Archive for Sunday, May 23, 2004

Kenseth snags $1 million

Newman passed with 4 laps to go in All-Star race

May 23, 2004


— With $1 million on the line, Matt Kenseth showed just how aggressive he can be.

He moved right to the rear bumper of Ryan Newman -- but never touched him -- and then drove past with four laps left to win the Nextel All-Star Challenge on Saturday night.

When it was over, Kenseth stepped out of character a bit and celebrated by doing doughnuts by the finish line with his Ford.

"A million bucks, boys!" he screamed to his crew over the two-way radio. "You guys are the best!"

Kenseth beat Newman by about five car-lengths, with the Chevrolets of Tony Stewart, Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounding out the top five.

Newman surprisingly eschewed a pit stop before the final 20-lap segment, and the rest of the leaders changed four tires. Even with that advantage, Kenseth had a hard time making the decisive pass.

He tried a couple of times to get below Newman, but couldn't complete the move. Finally, coming off Turn 4 with four to go, Newman's Dodge began to slide sideways, which was the only opening Kenseth needed.

"I just saw him slipping off 4, so I just got right on him," Kenseth said. "I was able to get by then."

The defending Nextel Cup champ only had one victory during his conservative run to that title, but he came into 2004 seemingly determined to alter his image. He won two of the first three races in dominating fashion, then struggled a bit during the next several races.

He broke out of that slump in a big way.

"It feels good to come here to have such a rocket car," Kenseth said. "I'm excited for this million bucks, and excited for all these guys on the crew."

This race is split into three segments, starting with 40 laps. Nearly half the field was damaged early when Kurt Busch tried to push Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle past Kenseth on the 10th lap.

Instead, the contact sent Biffle into the outside wall at the end of the frontstretch, with a large portion of the field bearing down on him.

In all, 11 cars were involved -- including defending race champ Jimmie Johnson -- and six were forced to the garage for the rest of the night. That list included Biffle, Busch, Kevin Harvick and Sterling Marlin, who got into the All-Star Challenge by winning the preliminary race.

"I don't understand what happened," Biffle said. "You've got to finish the race first, and he wrecked us on the straightaway.

"He took out the whole field. If I was (team owner) Jack Roush, I don't know what I'd do."

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