Loudon, NH – Matt Kenseth is 2 for 2 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Kenseth, who made his 500th start in the Sprint Cup Series, won Sunday's Sylvania 300 after holding off his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch, in the closing laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Kenseth is in his first year as driver of the No. 20 Toyota for JGR. He claimed his series-leading and career-high seventh win of the season.
Last weekend, Kenseth won the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway. He became the third driver to win the first two races in the playoffs. Tony Stewart did it in 2011, and Greg Biffle accomplished the feat in 2008. Stewart went on to capture the Sprint Cup championship two years ago, beating Carl Edwards in a points tiebreaker.
Kenseth's first win at New Hampshire occurred in his 28th start here. He had an average finish of 13.8 at this flat 1.058-mile racetrack. Kenseth became the 12th different driver to win in the last 12 Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire.
"For me to win at Loudon (N.H.) is more than a stretch and more than a dream, because this is probably one of my worst places," Kenseth said. "That just shows you how good this whole team is."
Busch chased down Kenseth during the final 10 laps, but Kenseth beat him to the finish line by 0.5 seconds. Both drivers finished in that same order at Chicagoland.
"Certainly, we were never as fast this weekend as the 20 (Kenseth) was," Busch said. "They just had a special car. Sometimes you unload with them, and they're just phenomenal. The 20 had that here this weekend. We tried everything to try to keep up with him and to get pace with him, but it was tough to do."
Kenseth became the second driver in NASCAR's top series to win in his 500th start. Richard Petty first did it in 1970.
"You just don't come out here and win on any given Sunday, and this guy has just done an incredible job with the 20 team this year," Kenseth's crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, said. "It's just been an incredible season for us. And to win on his 500th start, I know that's a big deal for him. It's a big deal for us as well."
With the win, Kenseth increased his points lead to 14 over Busch. Jimmie Johnson is 18 points behind after his fourth-place run. Round 3 in the Chase is next Sunday at Dover International Speedway.
"I just feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be standing here," Kenseth said. "I'm going to enjoy it and then look forward to Dover."
Biffle finished third and moved up six spots in the Chase standings to fifth. He trails Kenseth by 38 points.
"There at the end, we just kept gaining positions," Biffle said. "I gained like four or five spots on a couple restarts in a row and got up in the top- six, and then on that final restart, the outside lane really got going good."
Carl Edwards, who is Biffle's teammate at Roush Fenway Racing, is 36 points out of the lead following his ninth-place finish.
Jamie McMurray placed fifth after he bounced back from an accident on lap 38. Chase driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth, followed by Brian Vickers, who won at New Hampshire in July. Jeff Burton was eighth.
Martin Truex Jr. finished 10th three days after NAPA Auto Parts announced the termination of its sponsorship agreement with Michael Waltrip Racing at season's end in wake of MWR's attempt to manipulate the outcome of the Richmond race earlier this month. NAPA is the primary sponsor for Truex's No. 56 team.
Chase members Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, the pole sitter, and Clint Bowyer finished 13th through 17th, respectively. Kevin Harvick was 20th.
Kasey Kahne took the biggest hit in the Chase standings after finishing 37th. Kahne crashed on the frontstretch with 48 laps to go. He spent 22 laps behind the wall for repairs. The Hendrick Motorsports driver fell to last in Chase points (-71).