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Kenseth outruns Busch for Charlotte victory

October 17, 2011, Sporting News Wire Service, NASCAR.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- Former champ asserts his position in Chase; Johnson knocked out by late wreck

Spare Matt Kenseth the toilet humor.

The driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford was delighted to win Saturday night's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway with new sponsor Fluidmaster on his car -- make that with any sponsor on his car.

In a race that saw five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson suffer a Chase-changing accident in the final 20 laps, Kenseth pulled away from Kyle Busch and teammate Carl Edwards during a 12-lap run to the finish and notched his third victory of the season and the 21st of his career.

Kenseth finished .968 seconds ahead of Busch, with Edwards coming home in third, miffed by the way Busch raced in Turn 2 as the two were contesting second place in the closing laps.

Kenseth climbed to third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings halfway through NASCAR's 10-race playoff in an event that was as much an audition as a triumph for the 2003 Cup champion. With Crown Royal leaving as primary sponsor of his car after the current season, Kenseth needs financial backing for next year.

That's why he didn't mind the puns about Fluidmaster, which makes systems designed to conserve water when toilets are flushed.

"After all the toilet jokes about my restarts, we finally got a good one today," said Kenseth, who got the jump on Busch on the last restart of the race, on Lap 323 of 334. "Thankfully, we got a good one there at the end.

"Crown Royal -- it's not too late to come back. We don't have any sponsors for next year, so this should be a good audition. And Fluidmaster for being on this week -- it was a great night for us."

Kenseth is seven points behind Edwards, who expanded his Chase lead to five points over sixth-place finisher Kevin Harvick.

"That's good, but it only matters where you are in the last lap at Homestead [in the season finale]. But it's been a great five races, and it feels great to win."

Busch, who led a race-high 111 laps, wasn't elated with second, but considering that he started at the rear of the field after an engine change, Busch had reason to feel encouraged.

"It was the best run we've had here in a while, but we still came up short," Busch said. "We've got to keep finishing like this. It's not that hard. We finally finished where we ran -- except we didn't. We still lost a position, which is four points essentially, because you get three bonus points for winning a race.

"It's frustrating, but we'll take it, and if we can finish second here on out, we might win this deal."

Edwards was upset by the line Busch took as they raced for second after the final restart -- and Edwards told Busch as much after the race.

"We should definitely be racing each other hard," Edwards said. "It's just that there's a difference between racing hard and then cutting across a guy's nose.

"What I told Kyle is I just wonder why, coming off of Turn 2 when I got underneath him, that he drove down instead of going up to the wall like we would normally do. And I just let him know that next time that happens, I'll just stay where I'm at and he can drive across my hood and wreck himself.

"It just surprised me. Now he told me that he didn't mean to do it, and so I got to believe that, but I don't know what else there is to say about it. Just it's racing, and we didn't wreck, and we're going to race hard like that -- that's just how I saw it."

Busch had his own explanation.

"I got loose, and it was steering me down the track instead of my butt going up the track, and I was just trying to hold on and not do anything. Then I side-drafted him to stay alongside of him down the backstretch, and that was it. I was trying to keep my position."

Running in close quarters with Ryan Newman on Lap 316, Johnson slid sideways and slammed nose-first into the Turn 2 wall. With a 34th-place finish, Johnson fell from third to eighth in the standings, 35 points behind Edwards.

"I'm OK -- that one stung for sure," Johnson said after the wreck. "Just thankful to have safe race cars, safe walls, softer walls, and everything did its job. Pretty big impact. Unfortunate that we wrecked. We got into Turn 1 and the 39 [Newman] was real tight on my outside and pulled me around. From there on I was just hanging on."

Notes-n-Nuggets

• Matt Kenseth earned his 21st career victory, tying him with Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte, Benny Parsons and Jack Smith for 30th on NASCAR's all-time list.
• This was the second Chase victory of Matt Kenseth's career; his other came in 2007 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
• This is Matt Kenseth's fourth consecutive top-10 finish; he was 21st in the Chase opener at Chicagoland.
• Matt Kenseth led three times for 46 laps.
• Roush Fenway Racing picked up its 125th Cup Series victory, ranking it fourth all time.
• Kyle Busch (second) earned his second top-10 finish in the nine races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2011. This was his seventh top-two finish of the season.
• Carl Edwards (third) finished in the top 10 for the eighth consecutive race; six of those eight were top-five finishes.
• Kasey Kahne (fourth) has finished fourth or better in the past three races; he has only six top-five finishes in 2011.
• Marcos Ambrose (fifth) finished in the top 10 for his third consecutive race, the longest streak of his Cup Series career.
• Kevin Harvick (sixth) continued a strong run in which his worst finish in the past seven races was 12th at New Hampshire.
• A.J. Allmendinger (seventh) had top-10 finishes in both Cup races at Charlotte in 2011.
• Denny Hamlin (ninth) picked up his first top-10 finish of the Chase.

Johnson's hopes for a sixth consecutive title may have started circling the bowl -- and that's a toilet joke Kenseth might actually enjoy.