Concord, NC (Sports Network) - Matt Kenseth gave his Sprint Cup Series title hopes a huge boost by winning Saturday night's Bank of America 500, while Jimmie Johnson's quest for a sixth-straight championship took a big hit after wrecking late in the race and finishing 34th at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kenseth, the 2003 series champion, passed Kyle Busch for the lead with 25 laps remaining. He grabbed the top spot for good seven laps before Johnson slammed head on into the outside wall. Johnson was running seventh when he wiggled and then made slight contact with Ryan Newman before sliding up the track and into the wall hard.
"I'm okay, but that one stung for sure," Johnson said after he was released from the track's infield medical center. "The was a pretty big impact. It's unfortunate that I wrecked. I got into turn one and [Newman] was real tight to my outside, and that pulled me around the quarter entry, and from there on, I was kind of hanging on."
After the final restart with a dozen laps left, Kenseth pulled away from Busch and then beat him to the finish line by one second for his third win of the season and the 21st of his career. Kenseth's first win in NASCAR's premier series came in the 600-mile race at this track during his 2000 rookie season.
"For all those toilet jokes about my restarts, we finally got a good one at the end," Kenseth said. "I would have been pretty mad if I was going to lose this thing to these guys on restarts."
Kenseth's Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Carl Edwards, finished third and increased his lead to five points over Kevin Harvick, who took the sixth spot.
"We're trying to have a championship effort here, and we dodged some bullets tonight," Edwards said.
Busch and Edwards had a late-race encounter, which prompted Edwards to confront Busch on pit road after the 501-mile race had concluded.
"He said he didn't like the way I raced him off of turn two that one time he got under me," said Busch, who led the most laps with 111. "It made me loose, and it was steering me down the track instead of my butt going up the track. I was trying to hold on and not do anything."
Non-Chase drivers Kasey Kahne and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-five.
With the win, Kenseth moved to third in the standings, just seven points behind Edwards.
"We've had really fast cars in the first five races in the Chase, but who knows what's going to happen here in the next two weeks [Talladega and Martinsville]," Kenseth said. "We've been strong, and it's nice to get the 'W'."
Busch moved up four spots in the rankings. He is now 18 points out of the lead.
A.J. Allmendinger took the seventh spot, followed by championship contenders Tony Stewart, the pole sitter, Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman.
Johnson endured his worst finish in a Chase race since November 2009 at Texas, where he crashed early in that race and wound up 38th. He is now 35 points behind Edwards, as five races remain in this year's playoffs.
"This isn't going to help us, but we'll keep on racing," Johnson said.
Other Chase drivers and their finishing positions included: Kurt Busch (13th), Brad Keselowski (16th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (19th) and Jeff Gordon (21st).
Since winning the first two races in the Chase, Stewart has fallen 24 points behind. Keselowski is one marker behind Stewart, while Kurt Busch is 27 out of the lead.
10/16 01:02:39 ET