As a battle waged between the two drivers whose teams are duking it out for an owner’s championship, Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag on Saturday at Kansas Speedway to win the Kanas Lottery 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. The event wasn’t smooth sailing for Kenseth, though, as he suffered with a vibration and a hole in his grill, among other things, early in the race.
“It was kind of one of those days where they were probably tired of listening to me complain,” Kenseth said.
After stops for repairs, Kenseth got back to the front with a pit strategy that started with a splash of fuel during a caution on lap 136. He then stayed out when the yellow waved again on lap 146. Trevor Bayne, who was using the same strategy as Kenseth, restarted the race with the lead. Brad Keselowski took the lead for a time before Kenseth took the top spot with 34 laps to go in the 200-lap race. Kenseth remained up front the rest of the way.
Keselowski and Kyle Busch were racing hard for second late in the race, assuming that Kenseth probably didn’t have enough fuel to go the distance and that their race for second would wind up being the race for the win. Busch made contact with Keselowski with 14 laps to go that sent Keselowski hard into the wall and brought out the yellow flag for the 11th time in the race. As a result, Keselowski wound up 28th and Busch slipped back to fourth. The incident also tightened up the battle for the owner’s championship, as Busch’s No. 54 team closed to within five points of Keselowski’s No. 22.
“It was good, hard racing up until then,” Keselowski said. “He didn’t want to race me hard, so he just dumped me on the straightaway.”
Busch, though, blamed the incident on an ill-handling car.
“I just got real tight off of (turn) four,” Busch said.
The caution that resulted from the incident was the insurance policy Kenseth needed to get to the checkered flag.
Paul Menard finished second, Nationwide Series regular Regan Smith was third, and another series regular, Justin Allgaier, rounded out the top-five.
Austin Dillon took the points lead in the driver’s standings with a sixth-place finish. Dillon started on the pole and led laps early until he took fuel only during the first caution of the race on lap 25. He lost positions to cars with newer tires when the race went back to green. Dillon got back to the front when the yellow flag waved during a cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 90. Having not yet pitted, Dillon pitted under yellow and restarted with the lead while previous front runners were caught a lap down by the caution and had to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap. He wound up losing spots again when he opted to take four tires while others took two on a later pit stop.
“We felt like we had a car we could run up front with,” Dillon said.
Former points leader, Sam Hornish Jr., finished 17th. As a result, he went from leading Dillon by four points to trailing him by eight.
Other top-10 finishers included Parker Kligerman in seventh, Brad Sweet in eighth, Bayne in ninth and Elliott Sadler in 10th.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR