DOVER, Del. — Matt Kenseth eluded the wreckage that turned Dover into a junkyard. He never felt he could escape the pressure that Kyle Larson put on him – the anointed future star racing door-to-door with the former Sprint Cup champion.

“He was all over me,” Kenseth said. “I think if he would have snuck inside, it would have been over.”

Twenty-one years older then Larson, Kenseth used some of his veteran experience to find the high groove on the mile concrete track and surge to victory Sunday in the wreck-filled race at Dover International Speedway.

Kenseth snapped a 17-race winless streak skid with his 37th career victory – and denied Larson his first Sprint Cup victory.

Larson made Kenseth work for the victory that secured him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Third-place finisher Chase Elliott may have cost Larson as much as Kenseth’s late-race maneuvering. Elliott, the second-generation rookie who replaced Jeff Gordon in the No. 24, made an aggressive run and briefly passed Larson for second. Their brief battle took enough steam out of Larson’s push that Kenseth was able to create a needed gap and become the fourth Joe Gibbs Racing driver to win in 2016.

“I think the last 20 laps is about as good as anybody could drive a race car,” Gibbs said.

Larson matched his career-best finish for owner Chip Ganassi. Elliott had the top finish of his first season at Hendrick Motorsports.

Larson refused to bump Kenseth out of his path over the final thrilling laps and wanted a clean pass in the No. 42 to earn the win.

“It doesn’t even seem right that he hasn’t won yet,” Kenseth said. “He’s got a bunch of victories in front of him, for sure. He’s a really, really clean, hard racer, and a fast learner.”

Kenseth, 44, is older than the combined ages of Elliott, 20, and Larson, 23.

Kenseth, Larson and Elliott were among the survivors after Jimmie Johnson triggered a late-race crash that eliminated several contenders.

Johnson started a pileup straight out of the Talladega Superspeedway highlight reel that knocked out a slew of drivers who raced up front all race. A 10-time winner at Dover, Johnson failed to jump off the restart because of a faulty transmission. He was at the front of the outside lane but couldn’t shift the No. 48 Chevy into third gear, and 18 cars were collected in the melee. Martin Truex Jr. nailed the 48 from behind and Dover soon looked like the site of a gnarly demolition derby.

“In my career, I’ve never had a transmission do that to me,” Johnson said.

Truex, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kyle Busch were among the drivers involved.

The race ended with only 14 drivers on the lead lap. Kasey Kahne was fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.