DOVER, Delaware (AP) — Matt Kenseth used some of his veteran experience to edge Kyle Larson and surge to victory Sunday in the accident-strewn NASCAR race at Dover International Speedway. "He was all over me," Kenseth said. "If he would have snuck inside, it would have been over," Kenseth said of Larson, 21 years his junior.
DOVER, Delaware (AP) — Matt Kenseth used some of his veteran experience to edge Kyle Larson and surge to victory Sunday in the accident-strewn NASCAR race at Dover International Speedway.
"He was all over me," Kenseth said. "If he would have snuck inside, it would have been over," Kenseth said of Larson, 21 years his junior.
Kenseth snapped a 17-race winless streak skid with his 37th career victory — and denied Larson his first Sprint Cup victory.
Larson made Kenseth work for the victory that secured him a spot in the Chase.
But it was third-place finisher Chase Elliott that may have cost Larson as much as Kenseth's late-race maneuvering. Elliott, the second-generation rookie who replaced Jeff Gordon in the No. 24, made an aggressive run and briefly passed Larson for second. Their battle took enough steam out of Larson's push that Kenseth was able to create a needed gap and become the fourth Joe Gibbs Racing driver to win in 2016.
Larson matched his career-best finish for owner Chip Ganassi. Elliott had the top finish of his first season at Hendrick Motorsports.
Larson refused to bump Kenseth out of his path over the final thrilling laps and wanted a clean pass in the No. 42 to earn the win.
"It doesn't even seem right that he hasn't won yet," Kenseth said. "He's got a bunch of victories in front of him, for sure. He's a really, really clean, hard racer, and a fast learner."
The 44-year-old Kenseth is older than the combined ages of Elliott, 20, and the 23-year-old Larson.
The 2003 Cup champion, Kenseth led the Daytona 500 headed into the final lap before JGR teammate Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag, setting the stage for an 0-for-11 start.
"That is probably the longest streak I can remember being on without having any real good finishes," Kenseth said.
Kenseth, Larson and Elliott avoided the fate of many as Jimmie Johnson triggered a late-race crash that eliminated several contenders.
He started a pileup straight out of the Talladega Superspeedway highlight reel that knocked out a slew of drivers who raced up front all race and brought it to a halt with less than 50 laps left.
Johnson, a 10-time winner at Dover, failed to jump off the restart because of a faulty transmission in the No. 48. The six-time champion could not shift the Chevy into third gear and 18 cars — stacked and off at full speed — were collected in the melee.
He was leading in the outside lane as he closed in on the start-finish line. Martin Truex Jr. nailed the 48 from behind.
"In my career, I've never had a transmission do that to me," Johnson said.
Truex, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kyle Busch were among the drivers that had their cars piled up on the concrete.
Truex led 47 laps and seemed poised to earn his first win of the season.
"I want to get out and punch somebody," Truex said over the radio. "Seriously. Hard. Like, as hard as I can."
Busch, the reigning series champion, knew there was nowhere for the 18 to go but into the pile.
"Wait for me, I'm coming," he said.
The race was stopped for 11 minutes, 22 seconds — and quickly had another caution shortly after it resumed. Carl Edwards suffered a brutal blow when the No. 19 slammed nose first into an inside wall. Larson made contact with Edwards and shot the JGR driver into the wall.
Kasey Kahne was fourth and Kurt Busch fifth. The race ended with only 14 drivers on the lead lap.