BRISTOL, Tenn. It’s an unusual question to come out of a NASCAR venue accustomed to far more primitive endings.
Was Matt Kenseth too good or was Kasey Kahne just too nice?
Whatever the answer, Kenseth was the one who found himself in Victory Lane following Saturday night’s Irwin Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, after a wild 12-lap duel with Kahne.
Kahne did everything but wreck him in an attempt to pick up the victory, which was just fine with Kenseth.
“The interesting thing about this track is there is only one really fast groove, and I knew I couldn’t let him outside of me, so honestly, it was all about the windshield. I never even looked back,” Kenseth said of the final laps.
“The thing is, you can’t race any different. If someone decides to run into the back of you or whatever, it’s going to happen. There wasn’t really anything I could do differently to guard against anything.”
The win is Kenseth’s fifth in the Sprint Cup Series this season, and while Jimmie Johnson continues to lead the series standings, Kenseth would start the Chase for the Cup as the No.1 seed based on wins (Kenseth leads Johnson 5-4).
“It was an intense race,” Kenseth said. “Kasey has got a great reputation. He’s a really hard racer, really talented, and he’s also a really fair racer, as well.
“I was expecting it to be about like it was, but I really thought he was going to pass me. I thought he had a good enough car to get around me there, and we had just enough to hang on.”
Kahne, too, thought he had a better car, and after the race lamented the lost opportunity to secure a win that would have greatly improved his Chase standing.
“There were a couple shots I took, and I had to have been close, but I could feel him on the right side of my car, and I just didn’t clear him,” Kahne said. “I didn’t figure out how to get by.
“It’s disappointing not to win here.”
Perhaps Kahne’s lack of a wreck-to-win philosophy in the race was surprising because of the frustration he had expressed after the race two weeks ago at Watkins Glen, N.Y. It was the fourth time a Joe Gibbs Racing driver had wrecked Kahne, and he posted a message on his Twitter account that he was “Headed to Joe Gibbs Racing to talk to whoever will come out front.”
In the end, Kahne raced Kenseth as two talented drivers typically do – but perhaps what fans are not accustomed to at Bristol.
“I think at the end of the day, I just don’t wreck people,” said Kahne, who has two wins this season but has finished second four times, three times to Kenseth. “I just didn’t get it done, and I’m upset with myself for not figuring out how to win.”
Plenty of other drivers found out ways to wreck, including several drivers in contention to make the Chase.
An eight-car wreck on Lap 447 of 500 collected Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr., among others.
When the dust settled, Keselowski and Kurt Busch were knocked out of the top 10 and Kahne and Joey Logano moved in. The two wild-card spots would go to Truex and Newman.
With two races remaining to set the 12-driver Chase field, the makeup of more than half the field could still change.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, Brian Vickers was fourth and Logano, last week’s winner at Michigan, was fifth.
Logano made quite a comeback in the race. He was involved in an early incident with Kyle Busch, then later received a pit road speeding penalty.
“We deserve to make this Chase, and if we keep doing this on days that they’re trying to put us down, we deserve it,” he said.