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article imageNASCAR: Kenseth wins but Southern 500 special for the top three

By John Duarte     May 12, 2013 in Sports
Darlington - It was a special night for Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon. Not only did they finish one-two-three in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway, but the Bojangles’ Southern 500 was “special” to each of them for different rea
Kenseth picked up his third win of the season after passing his teammate Kyle Busch 12 laps from the end of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday night and cruising to victory at Darlington Raceway.
“This to me feels bigger than any win of my career,” said Kenseth of his first win ever at Darlington Raceway. “Honestly, I’ve only dreamed of winning the Southern 500.”
Although he was rarely challenged throughout the closing laps, Kenseth appeared surprised by the win.
“I thought we had about a fifth-place car,” he said, adding how things changed after the final caution period when adjustments made during the final pit stop of the day made all the difference in the world. “I told Wally (Brown, his crew chief), if this thing goes green to the end, we might be okay. It was incredibly fast when we needed it to be.”
Hamlin finished second in the Bojangles’ Southern 500. It was quite an accomplishment considering it was his first race back after suffering a compression fracture of the first lumbar vertabra in the last lap of the in California in late March.
“Watching races from the sidelines for five weeks, it’s tough,” Hamlin said, adding that is was like starting the season all over again. “I’m sore. Shoulders, neck, things like that. My back held up good. I definitely didn’t feel any back pain. It was just more stamina that I had issues with. I’ve got to get back in racing shape.”
Gordon was third in the 700th-consecutive start of his Sprint-Cup career. He commented on how Darlington Raceway has been a special place throughout his career.
“To have seven wins here that I have, I couldn’t think of a better place to come and get the 700th start,” he said. “I wanted the 700th to be a memorable one. Top 3, that’s fantastic. We needed this kind of performance, a gutsy performance, for the points as well as to make this one memorable.”
The evening was most disheartening for Busch, who looked headed for yet another NASCAR sweep after winning the Nationwide Series race on Friday night. Busch controlled the race, led for 265 of the 367 laps and appeared to have the win in his back pocket until his fortunes changed 20 laps from the end. A cut tire signaled the start of his troubles and, after being passed by Kenseth on Lap 355, Busch became a spectator or sorts and was helpless as car after car passed him. He ended up sixth.
Jimmie Johnson widened his lead in the Sprint Cup standings. He is now 44 points ahead of Carl Edwards, while Kenseth moves into third overall, 59 points behind Johnson.
The race for the Sprint Cup championship takes a week off, but the drivers don’t as the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is set to go in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Saturday, May 18. The 2013 Sprint Cup schedule resumes on May 26 with the Coca-Cola 600, at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
More about Nascar, Sprint cup series, Matt Kenseth, denny hamlin, jeff gordon
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