Matt Kenseth made it two out of two as he took a commanding position in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Kenseth had never won at New Hampshire going in to this weekend’s race, breaking his duck after taking the lead from Martin Truex, Jr. on Lap 153, regaining it on a restart on lap 208 to lead home team-mate Kyle Busch for the second week in succession.
“I don’t know what to say except, praise the Lord, man,” said Kenseth. “This is just an unbelievable opportunity. For me to win at Loudon is more than a stretch and more than a dream. It’s probably one of my worst places. That just shows how good this whole team is. It has been a great start for JGR. All three teams are working real close together. I just feel like the luckiest guy in the world standing here.”
Kenseth leaves Loudon with a 14 point lead over Busch, with Jimmie Johnson a further four points back in what is already looking like a three-horse race at this early stage of the Chase.
Truex dominated the early stages of the race, taking the lead from Kasey Kahne on lap 32 and going on to lead for over 100 laps before Kenseth made his way through. It was perfect timing for a strong drive from Truex, with rumours circulating that he would be switching to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2014 along with NAPA, who announced they will be parting company with Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the year following the events at Richmond.
Johnson drove a strong race, despite never leading, and came home in fourth, behind Roush’s Greg Biffle, allowing the five-time champion to stay in touch with the top two drivers in the standings.
“It was better than we thought it would be,” said Johnson. “I felt like we were going to have to scrap for a top-10, maybe a top-five and we had a shot to win. A strong, strong performance. We are in a good spot. We haven’t given up many points and one of our best tracks is coming up.”
It was also a strong afternoon for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who managed to work himself back up the field to a top-ten finish despite suffering pit issues and being out of sequence from the rest of the field.
Carl Edwards now sits fourth in the standings after finishing ninth, 36 points behind Kenseth, while Biffle and Kevin Harvick sit 38 and 39 points back. All other Chase drivers are over 40 points behind despite only 2 Chase races being run.