Matt Kenseth led 46 laps drove away from Kyle Busch on the final restart to win the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night.
Kenseth started on the outside of the front row in his No. 17 Fluidmaster Ford and had a fast car throughout the race. However, he had to make up track position in the middle stages of the race after becoming mired back in traffic following a four-tire pit call when most of the field took two tires.
Busch led the most laps of any driver with 111 and dominated much of the race, but Kenseth had the better car when it mattered at the end. He moved up two spots to third in the points, just seven marks behind his teammate Carl Edwards. Busch jumped four positions up to fourth, but only gained two points on Edwards and remains 18 behind.
Edwards finished third at Charlotte, maintaining his points lead and losing a close battle with Kyle Busch for second place in the closing laps of the event. Edwards was upset with the way Busch raced him, saying "there's a difference between racing hard and then cutting across the guy's nose. I just let him know that next time that happens, I'll just stay where I'm at and he can drive across my hood and wreck himself."
Busch defended his driving, telling reporters "there was no malicious intent involved to cause anything or to hurt his chances at finishing second or anything. It was just a product of what we had at the end going for everything we could, and trying to come home second." Busch is now fourth in the championship standings, 18 points behind Edwards, and it will be interesting to see if this develops into a continuing feud with five races left in the Chase.
Jimmie Johnson ran into major trouble with 18 laps to go. The five-time defending champion was passing Ryan Newman on the low side for the seventh position, but got loose and lost control of his No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, slamming hard into the outside wall. Johnson finished 34th, dropping five positions to eighth in the standings, 35 points behind leader Carl Edwards. As Johnson admitted, "This is not going to help us win a sixth championship."
Kasey Kahne finished fourth in the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota. Kahne, who finished fourth at Dover two weeks ago and second at Kansas last week, is headed to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top five with his third top-10 in the last three races.
Kevin Harvick did his best to keep pace with Edwards in the title hunt, finishing sixth and falling to five points behind Edwards. A.J. Allmendinger came home seventh, while pole-sitter Tony Stewart finished eighth. Ryan Newman ran ninth and was followed by Denny Hamlin in tenth.
After the points shakeup at Charlotte, the race for the championship appears to be a three-man battle between Edwards, Harvick and Kenseth. Three three drivers are within seven points of each other while the next closest is Kyle Busch at 18 points back.
With five races to go before the Sprint Cup championship is decided, here are the current Chase standings:
1. Carl Edwards
2. Kevin Harvick, -5
3. Matt Kenseth, -7
4. Kyle Busch, -18
5. Tony Stewart, -24
6. Brad Keselowski, -25
7. Kurt Busch, -27
8. Jimmie Johnson, -35
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr., -60
10. Ryan Newman, -61
11. Jeff Gordon, -66
12. Denny Hamlin, -86
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