KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The fast, smooth new surface at Kansas Speedway had the potential to wreak havoc on the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
The recent repave cluttered Sunday’s race with a record 14 cautions – a season high in the Sprint Cup Series – and contributed to issues that affected at least four title contenders. But the standings looked much the same when Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag in a battered Ford that he banged hard into the wall midway through the race.
Kenseth still managed to drive it to his second victory in three races, while Brad Keselowski dodged accident after accident to hang on to his seven-point lead over Jimmie Johnson in the standings with four races left in the Chase.
“I was thinking, ‘Man, this has to be entertaining for everybody to watch,’ ” Kenseth said. “There was a lot of wild stuff happening.”
That was an understatement when the longest green-flag run was 35 laps early in the race. Some of the cautions were caused by tire problems, others were for single-car spins, including Chase drivers Johnson, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle.
And, Danica Patrick wrecked herself when she intentionally wrecked Landon Cassill.
“You know, everybody has been asking all season long where the cautions have been,” Keselowski said. “Well, they flew to Kansas and they’ve been hanging out here because there was caution after caution.”
Biffle’s spin ended his day with a hard crash into the wall.
“I lost it, man. It got away from me off of four and we wrecked it,” said Biffle, who dropped five spots in the standings to 11th. “I had no indication, no little wiggle, no sideways. It just got away from me and it killed our day.”
Johnson, who led 44 laps early, was far luckier.
He had pitted from the lead and was back in traffic when a caution came out, and he spun by himself shortly after the restart. He, too, hit the wall on his spin, but crew chief Chad Knaus called him to pit road to get a look at the car instead of conceding laps by going to the garage for repairs.
Knaus then methodically dictated team orders, as Johnson stopped on pit road at least a half-dozen times for repairs over two caution periods.
“That looks good, man. They did a much better job than I thought they would,” he told Johnson as he drove away. “There’s really nothing wrong with that thing.”
Even Keselowski was surprised to see the heavily taped No. 48 back on the track when the race went green.
“I thought you said the 48 car wrecked?” he asked his crew. “He looks fine.”
In the end, Johnson salvaged a ninth-place finish.
It was still good enough to keep the Chase margin unchanged with Keselowski, who finished a spot ahead in eighth. He came into the race with a seven-point lead and left with a seven-point lead as the series heads next weekend to Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.
Martin Truex Jr. finished second, Paul Menard was third followed by Kasey Kahne and defending champion Stewart.