Kenseth steals one at Kentucky
The Scoop: Matt Kenseth has had some bad luck in 2013 (engine failures), but even more good luck. Clever strategy by crew chief Jason Ratcliff and clutch driving by the driver of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota garnered this Joe Gibbs Racing team its 4th win of the year. Kenseth had a decent car throughout the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, but never good enough to drive up and take the lead. Kenseth gained the lead for 14 laps earlier in the race by taking two tires when other leaders grabbed four, but otherwise had a back-of-the-top 10 car. The dominant car and driver of the day was Jimmie Johnson, who led 182 laps and seemed poised for his 4th win of the year. But Johnson did not get a good restart after the last set of stops that put Kenseth in the lead. He bunched up the inside line and ended up getting spun. He drove through the field in the final laps to finish 9th, but was livid on his radio about Kenseth not bringing the field up to proper speed on the start. Kenseth disagreed and instead took over the Sprint Cup Series lead in wins. Jamie McMurray recovered from early issues to finish 2nd, passing 3rd place finisher Clint Bowyer with just a few laps to go. Joey Logano, who lost spots when Johnson spun in front of him, placed 4th and Kyle Busch, who spun early in the race, also rebounded to finish 5th. Hendrick Motorsports appeared to have Kentucky cornered early, with Johnson and pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. up front and Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne also in the top 10. Misfortune struck Earnhardt Jr., when the casing of Denny Hamlin's flat tire came off and the No. 88 hit it at full speed. Damage to the grille and splitter set the team back for the rest of the day, as they finished 12th. Johnson also received damage from the tire, but had no ill effects. NASCAR busted Kasey Kahne for speeding on pit road, after Kahne drove through the field from losing track position after a yellow flag during green flag pit stops. Kahne still finished 11th, but had a better car than that. Gordon also drove through the field and seemed strong enough to win at one point, but instead placed 8th. Kurt Busch (6th) triggered a bad crash when he drove on the apron to pass Brad Keselowski (33rd), got loose, and wrecked the defending winner of the race. Keselowski spun low, and then shot up the track and collected Dave Blaney (40th) and Travis Kvapil (42nd), along with Greg Biffle (34th). Hamlin (35th) had a headache after cutting a tire for the 2nd time in the race and pancaking the wall. 10 cautions slowed the race, making for a more eventful Kentucky race than the two previous Cup races held at the track. Rain Saturday pushed the race to Sunday and the daytime conditions very well could have made for better racing.
140 Characters or Less: Kenseth's bald tires take Kentucky win. Johnson really hates restarts. Kurt Busch takes someone besides himself out of contention.
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Jimmie Johnson - Even though he botched the last restart, Johnson's No. 48 creamed the field Sunday. Each team had the task of taking a car setup for a night race and running it in the Kentucky sun and Johnson wasted everyone until the end.
North Korean Missile Dud of the Race: Carl Edwards - Edwards started 2nd and led some laps. The caution during green flag pit stops trapped the No. 99 mid-pack, but crew chief Jimmy Fennig gained those spots back by taking two tires on a pit stop. Edwards fell from 1st to 7th in that run and somehow ended the race 21st. Edwards may be 2nd in points, but still isn't showing the strength needed to outrun championship frontrunners like Johnson.
Never Fear, Underdogs Are Here: Casey Mears - Germain Racing continues to perform or slightly outperform each week. Mears battled back from a lap down to finish 18th, though Danica Patrick (23rd) was none too thrilled during the race with Mears blocking her. Mears is lucky Patrick's boss Tony Stewart (20th) had not been there - he would have wrecked Mears and said as much on his radio.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: Kyle Busch - Boy did he ever need some redemption after a terrible Sonoma race a week ago. Busch spun while running in the top 10 on lap 44 and drove outside the top 30 to inside the top 5 with a less-than-perfect racecar.
Wheel of Misfortune: Brad Keselowski - This award really goes to every driver in that nasty crash Kurt Busch triggered on lap 49. But Keselowski lost the most from it, as he was a popular pick to win the race, had won Friday's Nationwide Series race, and finished 2nd in Thursday's Camping World Truck Series race. Keselowski fell to 14th in points and is outside wild card contention with zero wins. The No. 2 team needed a good run Sunday and instead had another momentum killer courtesy of their former driver. Speaking of…
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: Kurt Busch - Busch continues to be a bathrobe-wearing enigma. His inexplicable dive to the apron shot him up the track and caused the big wreck with Keselowski, Biffle, and others. Busch is extremely talented, but that move did not exactly gain him any more respect. He escaped unscathed and finished 6th.
Ghost Driver: Ryan Newman - Newman's name may be in the rumor mill about his 2014 Cup plans, but his No. 39 sure stays off TV on race day. Newman's 14th place finish at Kentucky was in line with the 18th and 15th place pedestrian runs he accumulated at Sonoma and Michigan. He did outpace his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates, but again went quiet in a critical race needed to get his team (18th in points) in a Chase wild card spot.
Georgia on My Mind: David Ragan started 38th and mainly gained spots when others fell out of the Kentucky race - he finished two laps down in 26th. In Friday's Nationwide Series race, long green flag runs put the Georgia drivers on smaller teams behind. Reed Sorenson placed two laps down in 22nd and Ken Butler III was three laps down in 24th. The Truck Series race Thursday was both good and bad for Georgia drivers. John Wes Townley started 7th, made a whale of a save when his truck snapped loose, and finished 11th. Ryan Sieg moved to the No. 93 of his family team for one race, as driver Ryan Lynch brought money to the No. 39 and needed a locked-in spot in the race. Sieg placed a lap down in 20th. Max Gresham's misfortunes continued, as he started 20th and crashed hard on lap 40, resulting in a 31st place DNF.
NNS 140 Characters or Less: Kyle Busch dominates, but Brad Keselowski does rain-dance and smokeless burnout after win. Dexter Stacey sure botched qualifying.
NCWTS 140 Characters or Less: Ty Dillon thumbs nose at Keselowski and Busch to win for first time in 2013. Ryan Blaney owes Busch payback big time.
Next: Dayyyytona. Weren't we just there yesterday? No. That was four-and-a-half months ago. The Nationwide Series races there Friday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN and the Cup Series runs its third restrictor plate race of the year Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on TNT. The Trucks take the weekend off and return again in two weeks at Iowa Speedway.