Matt Kenseth passed Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch with 13 laps to go to win his first Southern 500, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
DARLINGTON, S.C. — Matt Kenseth passed Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch with 13 laps to go to win his first Southern 500 on Saturday night.
Busch had the strongest car for much of the race and led for 265 of the 367 laps at Darlington Raceway. But his machine appeared to fall away at the worst possible time, and he faded to sixth.
Denny Hamlin was second in his first full race since suffering a compression fracture in a vertebra in his lower back on March 24.
Jeff Gordon wound up third in his 700th consecutive career start. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Jimmie Johnson was fourth.
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Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., finished 13th and Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw was 17th. According to NASCAR Wire Service, Kahne briefly led after a restart on Lap 333 but hit the wall a lap later — leading to the fifth caution flag of the race.
Kenseth’s victory came without crew chief Jason Ratcliff, who was suspended for the No. 20 Toyota having an illegal part in a win at Kansas.
On his radio, Kenseth said, “This is a dream come true. Thank you guys very much.”
Kenseth had won three times at the track in the second-tier Nationwide Series, but had never come closer than third in the top-level Sprint Cup events at Darlington. Once he cleared Busch, Kenseth had smooth sailing to the finish to win for the third time in his debut JGR season. It was Kenseth’s 27th career Sprint Cup victory.
“Honestly, I have only dreamed about winning the Southern 500,” Kenseth said.
No one matched Busch most of the way. He took the lead from older brother and pole-sitter Kurt Busch 74 laps in.
Crew chief Dave Rogers said Kyle Busch had a cut tire and only 12 pounds of pressure left when he went into the garage.
• Antron Brown won the Top Fuel category at the NHRA Southern Nationals at the Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.
Other category winners were Johnny Gray (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock)