Matt Kenseth wins; others struggle at MIS

Published 6:08 am Monday, August 21, 2006

By By SCOTT NOVAK / Dowagiac Daily News
BROOKLYN – The Race to the Chase just got a little bit more interesting.
With only three races remaining until the final 10 "Race to the Cup" playoffs, Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway jumbled the running order once again.
Matt Kenseth closed the gap between himself at championship points leader Jimmie Johnson on Sunday with a victory in the GFS Marketplace 400.
But for the rest of the field, it was a day of moving up and down the points ladder.
Kenseth led a total of 87 laps to take the checkered flag on Sunday in a caution-filled race. Kenseth's victory moved him to within 58 points of Johnson, who wound up 13th.
The victory was the 13th of Kenseth's career and all but locked him into the final 10 race chase. Despite struggling throughout much of the afternoon, Johnson also closed in on clinching a spot in NASCAR's version of the playoffs.
A record 10 cautions slowed the race to a mere 135.097 miles-per-hour. It took nearly three hours to complete the event.
Kenseth was fortunate that it was just a 400-mile race because if Gordon had another lap or two, the outcome could have been different.
As it was, Gordon's second place finish moved him to sixth in the point standings, an increase of three spots.
Tony Stewart, the defending NEXTEL Cup champion, also had a good day and finished third after spending the first half of the race in the middle of the pack. Stewart is now fifth in points, an improvement of two positions over last week.
Rounding out the top five were Kasey Kahne, who was in Niles on Friday night for a personnel appearance (see related story page 10) and Mark Martin.
For Martin, he maintained his position in the point chase, while for Kahne, he closed in on the 10th and final spot in the chase.
Martin is currently fourth in the standings, which was also an improvement of two places from the previous week.
Kahne pulled to within 49 points of Dale Earnhardt Jr. who is currently 10th in points. Earnhardt finished sixth on Sunday after leading 40 laps early on in the event.
A problem in the pits pushed Earnhardt back into the middle of the top 20. He rebounded nicely and came from 13th place on the final restart to move into the top 10.
Earnhardt and Martin battled side-by-side for fifth place, with Martin edging out the series' most popular driver.
Earnhardt won Saturday's Busch Series race, but was booed heavily on Sunday. He made contact with Carl Edwards, another popular series driver, on the final lap, sending Edwardsburg into the wall.
Edwards then came out and slammed his car into the side of Earnhardt's after the race was over. The two also exchanged words in victory lane following the race.
Greg Biffle finished seventh, Reed Sorenson finished eighth, while Denny Hamlin was ninth.
Elliott Sadler finished 10th in his first race for Evernham Motorsports. It was the first top 10 finish for the No. 19 Dodge this season. Sadler replaced Jeremy Mayfield earlier in the week. Mayfield was fired by Ray Evernham recently.
Chase contenders Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch all had troubles during the race and affected their positions in the point standings.
Burton dropped five places to ninth after having engine trouble. Kyle Busch blew a tire and hit the wall, winding up 39th, while brother Kurt also had an accident which relegated him to 40th place.
The series now heads to Bristol for the 24th race of the season.