NASCAR Darlington Auto Racing

Matt Kenseth prepares for The Real Heroes 400 race Sunday at Darlington Raceway. In his first race back in more than a year, Kenseth finished 10th while teammate Kurt Busch took third to give Chip Ganassi Racing a strong return.

DARLINGTON, S.C. — no one had a better day Sunday than Kevin Harvick, the winner of the real heroes 400 who led more than half of the 293 laps.

Hendrick motorsports was likely next on that list with alex bowman as the runner-up and chase elliot earning the no. 4 Spot.

But don’t forget to include to chip ganassi racing as well. Kurt busch rounded out the top three and Matt Kenseth — racing for the first time in more than a year — managed a top-10 finish.

“I believe we’ve improved our (Chevrolet) Camaro tremendously,” Busch said. “Hendrick has done what i would call a fuzz step better than us at Ganassi. We’re right in that box to be able to be in the top five; now we’ve got to cross over and lead some laps and be consistent on pit road.”

Busch started all the way back at the no. 22 Position before maneuvering his way into the top 10. It was his third straight finish in the top six.

“We were a little tight to start the race, and that pace that Kevin Harvick had for the first 10 laps was tough to beat,” he said. “Alex Bowman was really quick and his setup from Fontana (California) helped him here today. He had a really good run at Fontana.

“So to dance with ‘the lady in black’ — i’ll take a third-place finish.”

Clean pit stops were key and will be moving forward as Darlington is scheduled to host another cup race on Wednesday night.

“Today we went from i think 12th to fourth on one of our pit stops,” Busch said. “It was amazing. Then we went from sixth to 10th. The pit crew has a huge responsibility at this racetrack. Today’s runs weren’t very long. It was very weird that a 400-mile race didn’t have much more than a 40-lap run. The way that the stages are set up for Wednesday, we could have a very, very long run in the stages.

“We’ll see how things play out. Our car was really good i think on the long run, but we have to make adjustments to battle hard for a race win.”

Busch wasn’t surprised at how well his new teammate did either. Kenseth, a former NASCAR champion, was back behind the wheel competitively for the first time since November of 2018. He didn’t miss a beat by earning his 13th top-10 finish at Darlington.

“That was awesome,” Busch said. “When i got out of the car in the infield, they have an old school pylon of where the top-10 finishers are with their car number. There’s old Matt Kenseth, no. 42, Finishing 10th. That’s what he will do every day, all racetracks. I mean, that’s matt. That’s what he does.

“For him to balance out with (crew chief) Chad Johnston, Ganassi, everybody, first day out to get a top 10, that’s huge. That sets a big tone.”

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