NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Nationwide Top Gear 300 Recap

The Roush Fenway racing organization continues to reestablish themselves as the dominant force on intermediate racetracks as Matt Kenseth passed his teammate Carl Edwards with two laps to go to score the victory in the Top Gear 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The win was especially rewarding for the No. 16 team after their car did not run last weekend at Iowa because of Trevor Bayne’s continuing recovery from an undiagnosed illness.

Kyle Busch followed Edwards to the line, in the process adding to the owners’ point lead for the No. 18 with the third place finish. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., the winner last week at Iowa, battled back late in the race to score a fourth-place finish while Reed Sorenson rounded out the top five.

Elliott Sadler used the free pass during the last caution to get back on the lead lap and worked past a few cars to grab a 10th place finish and hold onto the points lead by one point over Stenhouse.

The race marks Kenseth’s 26th Nationwide Series victory in 248 series starts. This is his third victory and 11th top 10 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 20 career NAtionwide starts. Edwards’ second place finish is his seventh top 10 in 13 races at Charlotte and his ninth top 10 this season. Busch’s third place finish is his 13th top 10 finish in 16 career starts at CMS. Busch was also the winner in the pit road time competition with a total of 124.476 seconds and an average pot road time of 41.492 seconds. Edwards was second at 125.969 seconds for an average of 41.990 seconds. The top two were well ahead of the rest of the field as Reed Sorenson was third at 164.905 seconds although he did have a better average time with 41.226 seconds.

Joe Gibbs racing leads the owners’ points standings with 496 points for the No. 20 and 481 points for the No. 18. The No. 60 owned by Jack Roush is sitting in third position one point behind the 18.

In Victory Lane after the race Kenseth relished the moments of being a dad with his daughter Kaylin. “Every day when I come home I look forward to seeing my wife and girls and Ross, but Kaylin is just starting to get some vocabulary and there is nothing better in the world, I don’t think, than coming home and getting out of your car in the garage and you see the door fly open and she yells, ‘Hi, Dada!’. It is pretty cool that she made it down here,” said Kenseth afterward.

Stenhouse reflected afterward on a solid, if slightly disappointing race. “We started off really good. We got the pole and we led the first few laps. I could tell it was gonna get tight on us and it finally did and we kind of backed up and just tried to maintain the rest of the race there in the top five and just have a good, solid points day and it worked out. We just never really could get the front grip that we needed,, but, again, thanks for Fastenal. I missed the 1-2-3 finish like we were looking for, but it was still a good day for us.”

Stenhouse was also asked about the role confidence is playing for him. “The confidence is definitely high, but I think it’s because of Jack Roush and everybody at Roush Fenway and Ford Racing sticking behind me – and Carl Edwards. Confidence is huge for us. Like you said, we were lacking it last year. Obviously, when you crash 12 times in the first half of the season, nobody’s confidence is going to be very high. We started questioning whether we could do this or not, but what I like about it is the great group of guys that are with me right now were with me all through last year. They went through it with us and stuck it out and nobody left or gave up and quit. Blackwell Angus Beef came on last year even when we were struggling and that kind of helped turn us around at Daytona. We got a third-place there and they came back this year, so it’s huge.”

Edwards spoke after the race on the Roush Fenway Racing organization turnaround. “I remember when I first saw it and that was Daytona last summer. The first time I really believed we were back was about 50 laps or 40 laps into the Phoenix Cup race this year. Yes, we did crescendo with our performance all the way until Homestead last year and then I thought ‘Man, I’m not gonna get too excited. I’ve got to go through a long winter here.’ and I was anxious to see how fast we would be when we got back to the race track in the spring and it’s picked up even better than it left off. I saw the glimpses of it at Daytona and then it took all the way until about Phoenix this year for me to really feel like, ‘Hey, we are back.’ and feel that confidence and that’s good. It feels like it’s here to stay. I hope it can last the rest of the season. That would be huge. Ten wins out of how many races, it can’t be too many, so that’s a very big percentage,” Edwards said.

Busch praised the tires that were used for the race. “The tires were really good – same compound and everything as the Cup side. It didn’t seem like there were falling off much. Maybe a half a second to a second – that’s actually a little less than normal. Tires had really good grip all day. Surprising for as slick as this place is typically how good the tires were and how much grip that we did have today. All in all, the cars all seem to drive relatively good, I guess – mine did anyways. Some of the other guys were probably struggling.”

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