Daytona Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Matt Kenseth avoided several crashes, including a 12-car pileup, and then held off Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards at the finish to win Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited preseason race at Daytona International Speedway.
Kenseth returned to victory lane in the Sprint Cup Series after he was winless last season. In 2013, his first year as driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kenseth won a series-high seven races during the season. He had two victories in the Daytona 500 (2009 and '12) before claiming his first win in the Sprint Unlimited.
The fourth and final caution for an accident involving Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon on the backstretch set up a four-lap shootout to the finish at this 2.5-mile superspeedway. After the final restart, Kenseth had pulled away from the field, but Truex and Edwards, who is Kenseth's new teammate at JGR, caught up with him on the final lap.
Kenseth beat Truex to the finish line by 0.219 seconds, while Edwards came in a close third.
"This is a great feeling," Kenseth said. "It's always fun to win at Daytona, for sure. It's fun to win anywhere...I had a feeling that it was going to be a good week. We have a lot of racing left to do, but all our (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars have speed, which is the first thing we look for."
The Sprint Unlimited kicked off Speedweeks at Daytona. The Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 22. Qualifying for that race takes place on Sunday afternoon.
Truex, in his second season with Furniture Row Racing, a single-car team, led the most laps with 29 in this 75-lap event.
"It was awesome," Truex said. "I can't say enough about the guys on the Furniture Row No. 78 team. They gave me one heck of a race car right there. The best car I have ever had here without a doubt. Second sucks, but that is the most fun I have had in a race car in a long, long time."
Edwards made his debut with JGR, driving the team's new No. 19 Toyota, after spending the past 11 years with Roush Fenway Racing.
"I'm glad Matt won that race, but man, I could taste it there," Edwards said. "That was a lot of fun - a cool event."
Only 12 of the 25 drivers competing in this race were running at the finish. The remaining field all had DNFs due to accidents. The biggest wreck of the night involving a dozen cars occurred on the frontstretch on lap 45.
While running in a tight pack, Biffle tapped Jamie McMurray from behind, causing him to spin and take out several cars. NASCAR displayed the red flag to briefly stop the race for track cleanup efforts.
"Everyone was racing really hard tonight, and it was actually a lot of fun out there," McMurray said. "It's just when Greg got into the back of me, I just couldn't hang on to it anymore."
Denny Hamlin, who won this race one year ago, Paul Menard, the pole sitter, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne were among those involved in that incident.
"It was intense," Hamlin said. "I thought it was as intense really as any speedway race we've seen in a long time from beginning to end. This race last year got single file at some point, but this one, it just never did. Everyone is just so aggressive trying to keep that track position."
While Kenseth celebrated his first Sprint Cup race win in more than a year, Kevin Harvick, the reigning series champion, and Joey Logano confronted each other and had a heated exchange of words on pit road.
Harvick was furious with Logano after Logano had pushed Harvick's car on the final lap, nearly wrecking him as he bounced off the wall. Both drivers banged into each other several times during the cool-down lap.
"(Logano) hooked me halfway down the backstretch and then just literally drove me in the corner until I hit the fence," Harvick said. "I have had a few issues with him on the speedways. You can't just take your head off and detach it and throw it on the floor board and not use your brain."
Towards the end of their confrontation on pit road, one of Logano's crew members had to pull him away from Harvick to avoid an altercation.
"It's Kevin being Kevin, and it's a new year and the same stuff," Logano said. "I was trying to help, really. We had a run and I was pushing. I was doing the same thing with the 78 (Truex) all night, and it was working. We got in the corner, and he got tight and he got into the fence. I was trying to help.
"He just doesn't understand I was trying to help. I understand his frustration, but I was trying to help out and get to the front and try to win this thing."
Casey Mears finished fourth, followed by Kyle Larson, Logano and Jeff Gordon, who competed in this race for the final time. Last month, Gordon, the four- time series champion, announced that 2015 will be his last season competing full-time in Sprint Cup. He'll race in the Daytona 500 for the final time next week.