Matt Kenseth celebrates his victory of the Sylvania 300 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday. (Reuters)
LOUDON, N.H. — Matt Kenseth turned in another dominating performance at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.
“I just keep taking it one week at a time,” Kenseth said. “I just feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be standing here.”
He led 106 laps in the second half of the Sylvania 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on his way to his seventh win of the season. It was Kenseth’s second straight victory two races into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“This guy — he’s done an incredible job this year,” Kenseth’s crew chief Jason Ratcliff said. “This has been an incredible season for us.”
Kyle Busch finished second to Kenseth for the second straight week to give Joe Gibbs Racing its second consecutive one-two finish. Busch took the second spot on a restart that followed a caution with 55 laps remaining in the 300-lap race, and the teammates ran first and second the rest of the way.
“There’s a reason we think we’re the best, and we’re showing it the last two weeks,” Busch said.
Greg Biffle finished third, Jimmie Johnson was fourth, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top five.
“We didn’t pass anybody in the pits,” Biffle said. “We passed them on the race track. We got really good on restarts there at the end.”
Martin Truex Jr. dominated the first half of the race, leading 98 laps before losing the top spot to Kenseth on lap 153. Kenseth lost the lead to Jeff Gordon during a caution that came out on lap 164 when Gordon, along with a handful of other drivers, took two tires and Kenseth took four.
Gordon remained up front until a debris caution with 100 laps to go. Johnson and Kenseth got off pit road first and second to restart on the second row behind Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose, who stayed out, while Gordon was shuffled back to 22nd after sliding through his pit stall.
Kenseth got up to second on the restart and then took the lead from Bowyer a few laps later. Johnson followed him through to second. Kenseth remained up front for the remainder of the race, joined by Busch in the final 50 laps.
“We needed traffic,” Busch said, explaining why he was unable to pass Kenseth for the lead in the final laps. “He wasn’t good in traffic, but we didn’t get traffic.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. recovered from a pit road issue early in the race to finish sixth. During the first caution on lap 30, Earnhardt had to make a second stop to tighten lug nuts. Already mired back in the field, he pitted for fresh tires while the front runners stayed out during a lap-51 caution. Earnhardt then stayed out several laps after everyone else cycled through green-flag pit stops around lap 110.
After the rest of the field cycled through stops, Earnhardt inherited the lead, giving up the position to pit on lap 130. He fell back through the field again with the stop but gained position back with a two-tire stop during a lap-153 caution. He remained in the top-10 for the remainder of the race and finished sixth.
Brian Vickers finished seventh, Jeff Burton was eighth, Carl Edwards ninth and Truex finished 10th.
NOTES: Sunday’s race at New Hampshire was Kenseth’s 500th in the Sprint Cup Series…. Only two other drivers have ever opened the Chase with two straight wins — Biffle in 2008 and Tony Stewart in 2011…. The win was the first for Kenseth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway…. Teammates Kenseth and Busch are also first and second in the points standings…. There were 19 lead changes among 11 different drivers…. The yellow flag waved seven times for 37 laps.