DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Matt Kenseth took control in the second
half of the race and pulled away to a convincing victory Friday
night in the first NASCAR Busch Series event under the lights at
The 2003 Nextel Cup champion, a part-time driver in Busch races,
earned his 18th career Busch victory and first since Atlanta last
October, leading 50 of the 147 laps in the Diamond Hill Plywood 200
on the 1.366-mile oval.
It was his second win at Darlington.
"This is a great racetrack,'' Kenseth said in Victory Lane.
"It's one of the most fun racetracks we ever come to.''
Kenseth started 24th in the 43-car field, but worked his way to
the front, finally moving to the lead for the first time on lap 96.
He dominated the rest of the way -- leading all but two of the last
52 laps -- to give team owner Jack Roush his fifth Busch victory in
11 races this season. Mark Martin has won twice and Carl Edwards
and Greg Biffle once each for Roush.
"Really, we had a great handling car on the long runs and that
was the key,'' Kenseth added. "The first couple of stops were just
OK, but the last two, my guys did a great job and they got me the
The sixth and final caution came out on lap 136 when Paul Menard
slammed into the wall. That gave Kenny Wallace and defending Busch
champion Martin Truex one last shot at the leader, but Kenseth's
No. 17 Ford was too strong.
"It's one of those deals where I'm always so close,'' said
Wallace, who last won in 2001 and finished .342 seconds -- about
three car lengths -- behind the winner this time. "I just got beat
at the end. No excuse. I was driving my heart out.''
Truex, a two-time winner this year, was happy with his
"I was just off at the start and made adjustments,'' said
Truex, who got off to a slow start this season. "We were just one
pit stop away from being perfect. But we won last week [at
Talladega] and third here. We're on the comeback trail.''
On the final caution, Kenseth appeared to be heading for the
pits and Jeff Burton, in sixth, followed. Kenseth suddenly veered
back onto the track, retaining the lead, and Burton continued into
the pits for fresh tires, falling to 10th. He charged back after
the green flag on lap 141 to finish fifth, just behind Biffle.
"I wanted to come to pit road and get tires,'' Kenseth said.
"Then I saw nobody else was coming in except Burton, so I figured
I'd better get back out there. The tires held up just fine those
last few laps.''
It was the eighth victory this year by a Cup regular, known as