The closing moments in the NASCAR Nationwide race at Kansas Speedway saw the winner glad he had taken on a splash of fuel, and Menard making a move on Smith! Dillon is the new points leader!
After pitting for one final splash of fuel on lap 136 of the 200-lap Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway on Saturday, Matt Kenseth drove the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on to the win and into victory lane. The No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Paul Menard got by the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Regan Smith in the final laps to finish second, while Smith wound up third.
Kenseth made several pit stops early in the race to repair such issues as a vibration and a hole in the grill before the strategy to stretch his fuel mileage for one final run got him to the front.
"It was kind of one of those days where they were probably tired of listening to me complain," Kenseth said.
When the ninth of 11 cautions came out on lap 132, Kenseth and the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Trevor Bayne pitted for a splash of fuel, planning to go the rest of the distance. Almost everyone else stayed out, feeling they weren't comfortably in the window to go the rest of the way.
Everyone else pitted the next time the yellow flag waved on lap 146. Bayne and Kenseth stayed out to inherit the top-two spots in the running order. The No. 22 Penske Racing Ford of Brad Keselowski took the lead from Bayne with 49 laps to go. With 34 laps remaining, Kenseth took the lead from Keselowski. He maintained the top spot the rest of the way.
Expecting Kenseth to run out of fuel, Keselowski and the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch raced hard for second position, thinking that the spot would eventually lead to the win. Busch made contact with Keselowski with 14 laps remaining that sent Keselowski hard into the wall and brought out the final caution of the race that may have been the difference between Kenseth making it and running out of fuel.
Keselowski viewed the contact from Busch as intentional.
"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, said after the race that the contact was the result of a handling issue. "I just got real tight off of (turn) four," Busch said.
Busch lost a few positions, but remained in the top-five to finish fourth while Keselowski wound up 28th. As a result the points battle for the owner's championship got tighter, with the No. 22 team seeing its lead over the No. 54 shrink from 28 points to five.
The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Austin Dillon started on the pole and led laps early before a call for fuel on a pit stop during a lap-25 caution resulted in Dillon dropping back several spots on older tires and giving up the lead to Smith. He fell farther back when he was one of only a handful of drivers to pit when the next yellow flag waved on lap 36.
Dillon got back towards the front by virtue of a yellow flag that came out during a cycle of green-flag pit stops on lap 90. Dillon restarted up front after making his pit stop under the caution, while those who pitted just prior to the yellow flag had to take a wave-around to get back on the lead lap.
Dillon lost positions again when he opted to take four tires while several others took two during a caution with just over 80 laps to go. In the end, Dillon wound up sixth, taking over the championship points lead from the No. 12 Penske Racing Ford of Sam Hornish Jr. Hornish, who came into Kansas with a four-point lead over Dillon, finished 17th and dropped to eight points behind Dillon in second.
"We felt like we had a car we could run up front with," Dillon said, also commenting that he had a problem with blistering tires throughout the race.
The No. 31 Turner Scott Motorsports Chevrolet of Justin Allgaier that led laps early in the race, finished fifth. The No. 77 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota of Parker Kligerman was seventh, the No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Brad Sweet finished eighth, Bayne was ninth and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Elliott Sadler finished 10th.