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Matt Kenseth holds off Kyle Busch to win at Charlotte

The Chase for the Sprint Cup continues like a WWE Battle Royal, with five-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson taking his lumps this week.

October 15, 2011|By George Diaz
  • Matt Kenseth outdueled Kyle Busch in the closing laps of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway late Saturday night.
Matt Kenseth outdueled Kyle Busch in the closing laps of the Bank of America… (Chris Graythen / Getty Images )

Reporting from Concord, N.C. -- The battle for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title is starting to take on the feelof a WWE Battle Royal.

The question remains, who is going to be the last man standing?

It probably won't be five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, who got tangled up with Ryan Newman in the closing laps of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night. Johnson spun and hit the wall, fortunate that a safety barrier and a HANS device cushioned the blow.

It was painful in other ways, though. Johnson's 34th-place finish behind race winner Matt Kenseth literally wrecked his chances for a sixth consecutive title. He isn't mathematically out, 35 points behind the leader, but it's going to be a one huge challenge given the competitors who are ahead of him.

"I'm OK," Johnson said in a TV interview. "That one stung for sure.

"Definitely not the night we wanted," he added. "This is not going to help us win a sixth championship."

The race did spit out another strong contender -- Kenseth, who out-dueled Kyle Busch in the final laps. Carl Edwards finished third.

Edwards still leads in points by five over Kevin Harvick. Kenseth moved up from fifth place to third, two points behind Harvick.

Kenseth gave Ford its first victory here since 2002 in a race that was relatively clean expect in the final stretches.

David Ragan got inside Kasey Kahne's car, which in turn clipped Jeff Gordon, on a restart with 40 laps to go.

Harvick made a brilliant -- and perhaps lucky -- save by swerving and avoiding the cars that were spinning in front of him.

"That's the way it's been for us," Gordon said. "My bad. Totally my fault."

A few laps later, Tony Stewart's car made contact with Greg Biffle's No. 16 Ford, cutting the left front tire.

It ended the chances of winning for Biffle, who had one of the strongest cars of the night.

Gordon's mishaps here and in Kansas last week, when his No. 24 Chevy blew an engine, formed one of the dramatic story lines floating around Charlotte this week, leading up to the final weeks of the Chase:

Jimmie Johnson is back!

Carl Edwards is the man!

Kevin Harvick is lying in the weeds and will take everybody out at the end!

This is great marketing mojo for NASCAR, especially since the NBA sits idle. Sports is all about rivalries and competition, and NASCAR is in the middle of one of its best championship races in history.

Another Chase driver, Stewart, started strong Saturday but faded in the last quarter of the race. He finished eighth.

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