DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Matt Kenseth, coming off a winless 2014 season, has opened the new year with a victory.
Kenseth won Saturday night’s exhibition Sprint Unlimited, which was a crash-filled kickoff to the NASCAR season for the second consecutive year.
Only 12 of the 25 cars in the field were running at the end of the race, which was stopped twice by red flags for multi-car accidents. There were only eight cars running at the end of the 2014 race.
Kenseth, in his third season with Joe Gibbs Racing, had one of the strongest cars in the field and he pulled away on a restart with four laps remaining to claim the win.
Now he’s hoping it’s a sign that his Toyota will be a contender in the Feb. 22 season-opening Daytona 500.
“It’s going to be a good week,” Kenseth said. “We’ve got a lot of racing left to do. But all our cars have speed, which is the first thing you’re going to look for.”
Martin Truex Jr., who led just one lap all of last season, led 30 laps but finished second.
“What a hot rod we had. After the last year and a half I’ve had, I really needed that,” Truex said. “These guys really needed a shot in the arm. I’m just really proud of their efforts over the wintertime. I’m really excited about this week.”
Carl Edwards, in his debut race for Joe Gibbs Racing, was third as JGR Toyotas went first and third in the race.
Reigning NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick exchanged cross words with Joey Logano after the race.
Harvick was upset with Logano for how he pushed Harvick’s car in the final laps, and the two showed their displeasure with each other by banging cars on the cool-down lap.
They then spoke on pit road, where Harvick held the conversation while wearing his helmet.
“It’s Kevin being Kevin. New year, same stuff,” Logano said. “I was just trying to help, really. We had a run and we kept pushing. He doesn’t understand I was trying to help.
“I understand his frustration, but I was trying to help out and trying to get to the front and trying to win this thing. There are no points or anything like that; you go for a win. Second place, third place, fourth place doesn’t mean anything.”
Harvick said he didn’t appreciate Logano shoving his car.
“You know when you can push and how you can push and how far you can push, and you can’t push them all the way into the corner and against the fence,” Harvick said. “It was a hell of a race. Just really dumb driving there at the end. You’ve got to be aggressive, but you’ve still got to use your head. You can’t just detach it and lay it on the floorboard.”