The closing laps at Bristol Motor Speedway were a familiar sight. Matt Kenseth was leading. Kasey Kahne was trying to chase him down for second.
The ending wasn't any different this time around.
Kenseth held off Kahne's labored charge over the final 10 laps to win his fifth race of the season and his third with Kahne as the bridesmaid.
"I think Kasey's getting tired of battling me," Kenseth said.
"He wanted it bad. We raced as hard as we could race. Used every inch of racetrack and I had just enough to hold on. Just enough fuel and just enough tires."
Kenseth previously had beaten Kahne to the checkers at Las Vegas and Kansas.
Kahne got close enough to Kenseth on the race's final lap to bring up the idea of a move for the front bumper, but said that if he had done that, he'd have wrecked both drivers.
Two weeks ago after Watkins Glen, Kahne expressed his frustration with JGR drivers after he was knocked out of the race in an accident that was sparked by contact with Kenseth. That was on top of incidents with Kyle Busch at Daytona, Talladega and Darlington. It would have been a perfectly acceptable place for payback had Kahne gone the chrome horn route.
"You always have other options," Kahne said.
"I just didn't get it done. I didn't win. I had the better car, the guys did an awesome job in the pits and I didn't win. I feel bad I didn't win."
Kenseth entered Saturday night's race tied for the series lead in wins with Jimmie Johnson at four apiece. Because of those wins and the three bonus points that come from each, the two tentatively stood tied for the points lead after Richmond when the Chase begins and the points are reset.
Because of that tie, the No. 20 team could afford to go for wins over the final three races before the Chase. And with Johnson out of contention because of a crash, Bristol was an even better opportunity to go for that lead.
After working his way back through the field after a pit road speeding penalty under caution, Kenseth was in the lead when the caution flag came out for debris on lap 438. His previous pit stop was right on the edge of his pit window, but Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff elected to stay out to keep the track position and hope Kenseth would make it to the end.
Kahne and team employed the opposite pit strategy. He took tires during that yellow flag despite running fourth, and the fresh rubber allowed him to work his way through the cars ahead of him who hadn't stopped.
After dispatching Juan Pablo Montoya with 27 laps to go, Kahne reeled in Kenseth. He dove to Kenseth's inside multiple times in the final 10 laps, but the lack of speed in Bristol's bottom groove was his detriment. No matter how much he pushed his car into the corner to get alongside -- or even ahead -- of Kenseth for a brief moment, he couldn't hold it there to make the pass work.
Now, with two races to go, Kenseth holds what would be a three point lead over Johnson when the Chase begins. Johnson was collected in a crash after David Reutimann spun and finished 36th. He still holds a 18 point lead over Clint Bowyer.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Motor Racing
- Matt Kenseth
- Kasey Kahne