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Kenseth Shows Unlimited Potential In Daytona

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 15 2015

Matt Kenseth takes the checkered flag to win Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by David Tulis)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Winless in Sprint Cup in 2014, Matt Kenseth started out the 2015 season by capturing Saturday Night’s Sprint Unlimited all-star-ish race.

While the 75-lap exhibition event didn’t pay championship points, it did put some smiles on the faces of Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing team. And, perhaps better still, the victory sends them off to the biggest race of the season – next Sunday’s Daytona 500 – with a large stockpile of hope.

“It was a great start for the week,” Kenseth said. “Hopefully we can keep up the momentum for the rest of the week.”

Kenseth got the victory by fending off Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing over the final laps after a Lap 71 restart.

“I was hoping that I would be catching him (Kenseth) with a little bit more speed,” Truex, also a non-winner in 2014, said. “I kind of got the setup that I wanted coming off of (Turn)  Two on the last lap. The problem was the 19 car (Carl Edwards) behind me. He is Kenseth’s teammate and wasn’t going to give me the push down the back that I needed to get the momentum to get around Kenseth. I didn’t have enough speed when I got to Kenseth to keep him from blocking me.”

Edwards finished third, Casey Mears fourth and Kyle Larson fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Danica Patrick.

“This is a great feeling,” Kenseth said. “It’s always fun to win at Daytona for sure – it’s fun to win anywhere. Just really proud of this whole team at JGR – a lot of new additions this year with Carl (Edwards) and a lot of great personnel at the shop. Everybody has been working hard and all four of our cars were really fast yesterday. I had a feeling that it was going to be a good week.”

The Unlimited began with a field of 25 drivers who represented a mix of 2014 pole winners, former Sprint Unlimited winners and Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full time in 2014, Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers from 2014, plus several others who qualified based on final 2014 series championship standings.

After a Lap 23 crash, however, 18 cars remained in contention in the 37th running of the event.

The 14-car accident started when Greg Biffle’s Ford hit former DAYTONA 500 champion Jamie McMurray’s Chevrolet from behind, turning it sideways with the rear wheels briefly off the ground – directly into the path of the field. The race was red-flagged due to the clean-up required; that lasted 14 minutes, 42 seconds. When the race was restarted on Lap 30, two-time 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr., seeking a third Sprint Unlimited victory, was the leader.

A late wreck took several more cars out of the mix, setting the stage for a four-lap dash to the finish.

“Martin let off the gas – he kind of let off and did a great job at trying to get a run,” Kenseth, a former 500 winner, said. “I’m usually never smart enough to do that. I saw him backing up and our Dollar General Camry just had so much speed I thought throughout the night and throughout practice. I didn’t want to back up with him – I didn’t know who was going to get a run with him so I just kept going. We had enough speed – surprisingly enough being that far ahead – to kind of get the block in front of him there. Martin had a strong car. Carl (Edwards) had a real strong car there at the end too.”

The 75-lap/187.5-mile race was divided into 25- and 50-lap segments. The first segment ended under caution after 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski crashed hard in the tri-oval.

The Sprint Unlimited

Saturday, February 14, 2015

1. (16) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 75, $198475.

2. (10) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 75, $84475.

3. (14) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 75, $44450.

4. (23) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 75, $38450.

5. (25) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 75, $37450.

6. (3) Joey Logano, Ford, 75, $35450.

7. (11) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 75, $34950.

8. (5) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 75, $32950.

9. (24) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 75, $30950.

10. (15) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 75, $29450.

11. (8) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 75, $28950.

12. (12) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 75, $28450.

13. (22) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, Accident, 67, $27950.

14. (7) Greg Biffle, Ford, Accident, 67, $27450.

15. (13) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 67, $26950.

16. (20) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, Accident, 61, $26700.

17. (6) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 61, $26450.

18. (19) Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 55, $25950.

19. (9) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, Accident, 45, $25450.

20. (18) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, Accident, 45, $25200.

21. (1) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, Accident, 45, $24950.

22. (17) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 45, $24710.

23. (2) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 45, $24450.

24. (21) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, Accident, 45, $23950.

25. (4) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 22, $23450.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 135.569 mph.

Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 22 Mins, 59 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.219 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 17 laps.

Lead Changes: 14 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: P. Menard 1-7; B. Keselowski 8-9; M. Kenseth 10; M. Truex Jr. 11-13; M. Kenseth 14; M. Truex Jr. 15-25; K. Harvick 26; D. Earnhardt Jr. 27-39; M. Truex Jr. 40-45; J. McMurray 46; G. Biffle 47; M. Truex Jr. 48-55; M. Kenseth 56-68; C. Edwards 69; M. Kenseth 70-75.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): M. Truex Jr. 4 times for 28 laps; M. Kenseth 4 times for 21 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr. 1 time for 13 laps; P. Menard 1 time for 7 laps; B. Keselowski 1 time for 2 laps; K. Harvick 1 time for 1 lap; J. McMurray 1 time for 1 lap; G. Biffle 1 time for 1 lap; C. Edwards 1 time for 1 lap.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 15 2015
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