TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Matt Kenseth didn't get left dancing without a partner at Talladega Superspeedway this time.
The Daytona 500 winner emerged from the smoke of a 25-car, last-lap pileup Sunday to win the race under caution, a high-speed measure of redemption from the last visit in the spring.
"All four plate races they put me in a position to win, and I felt like I let them down here last time on the move I made or didn't make," Kenseth said.
Kenseth was leading that race when he chose the outside line for a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish off a yellow flag restart. He got a big lead but created too much separation from drafting partner Greg Biffle, allowing the Brad Keselowski-Kyle Busch tandem to surge past him.
This time he made a nice early save when he spun onto the apron with a car that he said was pretty loose at times. He didn't let this one slip away after the latest Talladega tangle.
"Matt is leading going into the final lap of every restrictor plate race we've had this year," team owner Jack Roush said. "He's won two and come up a little short on the other two."
Kenseth gave a Talladega farewell to Roush. He's leaving for Joe Gibbs Racing at season's end.
Kenseth said he and crew chief Jimmy Fennig gave up trying to come up with a strategy for often-unpredictable restrictor plate races. The non-strategy seems to be working.
"Honestly, we got tired of it, so I think Jimmy and I talked about it last July before Daytona," Kenseth said. "We decided the fans pay a lot of money to watch us race. These guys pay me money to drive the race car fast. We just race hard every lap. "
STILL LEADING: Brad Keselowski said leaving Talladega with the points lead was "pretty big" but not the best cause for celebration.
"I just feel lucky to survive Talladega," Keselowski said.
He maintained his lead with a seventh-place finish after managing to escape the last-lap crash that caught up 25 cars, while running in the bottom lane trying to stay out of trouble that seemed imminent at Talladega.
"It's not really how I wanted to escape it," said Keselowski, who won at Talladega in the spring. "I wanted to win the race but the way that it cycled out with the pit stops and everyone being really close on fuel, staying out was certainly the right move because we didn't get a second green-white checker. I'm pretty confident that a lot of guys would have run out and that wouldn't have been the right move.
"We made all the right calls today."
Crew chief Paul Wolfe said Keselowski made a nice move navigating "guys running four deep, pushing and shoving trying to get through a mishap."
"I knew we were on the bottom line and that helps from getting collected," Wolfe said. "He got run into, got sideways but found a way to dirt track it through the last corner. It was nice to see him come through the cloud of smoke and make it to the finish line."