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Keselowski, Kenseth clash in frantic finish

April 26, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com

Kenseth: 'I was the leader, and I was trying to protect my spot'

RICHMOND, Va. -- Brad Keselowski was poised to have one of the biggest late-race jumps of the night at Richmond International Raceway, rising up from fifth place on the final restart to challenge for the win. After a spirited battle up front that knocked him from contention, his biggest jump was out of his car on pit road to confront Matt Kenseth.

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Both drivers' chances for victory in the Toyota Owners 400 evaporated in the final sprint to the finish Saturday night, leaving both with hurt feelings and finishes below their potential. Kenseth, the leader as the field doubled up for the final restart, faded to fifth place, one spot behind Keselowski, who purposely roughed up his rival as the checkered flag neared.

"I just felt like he needed to know what was up, and I wasn't going to put up with that," Keselowski said. "So I was going to make for damn sure he didn't finish third or fourth, and not win that race." 

Both cars limped back to pit road with significant damage after the finish, Keselowski's No. 2 Team Penske Ford dented on the front end and Kenseth's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with a crumpled left-rear fender above a shredded-bare wheel rim. Keselowski, still helmeted, charged at Kenseth's car and pointed his finger as he yelled. 

"I'm not sure why he's so worked up, really, honestly," Kenseth said. "We race hard and yeah, I ran him up the track down there, and I understand being frustrated by that. He tried to wreck me back and cost me a bunch of spots, too. I was racing hard to get the win. I was the leader and I was trying to protect my spot as hard as I could. I've seen him do the same thing a bunch of times." 

Kenseth restarted in the lead with nine laps left in the 400-lapper, but he quickly came under fire from Keselowski, one of the few drivers able to mount a challenge on the outside groove. Keselowski squeezed high on the backstretch, but Kenseth pushed up the track, taking the No. 2 Ford with him.

"Every race track you should race for the win, but you don't run somebody off the race track to race for the win if you really aren't fast enough," Keselowski said. "Three, four other cars passed him so it didn't win him the race running me off the race track. He probably finished where he was going to finish anyway. It just cost me the win, and I don't think that's very smart. That's something I'll remember." 

Keselowski expressed his displeasure with a sizable shove, allowing Joey Logano -- Keselowski's Team Penske teammate -- to pull away and post his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of year and allowing Jeff Gordon to score his second runner-up finish in the last three races. 

After the checkered, Keselowski gave Kenseth's car one last rap for good measure, slamming his brakes in front of the No. 20 car and forcing contact with Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The extracurriculars, Kenseth said, pushed the confrontation over the line. 

"I think you race as hard as you can to win. I'm not going to go wreck somebody to win, and he certainly tried to wreck me on the race track," Kenseth said. "That's one thing and then trying to wreck all those cars after the race is totally another. That's always uncalled for. I can see he's upset. I ran him up the track. I'd probably be upset, too, but like I said we're racing as hard as we could to try to get that win."

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