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Kenseth warms up for finale with Busch win

By TIMES WIRES
Published November 19, 2006


HOMESTEAD - Matt Kenseth passed teammate Carl Edwards to take the lead in the Ford 300 with 11 laps to go Saturday night then pulled away for his second straight Busch series victory.

Kenseth led 90 laps, lost the lead on a poor pit stop and had to chase down Edwards to reclaim it.

Kenseth will try to carry it over into the Nextel Cup finale. The winner of three Busch races this season heads into today's race trailing points leader Jimmie Johnson by 63 points.

"Oh, man, I learned some stuff, Jimmie's in big trouble," the pessimistic Kenseth deadpanned.

Paul Menard was third, followed by Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley and Kevin Harvick, who finally got to celebrate the title he won five weeks ago.

Harvick had been vying for his 10th win of the season, which would have tied him with Sam Ard for the Busch record. He started from the pole, but Kenseth grabbed the lead from him and Harvick faded.

Juan Pablo Montoya was 14th.

HELPING MONTOYA: Casey Mears is surprised Montoya has not sought his advice as Montoya prepares to take over the No. 42 Dodge Mears is vacating next season.

Montoya, a former open wheel champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, qualified a fourth Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry for today's final Nextel Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mears said he has tried to help Montoya, whose NASCAR experience so far consists of testing and three Busch races, where he has finished 11th, 28th and 20th.

"I've let him know that he can ask me anything he wants at any time," said Mears, who will replace Brian Vickers at Hendrick Motorsports. "I think he's used to being the guy, and I don't think he's used to asking other people for advice much.

"I've told Chip I'll do anything I can to help him get up to speed quicker, but there's not as much communication. If I was in his position, there would be more communication. I'd be trying to learn as much as I could."

BOUNCE BACK: Johnson has developed a buoyant outlook on his career after coming up short so many times. He has finished second and fifth twice each in four full Nextel Cup seasons.

"I think that I'm an optimistic guy, and I think that somehow you get used to it in our sport," Johnson, 31, said. "There's 36 races and only one winner for each race; there's one champion after each season. I've been racing since I was 5, and I've won only four championships in that period of time, so I guess you just learn to be optimistic, but then you also just deal with defeat when it occurs."

Johnson's titles came in motocross and desert racing before he switched to stock cars in the late 1990s.

OUT OF HERE: Mark Martin said leaving Roush Racing for a part-time Cup ride at MB2 Motorsports after 19 seasons doesn't make today's final trip in the No. 6 Ford sad.

"It does make it weird, but it doesn't make it a tragedy," he said. "Our situation there has been right and has been right for me all through the years and now there's a different situation that's right for me. We all get older. For Jack Roush and I, I think that it just might be that the best years of our racing are behind us."

But is it ever really over with these two? After Martin, 47, won his series-best sixth truck race of the season for Roush Friday night, the team owner said he "would look forward to negotiating with Mark for a return back to the Ford world and Roush Racing for anything that he would be interested in running for a championship. He's a championship man."

SPARK PLUGS: Jeff Burton, who led the standings for four weeks during the Chase but is mathematically eliminated, led the final practice session with a best lap of 172.916 mph. Johnson was .600 off the pace. Kenseth was .300 faster than Johnson.