By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service
(February 22, 2009)
FONTANA, Calif.—Matt Kenseth is making up for lost time.
Winless in 2008, Kenseth backed up his victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 by holding off Jeff Gordon in Sunday’s Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway.
Kenseth, who won for the 18th time in the Sprint Cup series, beat Gordon to the finish line by 1.464 seconds to become the fifth driver in Cup history to win the first two races of a season. The last to do so? Gordon in 1997, at Daytona and Rockingham.
Kyle Busch finished third and fell short in his bid to sweep all three of NASCAR’s top series at the same track in the same weekend. On Saturday, Busch won the Camping World Truck Series race and the Nationwide Series event at the 2.0-mile racetrack.
Greg Biffle recovered from a pit-road mistake to come home fourth, followed by Kurt Busch. Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers completed the top 10.
Johnson, Gordon and Biffle took turns controlling the pace during the first three green-flag runs, all of which were interrupted by caution periods for light rain.
Johnson took the top spot from Jamie McMurray on the opening lap and held it for 43 circuits until rain forced the race’s second yellow flag. Gordon passed his Hendrick Motorsports teammate for the lead on Lap 78, surrendered it for two laps for a green-flag stop and regained it on Lap 88 when the field cycled through the pit stops.
During a second round of green-flag stops, Biffle beat Gordon off pit road on Lap 128 and stayed out front until NASCAR called the third caution for rain on Lap 142. Kenseth was first off pit road on Lap 143 and streaked away from his pursuers until NASCAR threw the fourth caution for rain on Lap 170.
(Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)