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Long day in Atlanta ends well for Matt Kenseth with top-five finish


during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 27, 2015 in Hampton, Georgia.

Jeff Zelevansky

An up-and-down Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway for Matt Kenseth ended well enough with a fifth-place finish.

Kenseth, who started 36th after failing to record a speed in qualifying, was a big gainer in the opening stint but fell off the lead lap several times during the race. A debris yellow with 72 laps left helped put him back among the lead group, and Kenseth moved into the top 10 before Cole Whitt blew an engine with less than 30 to go.

Kenseth stayed out under caution and assumed the lead when the field went green with 21 to go. He lost the lead to eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson just before a major crash ensued on the restart that red-flagged the race.

Despite having older tires, Kenseth kept his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota from losing a major chunk of positions during the last 14 laps under green.

“We were just off most the day – kind of on and off – and then there when we finally got our lap back to restart 12th or 13th with a few laps to go, and we were trying to restart in the front and hold on to what we could, and it turned out to be a good decision,” Kenseth said. “We had that short run that kind of put a little bit of a cycle on their tires and evened us out a little bit, so it was a great finish for us today. It wasn’t necessarily a great run, but it was a great finish for us today.”

Sunday marked Kenseth’s second consecutive top five at Atlanta and his fourth top 10 in his past five races there.