Prior to Tuesday night, Matt Kenseth had not been behind the wheel of a race car for a competitive stock car race since November's NASCAR Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In his return to competitive racing, Kenseth showed no signs of rust. The 2003 NASCAR Cup Series champion passed Ty Majeski on the final lap to win the 40th Annual Slinger Nationals at Slinger Speedway in his home state of Wisconsin.
Kenseth didn't appear to have the fastest car during Tuesday night's 200-lap race; those honors looked as though they belonged to Steve Apel and Ty Majeski for much of the race. However, when the money was on the line, Kenseth led the most important lap of them all to score his record eighth career victory in the prestigious Super Late Model race.
"We got really fortunate tonight, our strong suit was short runs, and Ty was incredible on a long run," Kenseth said. "He was half to three-quarter of a lap ahead of me, but he couldn’t get going as quick as we could. Just opened the door on that restart, I was just able to kind of hang in there, I just couldn’t finish a corner in three and four like I needed to. That was my biggest struggle. I kind of hung in there on the white flag and got to his door, I got off two and we were side-by-side, so I had to drive it in there and see what was going to happen in the last corner for the win."
While Kenseth was able to celebrate once again in Slinger Speedway Victory Lane, Majeski's bid for a second straight Slinger Nationals title ended in disappointment on the final lap. With heavy pressure from Kenseth on his inside, Majeski brushed the wall in turn three, slowing his entrance into the corner and allowing Kenseth to drive off of turn four with the lead and the victory.
"We had the dominant car on the long run. We were just way too tight," Majeski said. "Matt was able to turn the center, and obviously when he's hogging my bumper I'm doing everything I can to try to keep him back and I just didn't have that front turn. I knew if he was within half a car length of me coming to the last lap that he was going to move me. He got position on me a couple laps before that and finished me off. That's exactly what I would've done. Congrats to him. They had a great race car tonight and we'll try to do better next time."
When asked about what it felt like to win in his first race back in a race car, Kenseth played it cool and didn't elude to the possibility of any future races this season.
"I might just call it a season one-for-one," he stated. "But, yeah it’s been a while since I raced obviously. The competition part is probably what I miss the most and working with some of the teammates I got to work with over the years, the crew chiefs. So, it was fun to get here and work with these guys, get on the track and race against these great drivers. Of course, it’s fun to come home with a win."
Despite being disappointed with a second-place finish, Majeski was glad to see Kenseth back in a Super Late Model in their home state.
"It was great racing with him. I'm really glad he came back to race with us," Majeski said. "This is what this sport needs. Look at this crowd right here. It was a great show and I hope everyone enjoyed it."
John DeAngelis bounced back to finish third after being sent to the rear of the field for his involvement in an incident while battling for the lead with early race leader Alex Prunty. Polesitter Steve Apel led 50 laps of the race before finishing fourth, while Prunty completed the top five after leading 43 laps early on.
Other notable finishers include: four-time Slinger Nationals winner Rich Bickle (6th), NASCAR Cup Series driver Daniel Hemric (9th), 2017 Slinger Nationals winner Bubba Pollard (20th), former NASCAR Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter (23rd) and Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Chandler Smith (26th).
A full on-demand video replay of Tuesday night's race, including the thrilling finish, can be viewed now by clicking here.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Bruce Nuttleman
40th Annual Slinger Nationals Unofficial Results
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