HAMPTON, Ga. — Nextel Cup regular Matt Kenseth held off an emotional Kyle Busch in a two-lap sprint to the finish, winning the Busch race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Kenseth had quite a day. After his Busch victory, he went back on the track and won the final International Race of Champions event, clinching the IROC series championship.
Kenseth was leading the Aaron's 312 when a crash in turn two took out Reed Sorenson and Clint Bowyer with less than three laps to go.
The race was red-flagged while the wreckage was cleared. On the restart, Kenseth's Ford got a good jump and was able to hold off Busch's Chevrolet on the 1.54-mile trioval.
"We were concerned about that," Kenseth said. "Kyle had a great engine in that car. Every time I'd go down the backstretch, he'd catch me. So I had to have a good restart."
The winning margin was 0.119 seconds — about two car lengths.
It was a tough day for Busch, who races for Hendrick Motorsports. A team plane crashed last weekend while en route to Martinsville, Va., killing all 10 people aboard.
Among the victims: the son, brother and twin nieces of team owner Rick Hendrick, along with the general manager and chief engine builder.
Still grieving, Busch skipped the news conference after the race but issued a statement.
"My heart and prayers go out to the Hendrick family," he said. "I tried the best I could."
Kenseth, the 2003 Nextel Cup champion, led four times for a total of 58 laps while claiming his third Busch victory of the year and 17th of his career.
Series leader Martin Truex rallied to finish ninth after getting caught up in a four-car wreck late in the race. He still has a 176-point lead over Busch, a commanding margin with only three races left.
"We had tough luck with certain things," Truex said. "But overall, a good day."
Another Cup regular, Kasey Kahne, led 45 laps but settled for third. He's had numerous close calls on both circuits but has yet to make it to Victory Lane.
"Actually, it's real disappointing to run third," he said. "I'm getting kind of sick of running in the top five but not winning races. I've had cars that were capable of winning in both Cup and Busch. Sooner or later, we're going to get it done."
The 18-year-old Sorenson, a native of nearby Peachtree City, was in position to become the youngest winner in Busch history. He led 47 laps, second only to Kenseth, but the wreck knocked him all the way to 29th.
Still, it was a strong showing by one of the sport's rising stars.
"He's the best I've seen in a long time," Kenseth said.
Sorenson was making just his third Busch start. While his crew said a loose lug nut may have caused the wreck, the teenager blamed himself.
"I just got into the back of (Bowyer)," Sorenson said. "We had a good car all day long. Leading those laps was exciting."
Pole winner Mike Bliss didn't stay in contention for long. Two laps into the race, he was involved in a crash that claimed five cars on the backstretch.
Bliss got back on the track after repairs but finished 27th, six laps behind.