Kenseth finds Southern comfort in Darlington - NOTES by Lugnut - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

NASCAR NOTES: Kenseth finds Southern comfort in Darlington

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Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images
Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy" Glenn Campbell - "The Lugnut Cowboy"
DARLINGTON, SC (RNN) -

Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Sr. are but a few of the sports greats who have gone to victory lane in the Southern 500. Matt Kenseth can now add his name to that historic trophy after a late surge took him to the win Saturday night.

"The Track Too Tough to Tame" and "The Lady in Black" are but a few of the nicknames for the historic South Carolina speedway that many claim to be the toughest track on the Cup Series schedule.

Fender-bending action and Darlington Stripes are usually common place in the Southern 500. However, the normally challenging egg-shaped race track was remarkably quiet Saturday night as the first 301 laps were run without a caution flag.

"I feel like green-flag stops kind of separate the good pit crews and teams," said third place finisher Jeff Gordon about the unusually long green flag runs. "But for the fans, you want to see cautions, restarts and sparks flying."

Kyle Busch was the class of the field for most of the night leading a race high 265 of the scheduled 367 laps, but a cut tire on the final restart relegated him to a sixth place finish.

"Man, it's crushing when you lead all day like that and don't come home with a win," said race winner Matt Kenseth on overtaking his teammate in the final laps. "I'm sure Kyle is disappointed."

Matt Kenseth struggled with his setup early on, but on the final restart, his team made just the right adjustments to allow him to make his move.

"I don't know what they changed on the last pit stop," commented Kenseth after the race. "That certainly was our fastest run of the day and it was incredibly fast when we needed it to be."

Despite his surprise victory, Kenseth admitted that winning the Southern 500 was a big moment in his career.

"I don't know that I've had a win that feels bigger than this at this moment," said Kenseth on capturing his first Southern 500.

As Kenseth adds his name to the list of NASCAR greats that have conquered Darlington, he is quick to point out the history of a Darlington victory.

"It's a tricky track," said Kenseth. "There's a lot of tradition here. To be able to win a race at a track like this, especially the Southern 500, man, it's big. In my mind, it's one of the biggest races we have of the year really. It's just a special place to win at."

Kenseth's third victory of the season moves him into third place in the 2013 point standings and establishes him and his team as a front runner in this year's championship race.

Some claim that Kenseth and his team are peaking too soon, but I say they are just starting to come together. If I'm right, the rest of the field is in trouble in the weeks to come.

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