Matt Kenseth quietly stalked the field Saturday, coming out of the shadows on lap 186 to win the Nicorette 300 Nationwide Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
He held off a charging Kevin Harvick in two late restarts, but he would never have been in that position if the dominant car of Kyle Busch hadn't blown a tire on lap 171, putting him out of contention.
"I knew it kind of opened the door for us," Kenseth said. "There was no way any of us was gonna beat him on speed."
Busch had led all but 19 laps when he blew his tire on lap 172. His anger was obvious after the race, as he refused to answer several questions from reporters.
"I told the team not to hang their heads," Busch said tersely. "Obviously we had the dominant car. Toyota should be real proud of themselves. I'm sorry about the fact we blew another right front tire."
Goodyear officials said immediately following the race there was no conclusive evidence what happened to Kyle Busch's tire, and more tests would be performed this week at company headquarters in Akron, Ohio.
Kenseth didn't have any tire problems on Saturday, and once Busch's dominant car slapped the wall, car owner Jack Roush was confident his driver would earn the win.
"Obviously there was a car that wasn't there at end that was a factor, it was his to lose, but you have to be running at end of these races to win ‘em," Roush said. "Matt is on top of his game; he's wise, he's experienced, he knows how to close a deal when it's there for him, and it was there for him today. But he wouldn't have made it without Drew."
Roush was referring to crew chief Drew Blickensderfer, who made drastic changes after Friday's practice and throughout the race on Saturday to put Kenseth in a position to win.
"We had a car yesterday that was a 10th-place car," Blickensderfer said. "We made some changes overnight, and more than anything, I think Matt learned how to handle the tires on COT car and our (Nationwide) car better than other guys did."
Harvick said he would have had something Kenseth in the final laps if it hadn't been for a slow final pit stop and two late cautions.
"I'm pretty sure we would have passed him," Harvick said. "It seems like his car was really good on sticker tires. Matt was good on restarts and new tires and I just needed a few laps to get where I needed to be to come back and pass him. We put ourselves in a position to win; we just kind of gave it away on the last pit stop and didn't have enough time to get back through there."
Jeff Burton finished third, followed by Carl Edwards and Bobby Labonte.
The racing action continues Sunday with the Kobalt Tools 500. Great seats are still available and can be purchased at the gate. For more information visit http://www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/.