NASCAR

Matt Kenseth wins Pure Michigan 400, third Sprint Cup win of year

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Matt Kenseth wins Pure Michigan 400, third Sprint Cup win of year

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Matt Kenseth had little to say about how NASCAR's rules package affected his race at Michigan International Speedway.

"I didn't see much of the race, which was totally fine with me," he said. "We were up front the whole time."

Kenseth started in the lead, stayed there for most of the race and finished with his third Sprint Cup victory of the season Sunday, beating Kevin Harvick by 1.7 seconds.

It was the second race under NASCAR's high-drag aerodynamic package, which was also in place at Indianapolis last month in an effort to improve passing. At Michigan, Kenseth won while leading 146 of 200 laps — so whatever excitement there was occurred further back in the pack.

"Cars could really, at the end of the straightaway, gain on others, two or three car lengths," said Jason Ratcliff, Kenseth's crew chief. "But they just couldn't do much once they got there, and they got down in the corner. They were kind of helpless. On the restarts, it got exciting. ... I'd say eighth place back, it was fun to watch. Like Matt said, I'm glad he was watching it in the rear-view mirror."

Kenseth led for 73 percent of the laps Sunday, the highest percentage by anyone in a Cup race this year. He'd led for only 147 laps all season before dominating this 400-mile race in his No. 20 Toyota.

It was his 34th career victory, and Joe Gibbs Racing has won five of the last six Cup races — two by Kenseth and three by Kyle Busch.

"You really need to enjoy it, because about 10 races back, we were struggling, trying to get there," Gibbs said. "You just hope now that we'll be able to hold some momentum here and head into the Chase, but it's very hard to do. In pro sports, it can come and go in a week."

JGR came into the race with the top three qualifiers in Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards. Hamlin finished fifth and Edwards was sixth.

Martin Truex Jr. finished behind Harvick in third. Austin Dillon, who was sent to the back at the beginning of the race because of an engine change, managed a fourth-place showing, and Kyle Busch took another step toward wrapping up a spot in the Chase with an 11th-place run in his backup car.

Kenseth had a comfortable lead before a caution with 17 laps remaining tightened things up, but he had little trouble holding off Harvick after the restart.

NASCAR used a special high-drag aerodynamic package for this race and last month's at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was supposed to improve passing, but aside from one brief duel at the front between Kenseth and Dillon with about 55 laps left, there was little drama in terms of lead changes.

Kenseth led for the first 22 laps, and there were 16 lead changes after that.

Clint Bowyer's Chase chances look more tenuous after he went into the wall Sunday and finished 41st. He's now 15th in the standings.

Busch came into the race in 30th place, needing to avoid major mistakes because though he has four wins in 2015, a top-30 ranking is required for entry into the Chase. Busch wrecked his car in practice Saturday and had to start the race from the back, but he had a solid, uneventful day, even leading for a couple stretches.

He's now 29th in the standings, 23 points ahead of 31st-place Cole Whitt.

"It was a success," Busch said. "It wasn't what we wanted. We had a really, really fast car yesterday, but I screwed up and wrecked that car. It was a winning car, maybe not the winning car. But congratulations to our teammate Matt Kenseth and the 20 bunch. It's really good times for Joe Gibbs Racing right now."

Harvick remained atop the standings and now leads Joey Logano by 48 points. Logano finished seventh.

The rules package caused some concerns over the heat, and NASCAR mandated a dual outlet duct be used on the right-side window to help with ventilation and keep the cockpit from being too hot for the drivers. NBC Sports showed a reading of over 150 degrees in the cockpit of Casey Mears' car — and that was still during the first quarter of the race.

"You knew it was going to be a little bit hotter. We prepared for that," Kenseth said. "Started hydrating a couple days ago and drinking a lot of Gatorade and tried to eat right and get some sleep. ... It really wasn't bad. Yeah, it was hot, but I've been a lot hotter."

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, titled Tales of the Turtles 400, is coming to Joliet on Sept. 17, Chicagoland Speedway and Nickelodeon announced last week.

It will mark the seventh straight year Chicagoland Speedway will kick off NASCAR's playoffs.

Nickelodeon Sr. Vice President of Sports Marketing Anthony DiCosmo and President of Chicagoland Speedway Scott Paddock joined SportsTalk Live to discuss it all, and even had a few special guests join them as well.

Check it out in the video above.

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kurt Busch had a monster start to the season with a last-lap pass to win the crash-filled Daytona 500.

Busch is sponsored by Monster Energy, which kicked off its first season as the title sponsor for NASCAR's top series Sunday with the season-opener. It wasn't NASCAR finest moment, though, as multiple accidents pared down the field and had a mismatched group of drivers racing for the win at the end.

"The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability," Busch said. "This car's completely thrashed. There's not a straight panel on it. The strategy today, who knew what to pit when, what segments were what. Everybody's wrecking as soon as we're done with the second segment.

"The more that I've run this race, the more that I just throw caution to the wind, let it rip and just elbows out. That's what we did."

It appeared to be pole-sitter Chase Elliott's race to lose, then he ran out of gas. So did Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard. As they all slipped off the pace, Busch sailed through for his first career Daytona 500 victory.

It also was the first Daytona 500 win for Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by Tony Stewart. The three-time champion retired at the end of last season and watched his four cars race from the pits.

"I ran this damn race (17) years and couldn't win it, so finally won it as an owner," Stewart said.

Ryan Blaney finished second in a Ford. AJ Allmendinger was third in a Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola was fourth for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The win was a huge boost for Ford, which lured Stewart-Haas Racing away from Chevrolet this season and celebrated the coup with its second Daytona 500 victory in three years. Joey Logano won in a Ford in 2015.

The first points race of the Monster era was run under a new format that split the 500 miles into three stages. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Kevin Harvick won the second stage and neither was a contender for the win. NASCAR also this year passed a rule that gave teams just five minutes to repair any damage on their cars or they were forced to retire.

But the race was slowed by wreck after wreck after wreck, including a 17-car accident at the start of the final stage that ended the race for seven-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. It was a particularly rough incident for Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team, which had all four of its cars collected in the accident.

"Just seems like that could have been avoided and was uncalled for," Johnson said of the aggressive racing behind him that triggered the accident.