BRISTOL, Tenn. — Jimmie Johnson may lead the points but Matt Kenseth would lead the way if the Chase were underway.
Kenseth dominated the second half of the race and held off Kasey Kahne of Enumclaw to win Saturday night’s Irwin Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The win is Kenseth’s fifth Sprint Cup Series victory of the season — the most of any driver.
“We won the Bristol night race. It’s pretty awesome,” Kenseth said.
It was the third time this season Kenseth finished first and Kahne second. Both drivers placed 1-2 at Las Vegas and Kansas in the spring.
“I think Kasey is getting tired of battling me,” Kenseth said. “Kasey is a heck of a talent. We’ve finished first and second a few times this year. I know he wanted it bad. We raced as hard as we could race. We used every inch of the racetrack. I had just enough fuel and tires to hold on.”
Since the Chase for the Cup is seeded by race wins, Kenseth would be seeded first, which starts in two weeks. Series points leader Jimmie Johnson is second with four wins this season.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, Brian Vickers was fourth and Joey Logano fifth.
Pole-winner Denny Hamlin led the way early in the race before giving up the lead to Kurt Busch on Lap 23.
Ryan Truex, who was making his Cup series debut, wrecked on Lap 41 to bring out the first caution. During pit stops, Brad Keselowski and David Reutimann ran into each other on pit road. On the restart on Lap 48, Kurt Busch continued to lead the way.
Carl Edwards moved into the lead on Lap 77.
Josh Wise and Kurt Busch wrecked on Lap 90 to bring out the second caution of the race. On the restart on Lap 98, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the lead.
Debris in Turn 4 brought out a caution on Lap 108. Earnhardt continued to lead on the restart on Lap 113.
While leading the race, Clint Bowyer was hit from behind by Travis Kvapil, a lapped car. After he spun, Bowyer was also hit by Bobby Labonte. On the restart on Lap 185, Edwards took over the lead, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jeff Gordon.
Tony Raines wrecked on Lap 202 to bring out the fifth caution of the race. Edwards continued to lead on the restart on Lap 209 followed by Hamlin and Kenseth.
Kenseth got around Edwards to take over the lead on Lap 236.
With 70 laps remaining, Kenseth continued to lead followed by Gordon, Kahne, Earnhardt and Bowyer.
Brian Vickers got into Hamlin on Lap 451 to start an accident which collected eight cars and brought out a red flag to clean the track of debris. Also involved in the wreck were Keselowski, Harvick, Ryan Newman, Casey Mears and Stremme. On the restart on Lap 454, Kenseth remained out front.