TOWN OF RUTLAND — On a night when he didn’t have the best car in the field, Matt Kenseth benefited from Travis Sauter’s bad luck.
Kenseth passed Sauter on a restart with nine laps to go and held on for a super-late model victory in the Colony Brands 100 at Madison International Speedway.
“That was one of the uglier ones or luckier ones or however you want to put it,” said Kenseth, who rolled out fourth on an inverted starting order. “We had a decent car; we hung in there all day and had probably a fourth- or fifth-place car. We were able to hang in there and take advantage when the leaders had problems. It was a fun race and I’m more than a little surprised to be standing here winning.”
The victory for the Cambridge native was his second straight at the half-mile oval, and first since 2010. Kenseth has won six races in 11 events at the track since 2003.
Sauter, a Prairie du Sac resident, got a leak in his left front tire on the final restart, and couldn’t fend off Kenseth. Sauter, who led qualifying with a 17.575 lap, won 10 straight races at MIS over a two-year period from 2012-13.
Sauter and his skeleton team of three crew members unloaded the same set-up that gave them much success at MIS. With 10 minutes left in practice, they made major changes to the car.
“I had no idea what my car was going to do,” Sauter said. “We did something right. It was a rocket all night after we made the changes in practice.”
Sauter, who is running a limited schedule of select races this season, was frustrated with his finish, especially considering he battled Kenseth in the waning laps.
“I still almost passed them with a flat tire, but it was really hard to drive at the end,” he said “It was out of control.”
Bobby Wilberg, a three-time MIS track champion, led a race-high 63 laps, but got aggressive with Sauter contending for the top spot on a restart with nine to go. Wilberg got loose and spun out in Turn 4 in a side-by-side battle for the lead with Sauter. He was forced to the back of the field and charged to a ninth-place finish.
Sauter wasn’t sure if the tussle with Wilberg caused his tire problems, but said the pair were just racing hard to the finish.
“It would have been nice to race him for the win,” Sauter said. “He had the second-best car tonight. He was really trying to crowd me and I was almost off the racetrack and he pretty much wrecked himself. I’m sure he was trying to stay in the lead. Just a racing deal, if you ask me.”
The one person Sauter felt he let down most with his runner-up finish was wife, Amber, who is due Friday with the couple’s third child.
“I have to get to my phone, and hopefully, she’s not at the hospital,” Sauter said. “She left a note on the front seat on my car today that said, ‘Kick some (butt),’ and I feel like I let her down.”
Ross Kenseth finished sixth in the race that drew about 6,000 spectators.