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August 24. 2013 11:36PM

Kenseth outduels Kahne for win at Bristol, clinches Chase spot


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth celebrates in victory lane after winning the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- In one of the most thrilling final 15 laps in the history of Bristol Motor Speedway, Matt Kenseth held off Kasey Kahne for his fifth Sprint Cup win of the season on Saturday night in the Irwin Tools Night race.

The victory clinched a spot for Kenseth in the Chase for the championship.

Kahne tried repeatedly to get by Kenseth, several times trying to slide in front of Kenseth, but Kenseth refused to let Kahne past.

But with 14 laps to go, Kahne actually got by Kenseth for a moment in heavy lapped traffic. Then Kahne slipped a little as he tried to hold onto the top spot, allowing Kenseth to regain the lead.

Kahne refused to give up, but Kenseth rebuffed every attempt to the finish line.

Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, followed by Brian Vickers, Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Clint Bowyer, running in the top five, ran out of gas with just over a lap to go and finished 14th.

The 11th caution flag of the night on lap 448 was triggered when Vickers cut down on Denny Hamlin, who suffered a cut right-front tire turning him into Ryan Newman. Five other drivers got caught up in the wreck, including Martin Truex Jr. and Brian Keselowski, both trying to keep their Chase hopes alive.

Kevin Harvick thought Hamlin started the wreck, so he stopped at the end of Hamlin's pit stall, climbed out of his car and walked to Hamlin's car.

"Just wanted to know what happened," Harvick said. "He said he was hit from behind."

After a short red flag, Jeff Gordon and Earnhardt, running second and third respectively, elected to pit for fuel. Neither one wanted to gamble on running out of gas and severely damaging his Chase aspirations.

With the teams using all kinds of different pit strategies, several different drivers ran out front, including Earnhardt.

But it was Edwards who led the most laps - 116 -- in the first 400 laps.

Kenseth was leading with 100 laps to go despite getting caught for speeding during the sixth caution flag on lap 257 and falling to 27th.

Gordon, in desperate need of a win to boost his hopes of making the Chase, was second at this point of the race followed by Truex, Earnhardt and Bowyer.

Bowyer was leading on lap 176 when he was clipped by Travis Kvapil. The contact sent Bowyer spinning and he was hit again by Bobby Labonte. Labonte, running fourth at the time, slowed to miss the spinning Bowyer, but he was hit from behind by Gordon.

Kurt Busch's hopes of making the Chase took a real hit. After starting second, Busch led 54 of the first 76 laps before he suddenly slowed with tire problems. He was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop and lost three laps.

His troubles continued on lap 91 when he got into Josh Wise to bring out the second caution flag.

The damage to Busch's right front resulted in the crew being unable to get the tire off, forcing Busch to go behind the wall for repairs. The team was forced to change the hub on the wheel. Busch returned to the race on lap 117.

NOTES: Stewart-Haas Racing has been in the news in recent weeks. Co-owner Tony Stewart broke his right leg in two places in a winged sprint car race that will sideline him for the rest of the season, ending his hopes of making this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Then co-owner Gene Haas surprised his own team by deciding he wanted to add Kurt Busch as a driver. And this week the team hired Rodney Childers from Michael Waltrip Racing to be the crew chief for Kevin Harvick, who will join the team in 2014. ... Furniture Row Racing is not ready to give up on signing Busch to a contract extension. On Friday, the team provided Busch with a counteroffer to Stewart-Haas. And to make things really interesting, Furniture Row officials said, "We fully expect Kurt will be our driver in 2014." Busch did not want to talk about next year as he attempts to make the Chase. "We have our blinders on," Busch said. "The most important thing right now is to get the 78 in the Chase.


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