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Matt Kenseth! Winning Daytona and California....can he make it three-for-three in Las Vegas?


No rainy finish this time -- Matt Kenseth wins straight-up, blows 'em away in California (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   FONTANA, Calif.
   After a winless 2008, Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth is suddenly on quite a role, Sunday holding off charging Jeff Gordon to win the California Auto Club 500 and making it two-for-two this season for car owner Jack Roush.
   It was the first time 1997 – when Gordon won the year's first two events – that a NASCAR driver has been this hot out of the box.
   And Roush men should be hot again this next week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, just up the road. Carl Edwards won this race and Vegas last year; Sunday however he wasn't quite a factor, finishing seventh.
   Kenseth, who led 84 of the 250 laps, including the final 38, is known as a man who rarely if ever beats himself. And even when Gordon filled his rear view mirror Kenseth stayed cool.
    Gordon made a vigorous charge during the final 50 miles but couldn't catch him.
   "I just got out in clean air, and that made a huge difference," Kenseth said.
   "We've still got some work to do, but I'm so excited…though I am a little mad because I felt we had a car to win with," Gordon said. "So this is bittersweet…but we're a long way ahead of where we were last year at this time. I know we're only a couple of races into the season, but to be able to go to the front like that, we're head and shoulders above what we were last year.
   "After that last pit stop I was running him down and thinking 'Man, we've got him, we've got him.'
   "I tried everything I could, but then my car tightened up and it just wouldn't do what I wanted.
   "I knew with about 20 to go that if he didn't make a mistake we weren't going to get him.
   "Matt didn't make any mistakes. And I drove as hard as I have in a long time. But he just didn't make any mistakes…and I was giving him a lot of heat.
   "I am so proud of (crew chief) Steve Letarte. He got beat up pretty bad last year (when Gordon went winless).
   "I'm refocused now. I felt better going into this race than I have in a long time. I've battled some back issues, but I've been working through them."

Matt Kenseth wins Sunday's California Auto Club 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)


Greg Biffle, Kenseth's teammate, had a shot to win, indeed appeared to have the best car, but he slid through his pits on a late pit stop, costing him.
   "They should fire me. I let them down," Biffle said. "I can't believe I took a car that fast and only finished fourth."
   Kyle Busch, going for a third straight win this weekend, finished third. "I never felt it was a winning car, I couldn't get up there and challenge them, but I had a great seat for that show," Busch said. "That was quite a show, first good show these fans have seen out here in a while."
    Mark Martin lost an engine and finished 40th. Teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. also had a ragged night, breaking an engine and finishing 39th.
   Kevin Harvick crashed late, in the only serious incident.
   The three-hour, 40-minute race was slowed several times early by light rain, but most of the rest of the race went smoothly.

Matt Kenseth and wife Katie are top dogs in NASCAR....and heading to Las Vegas this week on a heck of a roll (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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