Kenseth wins at Kansas
Matt Kenseth dominated the later moments of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway to give Roush Fenway the weekend sweep at the newly-paved 1.5-mile track; RFR’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the Nationwide race at Kansas on Saturday.
Matt Kenseth won a wild war of attrition, otherwise known as the Hollywood Casino 400, beating Martin Truex Jr. to the checkered flag by 0.495 seconds to claim his third victory of the season, his first at Kansas and the 24th of his career.
“It (the win) really means a lot,” said an emotional Kenseth in victory lane. “I have to thank God for all of the opportunities and guidance. I (also) want to thank Jack Roush, Robbie Reiser and Mark Martin; without those guys I would have never been at Roush Fenway Racing.”
Kenseth was fast on the day, leading a race-high 77 laps and driving his No. 17 Zest Ford away from the field during the final 20 laps of the race. For Kenseth it was his third win of the season and his second in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup. It is his 24th career Sprint Cup victory.
The win marks Roush Fenway Racing’s 311th NASCAR victory, with 130 coming in the Sprint Cup Series. It is RFR’s fourth Sprint Cup Series win at Kansas and it’s ninth overall win at the track. Kenseth becomes the eighth Roush Fenway driver to win at Kansas.
Paul Menard ran third, followed by polesitter Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart, who rallied from a 33rd-place starting position and a spin on the backstretch during the race.
Kenseth won the race despite scraping the wall behind a spinning Aric Almirola after a restart on Lap 173.
"I thought it was over when I got in the fence when Aric wrecked under Mark [Martin]," Kenseth said. "I was watching them and trying to make sure I didn't hit them and I flat-sided it pretty bad. It ended up working in our favor. They fixed the body as good as it was when we started, and we had to take less gas in that last pit stop, and the pit crew put me out front.
"I knew I hit it really hard but thought it was centered up in the door real good, and we had a similar thing happen at Homestead last year. As soon as we got the fender back where it was supposed to be, it was fine. I was happy, as hard as I hit it, that my steering wheel was still in the right place."
Throughout the day, however, other drivers found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. The slick, new racing surface at the 1.5-mile speedway produced a track-record 14 cautions for 66 caution laps, and no one was immune from disaster -- not even a five-time champion.
Jimmie Johnson's quest for a sixth Cup title appeared to have suffered a severe setback on Lap 135, when the No. 48 Chevrolet spun in heavy traffic and backed into the Turn 4 wall. After leading 44 laps, Johnson had just taken a wave-around for a restart on Lap 128, having been trapped a lap down when Aric Almirola smacked the Turn 2 wall, and the resulting caution interrupted a cycle of green-flag pit stops.
Johnson, however, stayed on the lead lap through a succession of pit stops under the yellow, and a liberal application of BearBond kept the No. 48 competitive. Astoundingly, Johnson and his team salvaged a ninth-place finish on a day that could have been much worse and remained seven points behind eighth-place finisher and series leader Brad Keselowski with four races left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
"I'm very proud, but also disappointed," Johnson said. "I crashed the car. I spun out trying to get inside the 56 [Truex]. He bobbled a little in front of me, and I thought that was an opportunity to jump in the gas real hard.
"When I did that, my car took off and I couldn't catch it. All-in-all, a good day, but it could have been a lot better. I think we could have been in Victory Lane, and stretched some points on these guys."
Keselowski, who fought his way forward from the 25th starting position was thankful for a day that ended with his No. 2 Dodge intact.
"I'm ready to go home and have a couple beers," Keselowski said after climbing from his car. “It’s just been a long day, Everybody has been asking all season long where the cautions have been. Well, they flew to Kansas and they've been hanging out here, because there was caution after caution, and it seemed like every wreck that happened today happened right in front of me.
"So, I'm glad to have survived the carnage and brought back a decent car in great shape and dodged a bullet of a race. That's the only thing I can use to describe it."
Despite the conditions, the repaving job, which included a reconfiguration with graduated banking, drew favorable reviews -- not surprisingly -- from drivers who finished near the front of the field.
"I thought the track was great," Truex said. "The outside lane is going to come in really, really good -- probably by next year, I would say. Their winters here are pretty rough, and I expect it will weather the track in really nicely.
"Once the outside got working, it was actually pretty darn good. It's going to be a cool race track here in the future, and they did a great job with it."
* Denotes Rookie
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