Matt Kenseth had eluded the wreckage that turned Dover into a junkyard. He never felt he could escape the pressure that Kyle Larson put on him – the anointed future star racing door-to-door with the former champion.
“He was all over me,” Kenseth said. “I think if he would have snuck inside, it would have been over.”
Twenty-one years older that Larson, Kenseth used some of his veteran experience to find the high groove on the mile concrete track and surge to victory Sunday in the wreck-filled race at Dover (Delaware) International Speedway.
Kenseth snapped a 17-race winless streak skid with his 37th career victory – and denied Larson his first Sprint Cup victory.
Larson made Kenseth work for the victory that secured him a spot in the Chase.
But it was third-place finisher Chase Elliott that may have cost Larson as much as Kenseth’s late-race maneuvering. Elliott, the second-generation rookie who replaced Jeff Gordon in the No. 24, made an aggressive run and briefly passed Larson for second. Their brief battle took enough steam out of Larson’s push that Kenseth was able to create a needed gap and become the fourth Joe Gibbs Racing driver to win in 2016.
Larson matched his career-best finish for owner Chip Ganassi. Elliott had the top finish of his first season at Hendrick Motorsports.
Larson refused to bump Kenseth out of his path over the final thrilling laps and wanted a clean pass in the No. 42 to earn the win.
“It doesn’t even seem right that he hasn’t won yet,” Kenseth said. “He’s got a bunch of victories in front of him, for sure. He’s a really, really clean, hard racer, and a fast learner.”
Kenseth, Larson and Elliott were among the survivors after Jimmie Johnson triggered a late-race crash that eliminated several contenders.
He started a pileup straight out of the Talladega Superspeedway highlight reel that knocked out a slew of drivers who raced up front all race and brought it to a halt with less than 50 laps left.
Johnson, a 10-time winner at Dover, failed to jump off the restart because of a faulty transmission in the No. 48. The six-time champion could not shift the Chevy into third gear and 18 cars – stacked and off at full speed – were collected in the melee.
He was leading in the outside lane as he closed in on the start-finish line. Martin Truex Jr. nailed the 48 from behind and Dover soon looked like the site of a gnarly demolition derby.
“In my career, I’ve never had a transmission do that to me,” Johnson said.
Truex, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kyle Busch were among the drivers that had their cars piled up on the concrete.
Truex led 47 laps and seemed poised to earn his first win of the season.
“I want to get out and punch somebody,” Truex said over the radio. “Seriously. Hard. Like, as hard as I can.”
Busch, the reigning series champion, knew there was nowhere for the 18 to go but into the pile.
“Wait for me, I’m coming,” he said.
The race was stopped for 11 minutes, 22 seconds – and quickly had another caution shortly after it resumed. Carl Edwards suffered a brutal blow when the No. 19 slammed nose first into an inside wall protected by SAFER barriers. Larson made contact with Edwards and shot the JGR driver into the wall.
That left Kenseth, Larson and Elliott, who deftly avoided the Johnson-led accident, in a three-car battle down the stretch.
Dutch teenager Max Verstappen stunned Formula One with a victory at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, taking advantage of a crash by Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to become the sport’s youngest winner only a few days after being promoted by his team Red Bull.
The 18-year-old Verstappen drove like a veteran to secure the victory after fending off a late challenge by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who not long ago was racing against Verstappen’s father, former F1 driver Jos Verstappen.
The spectacular victory – the first ever by a Dutchman in F1 – comes with Verstappen nearly three years younger than the previous youngest winner, Sebastian Vettel, who was 21 when he won for the first time.
Hamilton was in pole position but was overtaken by Rosberg at the start, and when the British driver tried to regain the lead, he appeared to be blocked by his teammate and both cars touched going into Turn 4, spinning across the track and into the gravel at the runoff area. The crash prompted deployment of the safety car and both drivers retired.
“Completely unnecessary,” former driver Niki Lauda, Mercedes’ non-executive chairman, said from the pit lane. “That both Mercedes are out after two corners is for me unacceptable. Lewis was too aggressive, why should Nico give him room? He’s in the lead. I blame Lewis more than I blame Nico.”
Doug Kalitta beat J.R. Todd in a near dead-heat in the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia, for his second consecutive Top Fuel victory of the season
The margin of victory between the Kalitta Motorsports teammates was .0000, becoming the closest Top Fuel race in NHRA history. Kalitta powered his dragster to a 3.801-second pass at 323.19 mph to beat Todd’s 3.780 at 320.66 on a holeshot.
Matt Hagan won in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
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