Matt Kenseth emerged unscathed from a brush with a wall to win the Hollywood Casino 400 at the newly repaved Kansas Speedway on Sunday afternoon. The 267-lap race was chock full of action and drama, and it was accompanied by a record 14 caution flags that involved three of the Chase for the Sprint Cup contenders and other front-runners.
In winning for the first time at Kansas, Kenseth was one of 10 drivers to lead the race, including the final 48 circuits. The winner drove the Zest Ford fielded by Roush Fenway Racing, giving the renowned team its fourth win on the 1.5-mile oval.
When you get older, you really appreciate it more.
For the Roush Fenway organization, it won for the 130th time and helped Ford to the victory lane for the 611th time.
“With about 100 to go, I was thinking like most drivers that we don’t like repaved tracks, but I knew it was entertaining and fun for the fans, as there was a lot of wild stuff happening,” Kenseth said. “It was tricky on the bottom (of track), but our car was really good. My crew made some good adjustments on the first pit stop, and we were pretty good until I got into the wall. We had to then come in to fix it, but it turned out to be good fortune, as it didn’t slow the car down. On that last pit stop, we got out fast and I was able to pass some guys.”
Regarding the victory and tying for 26th in all-time wins, the victor stated, “When you get older, you really appreciate it more. I am really thankful to be sitting up here and to be driving this stuff. We still have more races that I want to win, and I want to thank my crew for their hard work.”
Said co-owner Jack Roush, “I don’t think I’ve ever strung two races together and had so many surprises to work out in my favor. It was a great racetrack for us, and it was surprising how many drivers lost their grip on the track. It was pretty amazing that a race track had that as a surprise for the guys, but it must have been exciting for the fans.”
Added crew chief Jimmy Fennig, “It ended up being a little bit of a fuel-mileage race for us. We looked at a lot of different things during the (pre-race) testing, and we put a lot of adjustability into the car this morning. My guys did a great job on the car all day.”
Following close behind the winner was Martin Truex Jr. in the NAPA Auto Parts Toyota. He trailed the winner by .495 seconds.
Said Truex about his solid run, “It was a wild one. We were second here in the spring but today was a whole different mood. We had to battle for this one all-day long, and we didn’t have a second-place car for a while. We started 16th and worked our way up to the top-five, but then got caught by a caution. And then we had to get the wave-around, coming from the back to get second. It was hard to do at a place like this with the new pavement. The restarts were tough, and it is nice to come out of here with a good finish.”
Paul Menard drove superbly to gain third place in the Menards/CertainTeed Insulation Chevrolet.
"We had Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) back this weekend,” the third-place driver said. “He is well rested after six weeks off and had some good ideas to try this weekend. Our Rheem Chevrolet in the Nationwide (Series) was probably the best car yesterday. And, our CertainTeed/Menards today was good too. It's a game of track position, and we had a good car. It was just a matter of getting us up there and having good pit stops and gaining track position. Once we got up there, we just couldn't hang on."
Said Kahne about his errant pit stop and the race, “The car wouldn’t re-fire. Disappointing, but we got through there. We had a good car and got back to fourth after passing a lot of cars. Our guys did a really nice job and I had an awesome car. It was coming to me and getting good there at the end. We just weren't close enough at that point in time. But still, a solid day."
Stewart stated, “It was an eventful day, and I am happy to get a top-five out of it. We have a ways to go, but I’m really proud of our guys. My guys never gave up, but we’ve got some work to do still. Our guys never gave up today, and that’s how we won a championship last year by never giving up. We probably had to pass more cars than anybody today, but that seems to be our M.O.”
In the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the top five in points of Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Kahne are unchanged with Keselowski holding a seven-point advantage as the Series heads to the Martinsville Speedway next weekend.
Behind the lead quintet are Truex, Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kenseth and Kevin Harvick.
In today’s race, Bowyer notched sixth place ahead of Regan Smith, who subbed for the ailing Dale Earnhardt Jr., Keselowski, Johnson and Gordon.
It ended up being a little bit of a fuel-mileage race for us.
Johnson’s drive was remarkable in that he had to bounce back from a one-car crash on the 137th lap. The wreck dropped him to 20th in the running order but after repairs were made, he made the most of it. Prior to the accident, he had led 44 laps.
“I crashed the car,” he said. “I spun out trying to get inside the Martin 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, it was 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."
Jarring crashes and spins dotted the action with Kyle Busch, A. J. Allmendinger, one-time leader Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick and Landon Cassill among the victims of the activities.