Matt Kenseth won the Top Gear 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Charlotte standing in for the recovering Trevor Bayne. The win was all the more impressive as it was Kenseth’s first race this year in the series and his first in the new style car.
It was a good night and a good race for the Roush Fenway Fords with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. bringing his Mustang home in fourth place behind a somewhat contrite Kyle Busch who was acknowledging a lack of judgement after receiving a citation from Iredell County Sheriff’s department for being caught doing 128 mph hour in a 45 mph zone driving a Lexus sports car lent to him by Toyota.
Pole sitter Stenhouse was disappointed after the race that he hadn’t been able to take that third position from Busch to make a 1-2-3 for the Fastenal Ford Mustangs following his maiden win in the series last week in Iowa. Nevertheless his fourth place finish brought him to just one point behind championship leader Elliott Sadler who finished tenth, the last driver on the lead lap.
One point further back is Reed Sorenson who finished fifth last night. Sixth place went to non-points scoring Brad Keselowski followed by Steve Wallace, Brian Scott and Aric Almirola.
Another dÃ©butante in the Nationwide Series who fared less well than Kenseth was Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen. For the first two-thirds of the race he was running consistently in the mid to low teens complaining of a car he just couldn’t get to handle the way he wanted – finding it difficult to get the Toyota to turn into corners – and extreme heat in the car.
His discomfort with the heat wasn’t helped when on one pit stop he was handed an empty water bottle. On lap 138 he exceeded the pitlane speed limit and was handed a drive-through penalty which dropped him two laps down. Then to add to his misery he ran over the front splitter which had fallen off Jeremy Clements car and it trapped under RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen’s own splitter. He needed another trip to pitlane to get it removed and found he had damaged the front of his won car worsening the already troublesome handling.
RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen stuck with it, however, and brought the car home in 27th place, four laps down. After his brief foray into NASCAR racing RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen now returns to Europe for the Rally Acropolis in Greece. His plans for future races in stock car racing change by the day, if not the hour, and there is no certainty he will return.
Kyle Busch Motorsports were considering their arrangement with RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen to have been completed early after the payments failed to arrive in time for any future drives in the Camping World Truck Series.
The Nationwide Series head off to Chicago next weekend whilst the Sprint Cup Series goes to Kansas giving the Nationwide regulars a better chance of collecting decent point hauls instead of picking up the places behind the marauding drivers from the senior series.