Matt Kenseth may not be returning to Roush Fenway Racing next year and he may be somewhat out of the championship picture, but he didn’t seem like a lame duck driver during the Hollywood Casino NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. After getting off pit road first during a caution that came out with just over 50 laps to go, Kenseth remained up front to lead the rest of the way and claim his third win of the season and second so far in the Chase.
After the race, Kenseth thanked Roush Fenway Racing and former RFR driver Mark Martin, stating that without them, he wouldn’t be where is at at this point in his career.
Martin Truex Jr. finished second and Paul Menard was third in a caution-filled race that saw the yellow flag wave 14 times — a series record for Kansas Speedway and the most of any race in 2012.
Race leaders weren’t even immune to trouble. Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola combined to lead most of the first half of the race. After leading 69 laps, Almirola scraped the wall on lap 121 and debris from the contact brought out the yellow flag a lap later.
Just before the caution, Johnson had given up the lead to head down pit road. The caution wound up catching him a lap down, but he was able to take the wave-around to get back on the lead lap and restart the race from the 24th spot.
Johnson got caught up in a caution of his own on lap 136 after making his way back up to the 20th position. He made multiple pit stops for repairs during the yellow flag, but managed to stay on the lead lap. By the end of the race, he worked his way back into the top-10 to finish ninth.
“It’s definitely torn up,” Johnson said after climbing out of his car and seeing the damage after the race. “Just proud of this team for not giving up.”
Almirola, meanwhile, wasn’t finished wrecking. He spun with 96 laps to go, but the race remained under green-flag conditions, even though Kenseth hit the wall, trying to avoid Almirola’s spinning No. 43 car.
When the next caution came out with 93 laps to go when Greg Biffle hit the wall, Kenseth hit pit road for repairs while the other front runners remained on the race track.
Almirola wrecked for the final time with about 53 laps to go when his right front tire went down and his throttle stuck.
“We just blew another right front,” Almirola said. “So disappointed. Never in my life have I had a race car that good.”
Mark Martin led several laps late in the race by staying out during several cautions. Denny Hamlin also stayed out through several yellow flags to remain near the front of the race field. The strategy resulted in both drivers heading down pit road under greeen with just under 60 laps to go. They then got caught a lap down when the yellow flag waved again for Almirola’s final incident.
Both drivers got back on the lead lap during the caution but neither driver made his way into the top-10 by the end of the race.
Kasey Kahne finished fourth after beginning thefinal caution of the race with 33 laps to go in the second spot. In an effort to save fuel, Kahne shut off his engine but had an issue trying to refire it, causing him to lose several spots.
“Just wouldn’t refire,” Kahne said. “Just disppointing. We came back up through there for fourth.”
Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five. Clint Bowyer was sixth, and Regan Smith was seventh in his second race behind the wheel of the No. 88 as a substitute for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Brad Keselowski finished eighth to leave Kansas with the same seven-point lead he entered the weekend with. Johnson was ninth and Jeff Gordon 10th.
– Photos courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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