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Matt Kenseth stays cool to keep rivals at bay

By Simon Evans

DAYTONA BEACH (Reuters) - Matt Kenseth held off Dale Earnhardt Jr and team mate Greg Biffle to win the Daytona 500 on Monday, leaving his rivals frustrated at their inability to sneak past him in the final laps.

Earnhardt narrowly missed out on a chance of a second Daytona 500 win as he was held off by Biffle, Kenseth's Roush-Fenway team-mate, for several laps before making a late burst into second.

The victory, with a green-white-checker finish adding two laps to the race, was Kenseth's second Daytona win following his triumph in a shortened, rain-affected event in 2009.

"It feels great, we even went overtime a little bit since we didn't quite go the whole distance the first time we won it," Kenseth told reporters after celebrating in Victory Lane.

"We had a really fast car all day and had a lot of adversity to overcome, a lot of problems with the car. We were able to get it figured out and had a great pit stop at the end that put us in position and it feels great.

"I wasn't expecting to win when I woke up this morning, so it feels good to be sitting here," added the Ford driver.

Earnhardt, whose late father, Dale Sr, was also a Daytona winner and died after a crash at the track, said he was up against two outstanding cars.

"The Roush cars are just really strong. They've shown that all week. I really didn't know just how good they were until I got up there in those last 60 laps and I could get in between them, but I couldn't get in front of them.

"I just didn't have enough car to get around them and get the lead," he said.

"I'm very happy, really in a good place... but I know later it is going to eat at me what I could have done to win the race. So that is kind of frustrating," Earnhardt added.

Biffle's proximity to Kenseth limited Earnhardt's room for movement but he also lacked the decisive edge to get past his team mate.

"Probably what I should have done is just anchored down the brakes down the back stretch and put distance in between us, Matt and I. That is the only way we probably would have got a run at him," he said.

"But I thought I didn't need to do that. Of course, Monday morning quarterback, I'd do it now."

(Reporting By Simon Evans)