. 24 car. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • Matt Kenseth celebrates after winning the Sylvania Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

    Matt Kenseth celebrates after winning the Sylvania Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.

    (WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

  • NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth celebrates in Victory Lane with a lobster after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
  • NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne (5) spins on the front straightaway during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
  • Driver Matt Kenseth takes a victory lap with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)
  • NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth (20) takes the lead during a restart in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. Kenseth won the race.  (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
  • NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne (5) spins on the front straightaway during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
  • A fan signs the track. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Clint Bowyer gives a hat to a young fan. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Crew members push Matt Kenseth's no. 20 car to the starting line. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Matt Truex Jr. stands near his car before the start of the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Drivers follow the pace car at the start of the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Jeff Gordon stands with his wife Ingrid Vandebosch next to his car before the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Jamie McMurray ends up backward before Kevin Swindell collided with his no. 1 car. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Wendy Law of BBE & TCC, an event services company, works to wrangle balloons before the start of the race. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Jeff Gordon finished fifteenth. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Flames linger on tires swapped from Jeff Gordon's no. 24 car. The Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race was held at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)
  • Matt Kenseth celebrates after winning the Sylvania Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 NASCAR stock car race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday, September 22, 2013.<br/><br/>(WILL PARSON / Monitor staff)

LOUDON – Matt Kenseth couldn’t have asked for a better start to his first Chase as a member of Joe Gibbs Racing.

The driver of the No. 20 Toyota Camry raced his way to a second straight victory in NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, holding on for a narrow win over teammate Kyle Busch in yesterday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The JGR duo followed their 1-2 finish in last weekend’s Chase opener in Chicago with a second straight, giving the drivers a helpful leg up with eight races remaining. Greg Biffle – who won the first two races of the Chase back in 2008 only to finish third – crossed the line third, ahead of Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray, vaulting him six spots in the standings.

Kenseth now leads the standings with 2,111 points, while Busch (2,097 points), Johnson (2,093), Carl Edwards (2,075) and Biffle (2,073) round out the top five.

“Honestly, I think you just take it one week at a time,” said Kenseth, who became only the second driver to win in his 500th career start. “All three teams right now are working really closely together, and I just feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be standing here.”

Kenseth took the lead for good after a lap 248 pit stop under caution, and didn’t look back over the race’s final 52 laps. Busch pulled to within two car lengths come the start of the final lap as the race leader maneuvered through lapped traffic, but the No. 18 Toyota Camry couldn’t get any closer, allowing Kenseth to take the checkered flag for the seventh time this season.

Busch certainly didn’t downplay the significance of his second straight runner-up finish, but stopped short of calling JGR the team to beat just yet despite its wins in five of the past seven races. Busch entered the Chase as the second seed after earning four wins over the season’s first 26 races.

“It’s early,” Busch cautioned. “I mean, it’s week two. Certainly it’s nice to get a strong start – there’s no doubt about it. You’d rather finish first both weeks than 43rd and maybe not have so much pressure on yourself to have to perform to catch up. But there’s still a long way to go.”

Busch said his car was better than Kenseth’s in traffic, but added he couldn’t keep pace with his teammate in clean air. The driver known as Rowdy did admit, however, that things could have gotten interesting if he did catch Kenseth on that final lap.

“It would have been interesting if I got there, so I’m glad I didn’t,” Busch joked. “There’s a reason why we think we’re the best, and we’ve showed it these last two weeks. Sometimes you get those magical cars and hopefully there are a couple more of those left for us.”

Kenseth took his first lead of the race on lap 56 when he overtook Martin Truex Jr., but surrendered it four laps later when a bold move on pit road catapulted Jeff Gordon from fourth to first. The 41-year-old regained the point on lap 207, and made his final pass of the day leaving pit road after a lap 245 caution.

The 2003 Sprint Cup champion led the most laps at 106, while Truex Jr. (98), Gordon (36), Kasey Kahne (31), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (17), Clint Bowyer (five), Brad Keselowski (two), pole-sitter Ryan Newman (two), Johnson (one), JJ Yeley (one) and Joey Logano (one) also led at least one circuit. Truex Jr. dominated much of the race’s early going, but went on to finish 10th after dropping seven spots over the final 50 laps.

Truex Jr., who was slated to be in the Chase before penalties from NASCAR brought on against Michael Waltrip Racing gave his spot to Newman, said he was frustrated late in the race by changing weather conditions. The race started under sunny skies, until a thick cloud cover rolled in late in the event.

“We had a good car the first half of the race and then the second half we just started getting tight,” the driver of the No. 56 Toyota Camry said. “It was cooling off and clouding up. We just couldn’t get it turning again.”

Kahne had the worst finish among Chase drivers after a crash on the front stretch late in the race put a damper on what had been a solid day. The Hendrick Motorsports newcomer started the race second, and remained in the top 10 through much of the contest until a crash on lap 252 led to an eventual 37th-place finish.

“I don’t really know what happened,” said Kahne, who is now 13th in the standings with 2,040 points. “I’m not sure if there was contact or if I just spun. I seriously don’t remember how it happened. I hit the inside wall, but I’m not sure how I got there.”

Gordon – who was added by NASCAR as an unprecedented 13th member of the Chase – survived a couple close calls before a mishap on pit road after a lap 200 caution all but knocked the veteran out of contention.

The driver’s first near miss came just 30 laps in while in second place. Josh Wise had brought out the day’s first caution after a spin on turn four, and almost collected Gordon as he dove low to avoid the lapped car. Then, during the ensuing pit stops under that same caution, Gordon was forced to lock the breaks to avoid David Regan while leaving his pit box.

The sequence dropped Gordon from second to seventh, but it wasn’t until another pit stop error after a lap 200 caution that really turned things sour. Gordon entered pit road first after taking the lead on lap 169, but slid through his pit box in a move that cost him 24 spots. He recovered to finish 15th, which put him in eighth place in the standings with 2,069 points.

“I just came in and slid through,” Gordon said. “I hadn’t come close to sliding through all day and I guess just leading, I carried a little bit more speed in there and crossed the splitter over the line by an inch. And that’s all it takes to make a difference between a chance at winning and finishing 15th.”

The driver who did win yesterday’s race cautioned against being called a favorite so early in NASCAR’s playoffs, noting that both Biffle (2008) and most recently Tony Stewart (2011) also came up short after winning the first two races of the Chase.

Kenseth admitted he’d certainly take some time to celebrate the victory on a track that historically isn’t his best, but added his team won’t waste too much time before shifting its focus to next weekend’s race in Dover, Del. Kenseth placed 40th at Dover in June.

“Who knows what’s going to happen the next eight weekends,” he said. “There’s a ton of racing to do. … I don’t think there’s a magic formula. You just have to have more points than whoever finishes second. That’s how you win it.”

Related

A bright idea for NHMS

Sunday, September 22, 2013

LOUDON – Jerry Gappens, the face of New Hampshire Motor Speedway as its executive vice president and general manager, got lucky yesterday, avoiding rain and a really big headache. The Sylvania 300 was held, in its entirety, despite a forecast that said rain in the morning, rain in the afternoon, and rain on Gappens’s parade. But because it stayed dry, …

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