The wait is over for Matt Kenseth.
Literally and figuratively.
After waiting out a four-hour rain delay, Kenseth took over the lead with 23 of the 500 scheduled laps remaining and held off Jimmie Johnson in a green-white-checkered finish to win Sunday night’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, ending a 51-race winless streak.
The win also virtually assures Kenseth a spot in the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup and another chance at a series championship.
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“It means a lot,” said Kenseth, who earned his 32nd win. “I have a great race team. Last year was tough and not winning again this year so far has been tough.
“We’ve been putting ourselves in position. I haven’t been doing as great and the cars haven’t been as good, but these guys have been really doing it.”
Jeff Gordon – who at one time was two laps down after pitting under green for a loose wheel – finished third, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was fourth and Ryan Newman was fifth.
Kenseth’s previous win came at New Hampshire in September 2013, part of his career-best seven-win season and first at Joe Gibbs Racing.
Persistent rain showers delayed the scheduled 1 p.m. start of the race until 2:31 p.m., but eight minutes and 22 laps later it was halted as a hard rain returned to the area.
It was enough time, however, for Harvick to grab the lead from Kenseth, the pole winner, and for Brad Keselowski to get loose and trigger a wreck with Team Penske teammate Joey Logano, which did serious damage to both cars.
“It was raining since we started the race,” Keselowski said immediately after the incident. “It was just a really light sprinkle and the track was just barely dry. The rain was coming in and out, and the car just took off on me.”
Asked if he could take any solace in the fact he and his teammate were already locked in the Chase, Logano said: “That doesn’t help anything. I want to win the race.”
Logano ended up 40th and Keselowski 35th.
Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter