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Kenseth Holds On for Victory

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

With Jeff Gordon closing in and the checkered flag in sight Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, Matt Kenseth was thinking about three races he could have won and didn’t.

“What I thought of was Las Vegas, Bristol and Chicago, because we were in a position to win all three of them and I got run into twice and passed once,” said Kenseth, who held on at Brooklyn, Mich., for his third NASCAR Nextel Cup victory of the season and the 13th of his career.

In all three races, Kenseth said, an almost sure victory went away because he wore out his tires on the final stint and other drivers caught him.

Not this time.

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Kenseth easily kept four-time NASCAR champion Gordon at bay in the final laps of the GFS Marketplace 400 by conscientiously taking care of his tires after his final pit stop.

“I just tried to be a little smarter at the beginning of the last run, go slower and make sure I didn’t use up the front tires,” Kenseth said. “I really was thinking about how not to lose the race.”

The finish lacked the drama of last month’s duel in Chicago, when Gordon caught Kenseth and then controversially spun him out of his way to race on by for the victory.

And although Gordon appeared to have a faster car at the end this time -- he charged from 12th place on a restart with 36 laps to go in the 200-lap race -- he ran out of time and finished 10 car lengths behind Kenseth’s No. 17 Roush Racing Ford.

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Kenseth knew Gordon was coming though.

Exchanging radio chatter with Kenseth, crew chief Robby Reiser warned, “The 24 is coming.”

“I know he’s coming, but I’ve been taking care of the tires and we’ll be OK,” Kenseth calmly replied.

“We saved just enough,” the winner said.

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Kenseth solidified his hold on second place in the Cup standings, and is now only 58 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson overcame a flat tire on the second lap of the race to finish 13th. He and Kenseth have all but clinched their spots in the 10-race Chase for the Championship with only three races remaining until the start of NASCAR’s playoffs.

Tony Stewart, the two-time and defending Cup champion, finished third. He was followed by Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle, all of whom are still fighting for spots in the Chase.

But four other drivers took big hits in their effort to make it to the Chase.

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Jeff Burton, the pole-sitter, had engine failure after only 17 laps and fell from fourth to ninth in the standings after a 42nd-place finish. Kyle Busch dropped two spots to seventh after he bounced off the wall and blew out a tire, leaving him in 39th place Sunday.

Kurt Busch, the 2004 champion and Kyle’s older brother, saw his chances of getting to the top 10 fade as he also had tire problems and hit the wall twice. He was 40th and fell from 12th to 14th -- 279 points behind 10th-place Earnhardt.

Carl Edwards, who led 32 laps and was running in the top 10 with less than 30 to go, crushed a fender in a collision with another car and fell to 22nd.

He moved ahead of Busch to 13th but is 244 points out of 10th heading into Saturday night’s race at Bristol.

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John Force extended his NHRA record by winning the funny car final of the O’Reilly Mid-South NHRA Nationals at Memphis, Tenn., for the 113th victory of his career. Larry Dixon won in top fuel, Jason Line won in pro stock, and Antron Brown won in pro stock bike.

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Italian Loris Capirossi won the MotoGP Czech Grand Prix at Brno after leading from start to finish.

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The Ducati rider, attacking from second place on the grid, sustained a gap he built in the early stages to finish 4.90 seconds in front of defending world champion and countryman Valentino Rossi, who made a slow start from pole position.

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Suzuki’s Ricky Carmichael won his record 10th straight AMA Motocross title when he captured the Xyience Broome-Tioga National race at Binghamton, N.Y.

Carmichael won the title with two races still remaining in the Toyota Championship. He has finished first every year he has competed, dating to his rookie season of 1997.

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Champ Car driver Cristiano DaMatta, who has been in a coma since his race car collided with a wayward deer on Aug. 3 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., has been transferred from intensive to intermediate care at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah, Wis.

DaMatta remains unconscious, unresponsive and unable to speak, but “is still making daily progress,” said Chris Pinderski, Champ Car’s medical director.


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