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TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Matt Kenseth had a simple explanation for his failure to win the Aaron's 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway: driver error.
Kenseth led the field to a green-white-checkered restart on Lap 193 from the outside lane. With a push from Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle, Kenseth surged into the lead, clearing eventual race winner Brad Keselowski and diving to the bottom of the track with Biffle behind him.
But Kenseth and Biffle lost touch with each other, allowing Keselowski to take the lead with a sustained push from Kyle Busch. Keselowski and Busch decided the issue between them, with Kenseth, the Daytona 500 winner, finishing a disappointing third.
"I think we had the winning car -- we just didn't have the winning driver," Kenseth said. "That last restart, Greg and I got together like we did at Daytona, and of all the cars I raced around all day, Greg was really pushing me fast. We got in front of the 2 (Keselowski) and Kyle, and as soon as we became clear, it wasn't long after that that I looked back, and we were separated, and those two guys were outside of him.
"With nobody behind him, he lost his speed, and with me not paying enough attention during that to keep us hooked up, it cost us a shot at the win. It cost Greg a shot at the win."
If there's a small consolation for Kenseth, the driver of the No. 17 Ford moved into second place in the Cup standings, seven points behind Biffle.
GORDON SLAMS TALLADEGA PACKAGE
Managing temperatures would have been the key to Jeff Gordon's success at Talladega -- had the pole-sitter not been waylaid by a Lap 143 crash that knocked him out of the race.
Even though it was an accident that proved his undoing, Gordon was critical of racing package that put so much emphasis on keeping the cars from overheating, even in pack drafts.
"This temp thing is kind of a joke," Gordon said after the crash. "They are going to have to fix that. We all knew that was going to be a big issue, but when you can't really even race because the temps -- even in a regular pack -- are an issue, we have to address that. Talladega is different than Daytona. Temps are different and we have toÂ recognizeÂ that."
Carl Edwards, sidelined in the same crash, had a completely different impression.
"My temperatures were great all day," Edwards said. "We didn't have any trouble. I was hoping it wouldn't end up like this. It's too bad, but we'll just go race at Darlington (on Saturday)."
HAMLIN, ALLMENDINGER ASSESS WRECK
Contact between the Dodge of AJ Allmendinger and the Toyota of Denny Hamlin started the wreck that set up the green-white-checkered finish at Talladega, and after the race, both drivers saw the crash roughly the same way.
Moments after a restart on Lap 185, Hamlin ducked to the inside. Allmendinger tried to block, and his car turned off the right front of Hamlin's. Allmendinger slammed into Paul Menard's Chevrolet in a melee that involved nine cars.
"From inside (the car), I was pretty sure that I had middle position -- it's how I made up a lot of spots toward the end," Hamlin said. "I hooked him on the left rear, which means I was on the inside, and he hooked a hard left to try to block, but I was there.
"I turned him and a couple of other guys. Ruined a bunch of guys' days, but that's part of it. We're trying to go forward with a couple of laps to go, just like everybody else. If it's not me sticking it three-wide-middle, then someone (else) is with a few laps to go. You have to give guys room."
Like Hamlin, Allmendinger saw his winning chances disappear in the wreck.
"I had a chance to win the race until it all went down the drain," said Allmendinger, who started on the outside of the front row and finished 15th. "On the restart, everybody was getting after it. I tried to block. If Denny was already there, my apology."
With his car damaged more severely than Allmendinger's, Hamlin finished 23rd, two laps down.