Mar 15, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
Racing a NASCAR Nationwide Series car at Bristol Motor Speedway is like riding a bicycle for Matt Kenseth: he never forgets how to get around the .533-mile bullring.
The last time Kenseth competed in an NNS race at Bristol was August 21, 2009.
He finished fifth.
Fast forward to March 15, 2014 and Kenseth essentially picked up where he left off from his last time in an NNS event at Bristol, once again finishing fifth in Saturday’s Drive to Stop Diabetes 300.
Kenseth dominated the first two-thirds of the race, leading 179 of the event’s 300 laps.
But once Kyle Busch got past Kenseth late in the race, and aided by Busch getting a great jump on the final restart nine laps from the checkered flag, Kenseth would ultimately finish four spots back.
“We didn’t lead the last one,” Kenseth quipped when asked what was the difference in the race. “Our car was pretty fast today. It was actually real fast.
“I just got passed in lapped traffic (by Busch). There was just so much lapped traffic. I thought I was being too aggressive the way it was but Kyle got me there, picked me and then got by me.”
Restarts were Kenseth’s Achilles heel in Saturday’s race.
Otherwise, it might have been him standing in victory lane and not Busch, who earned his seventh career NNS triumph at Bristol (also his third in a row and sixth in the last eight Nationwide starts there) and his 15th win overall across all three NASCAR national series.
“After (he was passed by Busch for the final time), every restart I was on the bottom,” Kenseth said. “It was just such a deficit on the bottom.
“I’d spin the tires down there a little bit and by the time you’d get through (turns) one and two, a couple rows would pass you on every restart. I could never draw the top.”
Even so, Kenseth shouldn’t feel all that bad. His overall NNS record at Bristol is still stellar: 18 starts, three wins, 11 top-5 and the same number of top-10 finishes.
What’s more, even with the nearly five-year layoff, it kept a streak going of eight top-fives in his last nine NNS starts overall at BMS.
“I thought we had a great car,” Kenseth said, still feeling dejected at the outcome. “These guys deserved to have a shot to win there and I just didn’t get it done for them.”
What he missed Saturday, he may get in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Food City 500. Kenseth starts third and will be going for his fourth career Cup win there (he also has 11 top-5 and 18 top-10 finishes).
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