Brad Keselowski was bumped by Kurt Busch and lost control of his car on Lap 48 of the race at Kentucky, triggering a seven-car crash. Busch went down on the apron and came back up on the track and tagged Keselowski, who lost control (photo courtesy: Andy Lyons, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)
Matt Kenseth’s fuel-only pit stop gamble with 25 laps remaining helped him beat Jimmie Johnson to win the rescheduled 400-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky.
Kenseth beat Johnson out of the pits to take the lead, but thought there was no way he could hold off the dominant Johnson, who had led a race-high 182 laps. A race that was Johnson's to lose ultimately became Kenseth's series-high fourth victory of the season. Johnson dominated the race, but wrecked on a restart with 21 laps remaining. He was trying to hold off a hard-charging Joey Logano for second on the restart when he lost control of his car and spun.
Kenseth, meanwhile, continues to be amazed by his good fortune since moving to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2013 season.
"I dreamed about it but I probably didn’t imagine that it would be realistic," Kenseth said. "It’s been incredible. We’ve had some moments that have tested us this season already but it’s great to have four wins. Hopefully we can keep it going because it’s been fun.”
Jamie McMurray passed Clint Bowyer with four laps remaining to finish second, his best finish since 2010. In a season of struggles, McMurray was just happy with his first top five.
"Every week it's been something," McMurray said, "so it's nice to have some good luck."
Kenseth led twice for 38 laps, including the final 23. Johnson, the five-time champion and series points leader, finished ninth and leads Carl Edwards by 38, who finished 21st, by 38 points with just nine races remaining before the post-season Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup begins. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins after Race 26. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.
Kenseth finished seventh at Kentucky last year and sixth in the 2011 inaugural race. However, victory didn't seem likely for the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion after qualifying 16th and running outside the top 20 during the first quarter of the event.
"I thought our first run, we were all right and I guess probably after the second run, we were able to move forward pretty good," Kenseth said. "I felt pretty good about what we had. I thought we need to get it better."
Bowyer remained third in points and gave Michael Waltrip Racing its second straight top-two run following teammate Martin Truex Jr.'s road win last week in Sonoma, Calif.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. started on the pole, but he and Johnson both suffered damage to their cars early in the race from tire debris from Denny Hamlin’s car.
“We had a good car but we ran over some tire casing and knocked the front bumper off it," Earnhardt said. "The guys worked really hard to put it back the best they could but it was bent up really good. We just had to work really hard all day to fix all that stuff and keep up with the racetrack, too.”
Kurt Busch then caused a big crash when he raced onto the apron of the track and his car shot up into Brad Keselowski, causing Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford to spin and igniting a crash that also collected Greg Biffle.
Busch took the blame for the crash. “That didn’t work out so good,” Busch told his team over his radio. “The track just threw me back into him. That was all my fault.”
The crash caused Keselowski, the defending Sprint Cup champion, to fall out of the top 10 in points. He slipped to 13th with nine races remaining before the Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup begins. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins after Race 26. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.
“I know he didn’t intentionally wreck me but we all know the track has a really bad bump down there and there’s no reason to go down there, but he did,” Keselowski said.
Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, July 6 (7:30 p.m. EDT, TNT, Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90)—Race 17 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 15-17). The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins after Race 26. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.