** Matt Kenseth turned in what I thought was a very un-Kenseth like performance in the 500-mile race on the 1.5-mile Texas track.
No, it wasn’t that he won the race; rather, it was the style with which he did it.
I’ll admit I am one of many who have compared Kenseth’s driving style to that of David Pearson, winner of 105 races and now a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Pearson seemed to always save his car until the final portion of a race and then pounce with a rush to the front and the checkered flag.
He was sly and cunning. Both traits contributed to his nickname, “The Silver Fox.”
During his years with the Wood Brothers, Pearson was particularly effective in the late stages of a race. He might have been a calculating, deliberate driver, but many observers felt he was simply keeping his Woods Mercury reigned in until the time was right.
When Pearson bolted into the lead many of us figured he’d simply unleashed the power his car had all along.
“Looks like the Woods made that magic chassis change,” we’d say with eyebrows raised.
From all appearances over the years, Kenseth has seemed as deliberate as Pearson.
Not so at Texas. The Roush Fenway Racing driver dominated the field, leading 169 of 334 laps en route to an easy victory – the 19th of his career – in which he finished 8.34 seconds ahead of Clint Bowyer.
Kenseth looked more like the ultra-aggressive Cale Yarborough than Pearson.
There was, he said, a reason for that.
“We had such good track position all night we never really got behind which was a huge advantage for us,” Kenseth said. “I think it would have been a lot tougher for us to come from behind.
“More times than not the fastest car wins the race and that’s what happened tonight. We knew that if we kept the car up front it would be hard for anybody to beat us.”
So that’s exactly what Kenseth did – and he did it so well the anticipated first night race at Texas was a yawner.
It was, to say the least, a very timely victory for Kenseth. It snapped a 76-race losing streak. He hadn’t won since February of 2009, when he won at Auto Club Speedway, which came on the heels of his Daytona 500 victory.
Kenseth is now third in the point standings.
** Kenseth’s victory capped an excellent race for Roush Fenway. All four of its drivers finished among the top 10.
Kenseth won, of course, while Carl Edwards was third. Greg Biffle took fourth and David Ragan finished seventh – which rebuked the notion that his pole victory was a fluke.
It was a good weekend at Texas for Ford. The night before Kenseth’s victory, Edwards won the Nationwide Series race, which gave Mustang its first victory ever in a NASCAR-sanctioned race.
Speaking of Edwards, he had uncomfortable race due to a stomach ailment. After the race he said it might have been caused by something his mother cooked and he ate.
“I felt little bad this morning,” Edwards said. “I felt better once the race started but then got a little sick again for a minute.
“But a good run like I had makes you feel great.”
** A few drivers who have received notice for surprisingly good performances in 2011 gained even more notoriety, I think, after Texas.
Paul Menard, whom many have said has found competitiveness at Richard Childress Racing, finished fifth.
Richard Petty Motorsports’ Marcos Ambrose finished sixth and many have already said he’s getting the hang of it all.
And, again, there’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. With ninth place he compiled yet another top-10 finish and moved up to sixth place in points.
Meanwhile, others find themselves, again surprisingly, struggling. They include Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano.