Matt Kenseth wasted no time in finding victory lane in 2015 with a win in last night’s Sprint Unlimited, NASCAR’s annual all-star race to open the new season.
Tonight’s race was split into two segments with an opening 25-lap run and a final 50-lap battle to the checkered flag. Carl Edwards was impressive in his debut with Joe Gibbs Racing earning a third-place finish, while Kyle Busch finished ninth and Denny Hamlin was scored in 19th after being involved in an accident that ended his night early.
Kenseth started 16th following a random draw on Friday afternoon that determined the starting lineup for the 75-lap race. He would move to the front of the field early to lead for the first time on lap 10. On the night, he would lead four different times for a total of 21 laps. He would take the lead back from his teammate Carl Edwards on lap 70 and held the top spot to the finish earning a trip to victory lane in his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota.
Edwards started from the 14th position and spent the opening segment toward the back of the field hoping to avoid an early big wreck. As the race went on Edwards maneuvered toward the front of the field and was inside the top five for the final 20 laps of the night. The No. 19 ARRIS Toyota would lead briefly on lap 69, but teammate Matt Kenseth would regain the top spot on the next lap and Edwards would go on to finish the race in third.
Busch started eighth and also spent the early portion of the night running toward the back of the pack in hopes of avoiding an early accident. The strategy paid off for nearly the entire opening 25-lap segment but he would receive front end damage on a lap 46 accident. Although his team was able to make repairs on pit road to the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota and maintain a spot on the lead lap, Busch wasn’t able to work his way back toward the front of the field and had to settle for a ninth-place finish.
Hamlin would get caught in the night’s big accident when he was sent into the grass on lap 46 attempting to avoid several other cars wrecking. The front end of the No. 11 FedEx Express lifted in the air but fortunately the car never went completely airborne and Hamlin would come to a rest. The damage was too severe to continue however and his night would be over. He would be scored in 19th.
The starting front row for the Daytona 500 will be decided today during a qualifying session at 1 PM. The rest of the line-up for the Daytona 500 will be decided by a pair of Duel races on Thursday evening. Today’s qualifying session will be broadcast live on Fox at 1 PM, while the Duel races can be seen on Fox Sports 1 starting at 7 PM on Thursday.
The Great American Race will once again provide the official start to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season when Fox broadcasts the Daytona 500 live from Daytona International Speedway next Sunday, February 22 at 1 PM ET. The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.