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Kenseth wins second straight Cup race

| Monday, Feb. 23, 2009

FONTANA, Calif. — Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth made it two victories in a row, holding off a late challenge from Jeff Gordon on Sunday to win the Auto Club 500.

Kenseth took the lead from Gordon in the pits with 38 laps to go in the 250-lap race and stayed ahead in a battle of former NASCAR Sprint Cup champions, pulling away over the last 20 laps.

It is the first time a Cup driver has won the first two races of the season since Gordon did it in 1997 on the way to the second of his four championships.

"It's such a great team," Kenseth said. "I just thank these guys (on the crew). They gave me a great stop and got me in clean air, and that's just a huge difference."

Kenseth and Gordon were much faster than the rest of the field at the end, both of them pulling away from the pack. But Gordon, like Kenseth winless last year, was unable to get to Kenseth's rear bumper and get a real run on the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford.

"It was a lot of fun," Gordon said. "This is a new team and they showed it tonight. We've still got a little bit of work to do. I'm so excited on one side because we ran so well and we started out the season so great, but I'm still mad on the other side because I felt like we had what it took to win tonight."

It was Kenseth's third victory on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval and the fifth straight February victory for team co-owner Jack Roush.

Kyle Busch, who made NASCAR history by winning both the truck and Nationwide races on Saturday, came up short of weekend sweep.

"It's never been done before, so you know it's a challenge," Busch said after finishing third. "The last one's always the hard one to get. It's on Sunday and it's the biggest show. Maybe one day."

Greg Biffle recovered from a pit-road mistake to come home fourth, followed by Kurt Busch. Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers completed the top 10.

Johnson, Gordon and Biffle took turns controlling the pace during the first three green-flag runs, all of which were interrupted by caution periods for light rain.

Johnson took the top spot from Jamie McMurray on the opening lap and held it for 43 circuits until rain forced the race's second yellow flag. Gordon passed his Hendrick Motorsports teammate for the lead on Lap 78, surrendered it for two laps for a green-flag stop and regained it on Lap 88 when the field cycled through the pit stops.

During a second round of green-flag stops, Biffle beat Gordon off pit road on Lap 128 and stayed out front until the third caution for rain on Lap 142. Kenseth was first off pit road on Lap 143 and streaked away from his pursuers until the fourth caution for rain on Lap 170.

The engine and right front tire blew on Kevin Harvick's Chevrolet on Lap 208, and he retired from the race, ending a modern-era record streak of 81 races without a DNF.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 500

At Auto Club Speedway · Fontana, Calif.

1. (24) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 250 laps, 131.4 rating, 195 points.

2. (6) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 250, 133.7, 175.

3. (10) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 250, 110.1, 165.

4. (5) Greg Biffle, Ford, 250, 122.1, 165.

5. (4) Kurt Busch, Dodge, 250, 111, 160.

6. (23) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 250, 99.9, 150.

7. (25) Carl Edwards, Ford, 250, 102.3, 151.

8. (11) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 250, 101.9, 147.

9. (2) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 250, 121.3, 143.

10. (1) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 250, 85.2, 134.

11. (15) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 250, 90.5, 135.

12. (22) Kasey Kahne, Dodge, 250, 82.1, 127.

13. (38) David Stremme, Dodge, 250, 78.6, 129.

14. (7) David Reutimann, Toyota, 250, 81, 121.

15. (42) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 250, 72.6, 118.

16. (3) Jamie McMurray, Ford, 250, 89.1, 115.

17. (13) David Ragan, Ford, 249, 85.8, 112.

18. (37) Travis Kvapil, Ford, 249, 65.9, 109.

19. (21) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 249, 70.4, 106.

20. (16) Bobby Labonte, Ford, 249, 61.5, 103.

21. (17) Reed Sorenson, Dodge, 249, 51.4, 100.

22. (14) Marcos Ambrose, Toyota, 249, 68.4, 97.

23. (26) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 249, 72.3, 94.

24. (29) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 249, 44.2, 91.

25. (20) Elliott Sadler, Dodge, 249, 50.7, 88.

26. (34) Joey Logano, Toyota, 249, 40.6, 85.

27. (33) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 249, 53.2, 82.

28. (28) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 248, 57.6, 79.

29. (8) AJ Allmendinger, Dodge, 248, 59.2, 76.

30. (12) Robby Gordon, Toyota, 248, 44.6, 73.

31. (40) John Andretti, Dodge, 248, 32.8, 75.

32. (41) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 247, 35.5, 67.

33. (32) David Gilliland, Chevrolet, 246, 37.2, 64.

34. (39) Jeremy Mayfield, Toyota, 245, 28.9, 61.

35. (31) Aric Almirola, Chevrolet, engine, 242, 45, 58.

36. (36) Scott Riggs, Toyota, 240, 45.8, 55.

37. (27) Paul Menard, Ford, 221, 46.7, 52.

38. (19) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, accident, 207, 71.9, 49.

39. (35) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, engine, 205, 54.9, 46.

40. (18) Mark Martin, Chevrolet, engine, 179, 73, 48.

41. (9) Scott Speed, Toyota, engine, 172, 34, 40.

42. (30) Dave Blaney, Toyota, fuel pump, 50, 29.9, 37.

43. (43) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, fuel pump, 36, 25.8, 34.

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 135.839 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 40 minutes, 51 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 1.463 seconds.

Caution Flags: Five for 43 laps.

Lead Changes: 19 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leaders: J.Johnson 1-43; J.Andretti 44; Ku.Busch 45-46; J.Johnson 47-77; J.Gordon 78-85; G.Biffle 86; C.Edwards 87; J.Gordon 88-127; G.Biffle 128-142; J.Gordon 143; J.Montoya 144; M.Kenseth 145-170; J.Gordon 171; T.Stewart 172-174; M.Martin 175; M.Kenseth 176-195; J.Gordon 196-209; D.Stremme 210-212; M.Kenseth 213-250.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): M.Kenseth, 3 times for 84 laps; J.Johnson, 2 times for 74 laps; J.Gordon, 5 times for 64 laps; G.Biffle, 2 times for 16 laps; T.Stewart, 1 time for 3 laps; D.Stremme, 1 time for 3 laps; Ku.Busch, 1 time for 2 laps; C.Edwards, 1 time for 1 lap; J.Montoya, 1 time for 1 lap; J.Andretti, 1 time for 1 lap; M.Martin, 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 12 in Points: 1. M.Kenseth, 385. 2. J.Gordon, 304. 3. Ku.Busch, 294. 4. T.Stewart, 294. 5. G.Biffle, 268. 6. C.Bowyer, 266. 7. M.Waltrip, 264. 8. D.Ragan, 262. 9. C.Edwards, 260. 10. J.Montoya, 256. 11. E.Sadler, 248. 12. D.Reutimann, 248.

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