DOVER, Del. -- Matt Kenseth claimed his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of 2016 Sunday with a victory in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. The win didn't come easy, though, as he had to battle Kyle Larson hard in the closing laps.
Kenseth inherited the lead after a wreck that collected nearly 20 cars on lap 354 of the 400-lap race. After another quick caution for contact between Carl Edwards and Larson that sent Edwards into the wall, Kenseth had Larson to contend with on the final restat of the race with 35 laps to go.
Larson battled Kenseth hard for several laps before Kenseth was able to get away, leaving Larson to battle Elliott for second. Larson was able to get the best of Elliott and then, again, set his sights on Kenseth.
Larson was a front-runner throughout the second half of the race, first taking the lead with a pass on Greg Biffle on lap 181.
Several drivers saw their chances at a Dover win fly out the window after getting caught up in the big multi-car wreck on lap 354 that led to a nearly 12-minute red flag. Jimmie Johnson, the track's all-time wins leader, took the lead by taking only two tires during the previous caution but had a hard time getting through the gears on the restart. When he was slow to restart, Martin Truex Jr. rear-ended him hard, sending Johnson head-on into the wall and stacking up several cars behind them. Other drivers involved included Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Greg Biffle, A.J. Allmendinger, Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Harvick dominated the opening quarter of the race, leading 117 laps before losing positions on pit road during a lap 119 caution for Matt DiBenedetto. Edwards and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kenseth, both beat Harvick off pit road during the yellow flag.
Harvick started the race on the pole and led all but four laps before losing two positions off pit road during the second caution of the race. Those four laps also were led by Edwards when he also beat Harvick on pit road during the first caution of the race, a competition caution that came out on lap 41 and erased a lead of nearly six seconds held by Harvick. Soon after the race restarted, after that first caution, though, Harvick was back up front.
Harvick eventually fell outside the top-10, losing additional positions off pit road, some of those positions because of drivers taking only two tires to his four. He then fell back to 20th after nearly getting caught up in an incident with Reed Sorenson and Jimmie Johnson just past the halfway point. Harvick got back inside the top-10 on a restart following the seventh caution for a spin by Michael Annett on lap 227.
Pit road also was problematic for Denny Hamlin. After running near the front, he was assessed his ninth pit-road penalty of the season, the most of anyone, during the lap 119 yellow flag for improper fueling. As a result of the penalty, he fell off the lead lap. Hamlin got back on the lead lap during a lap 173 debris caution and then got on a different pit sequence that got him back to the front.
Hamlin was the only driver to pit when the yellow flag waved again on lap 184. When another caution came out just a few laps later, just past the halfway point of the race, Hamlin stayed out to inherit the lead.
Hamlin led until Brad Keselowski took the top spot on a restart following a lap 227 caution. He lost the lead to Brad Keselowski on a restart following the lap 227 caution, but remained near the front until staying out earlier necessitated a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 280. A few laps after Hamlin pitted under green, the yellow flag waved again for debris.
NOTES: Jimmie Johnson hit the Dover 3,000 laps led mark on Sunday. ... Johnson is the defending winner of the AAA 400, but Kevin Harvick is the most recent winner at Dover, winning at the track in October 2015 after leading 355 of 400 laps. ... Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray were all involved in a single crash during practice on Friday because of a gear issue with Patrick's car, resulting in all three going to back-up cars. ... Rain on Friday afternoon forced the cancellation of qualifying. As a result, the starting grid was set based on Friday practice speeds, putting Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the front row.