Matt Kenseth thought his day was done when he scraped the wall halfway though the Hollywood Casino 400, but he was actually on his way to winning the sixth round of NASCAR’s “Chase for the Sprint Cup” on Sunday at Kansas Speedway.
“I knew I hit it really hard,” Kenseth said after the race about his brush with the wall on Lap 173. “As soon as we got the fender where it was supposed to be, it was fine. I was happy, as hard as I hit it, that my steering wheel was still in the right place.”
It was a record-setting day in Kansas. The Hollywood Casino 400 was a wild affair with a record of 14 caution flags contributing to 66 laps run under yellow-flag conditions. Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Brad Keselowski said he was happy to survive “a long day” and shook his head about all the caution flags.
“Everybody has been asking all season long where the cautions have been,” he said. “Well, they flew to Kansas and they been hanging out here.”
The checkered flag waving overhead came as a welcomed sight for Kenseth, who was relieved to see the race end especially after an earlier incident. Kenseth was behind Mark Martin and Aric Almirola as the field got the green flag on Lap 172 after a caution period. Almirola spun and Kenseth, “trying to make sure I didn’t hit them (Martin and Almirola)” ended up against the wall.
“I thought it was over when I got in the fence,” Kenseth said about his racing incident. He commended his pit crew for the work in getting him back on the race track. “They fixed the body as good as it was when we started.”
The top three finishers came from way back after beginning the race out of the top 10 positions on the starting grid. Kenseth, who started 12th, crossed the finish line less than half a second ahead of Martin Truex Jr., who began the Hollywood Casino 400 16th on the grid. Paul Menard came from 14th to finish third.
Starting near the back of the field may have been an advantage for a few of the drivers. Regan Smith started 39th and finished seventh, while Tony Stewart made up 28 track positions, coming from 33 to finish fifth.
Chase leader Brad Keselowski summed up the race saying, “I am glad to have survived the carnage and dodged a bullet of a race.” Keselowski finished the race in eight after starting the day in 25th. “I am ready to go home and have a couple of beers,” he said.
The sixth of 10 Chase races had only marginal impact on the overall Sprint Cup standings. Keselowski maintains his seven-point lead on Jimmie Johnson and is 20 points ahead of Denny Hamlin. In fact, there was no change in top-five drivers. Kenseth made up the most positions on the leader board, climbing two spots into ninth place, but still trails Keselowski by 55 points. Truex Jr., Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon all gained one position in the standings and sit sixth, seventh and eighth respectively. Kevin Harvick rounds out the Top 10.
The Tums Fast Relief 500 closes out the month of October for NASCAR. Round 7 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup goes at Martinsville Speedway, in Virginia, on Oct. 28. The 2012 NASCAR schedule comes to an end with races in Forth Worth (Texas), Phoenix (Arizona) and Homestead (Florida) in November.