Matt Kenseth had the most dominant car on Saturday night, but failed to close the deal at the end of NASCAR's Coke Zero 400 after he was separated from teammate Greg Biffle on the last lap at Daytona International Speedway.
The two Roush Fenway Racing teammates led for a combined 124 laps, often in tandem. When pit stops trapped the duo to the back of the field after a lap 124 accident, the two reconnected and drove themselves back to the front on the outside – a tactic no other group could utilize throughout the night.
On the final restart, Kenseth and Biffle restarted first and third on the inside lane but were separated coming to the white flag. Kenseth chose to fall back and pick up his teammate, allowing Stewart and Kasey Kahne to make a run on the outside.
That set off a chain reaction where third place on back was grouped together and Kenseth was forced to stay in the gas and make a charge to the front. The final accident occurred directly behind Kenseth, allowing the championship points leader to follow Tony Stewart and Jeff Burton to the finish line.
In hindsight, Kenseth said he would have chosen not to fall back and would have went tandem with Stewart, but a similar tactic burned him at Talladega, influencing his decision.
"Once Greg and I got separated, I should have stuck with Tony and raced for the win," Kenseth said. "We lost Talladega because I didn't keep Greg with me well enough and that was in the back of my mind. Once Tony and I got separated from our partners, I should have stayed at (Stewart's) door and let the chips fall where they may.
"But I fell back to Greg because we had been good together all night and I was hoping to get a run."
It's rare that a third place finish on a restrictor-plate track is considered a disappointment, but Kenseth realizes that the finish could have easily gone the other way.
"It's just really frustrating because you really can't do anything talent-wise to make the car go any faster," Kenseth said. "You've got to make the right moves and you've got to go slower to make sure you can keep a guy with you. It's just a different kind of racing."