Matt Kenseth notches Southern 500 victory

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Matt Kenseth continued his resurgence with Joe Gibbs Racing tonight as he passed Kyle Busch with 13 laps to go and pulled away to claim the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

In addition to Kenseth’s win, Denny Hamlin ensured a 1-2 finish for JGR with a stellar runner-up performance in his first full race since injuring his back earlier this season in a crash at Auto Club Speedway.

Meanwhile, Busch was forced to settle for a sixth-place result as his right rear tire was going down in the final laps. Busch appeared to be in the catbird’s seat for a Darlington weekend sweep; with about 35 laps to go, he had managed to survive a fierce battle with Kasey Kahne for the lead after Kahne went into the wall while trying to overtaking him.

But Kenseth managed to track down his teammate Busch and after a brief fight, he took the point for good and went on to score his first career victory at the track “Too Tough To Tame.”

“I’ve always dreamed about winning the Southern 500,” Kenseth said to Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “This, to me, feels bigger than probably any win in my career.”

The victory was also the first for Kenseth and the No. 20 team since they incurred a series of penalties that stemmed from Kenseth’s race-winning motor at Kansas Speedway failing an inspection last month. The original set of penalties from NASCAR were substantially reduced this week, but with regular crew chief Jason Ratcliff still off the pit box tonight (his six-race suspension was cut to one), Kenseth relied on the help of interim chief Wally Brown.

“I really feel bad that Jason’s not here — this is obviously his team and his effort — but Wally did a great job filling in,” Kenseth said.

As for Hamlin, he was spotted in his car after the race with a clear-cut look of exhaustion. But he was still very much pleased with the final outcome.

“I’m tired, just worn out,” he said to Fox. “It’s a tough, grueling race so there’s nothing to hang our heads about…The guys on pit road were flawless. They’re the best in the business, that’s all I can say. They kept picking us up spots, I kept doing my part on the track. We just needed a 600-mile race; we’ll get that in a few weeks [at Charlotte].”

“Charlotte, believe it or not, the 600-miler is not as grueling as [Darlington]. You have to stay so mentally tough for so long on top of the physical stuff you’ve got going on. It’s tough to overcome. Luckily, it was a good day for us.”

Jeff Gordon finished third to claim his 300th career Top 5 finish in his 700th career Sprint Cup start. Jimmie Johnson finished fourth, and Kevin Harvick completed the Top 5 finishers.

Verstappen picks illegal Raikkonen pass as favorite F1 2017 overtake

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Max Verstappen has picked his illegal pass on Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap of the United States Grand Prix as his favorite overtake of the Formula 1 season.

Verstappen was one of F1’s most prolific passers through 2017, making 22 overtaking moves as per Pirelli’s end of year data.

When asked to pick out his favorite in a post-season interview on his official website, Verstappen picked his bold move on Raikkonen at the Circuit of The Americas that sparked controversy when he was penalized for completing the overtake off-track.

The Red Bull driver had charged from 16th on the grid to cross the line third, only for a five-second time penalty to deny him a podium and drop him to fourth in a snap call made before the post-race ceremony.

“Of course, at first your initial reaction is something like: ‘Why? It was a great move.’ But when you look at the rules, it was not correct,” Verstappen said.

“Nothing was by the book that whole weekend. Drivers were getting off track without being penalized for it. But you always need to focus on the positives: it was still a nice race and everyone enjoyed the excitement all the way down to the final lap.

“It’s always nice to be on the podium, but to finish fourth after having started sixteenth, is still a great result.

“It wasn’t as painful as most people thought it was. In the end I made my peace with it.”

Asked if it was his best move of the year, Verstappen said: “Yes, because this year I actually didn’t have that many overtakes.

“With this car you are actually only able to overtake on the straights, which is really not that satisfying compared to last year.”