KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Matt Kenseth won at Kansas Speedway for the second straight time after he held off a hard-charging Kasey Kahne in the closing laps of Sunday’s STP 400.
Kenseth, the pole sitter, led a race-high 163 laps, including 111 of the first 112 laps, en route to victory at this fast 1.5-mile racetrack. He took the lead for the final time just before a caution on lap 218. During the caution, Kenseth came out of the pits first, just ahead of Martin Truex Jr.
But Kenseth had his hands full at the end when Kahne gained on him and nearly stole the win. He beat Kahne to the finish line by just 0.15 seconds.
It was the second win of the season and the 26th career for Kenseth in his Sprint Cup Series career. He won the March 10 race at Las Vegas, in just his third start with Joe Gibbs Racing. The 2003 series champion joined JGR to drive the No. 20 Toyota for this season after spending the last 13 years with Roush Fenway Racing.
“I really thought (Kahne) had me, because my car started getting loose in (turn) 3 with five laps to go,” Kenseth said.
“This is a dream come true to drive for this team. This is awesome.”
Kenseth also won at Kansas last October after this track had been repaved and reconfigured with variable banking in the turns during the summer months.
The winners of the last three races — Martinsville, Texas and Kansas — have started on the pole, which is the first time that has happened since 1985. Jimmie Johnson scored the victory at Martinsville earlier this month, and Kyle Busch took the checkered flag last weekend at Texas.
Kenseth joins Busch and Johnson as those who have multiple victories this season. All three drivers are in good shape to make the 12-driver field for this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
“Our car has been so incredibly fast all year, but we haven’t had all the finishes to show for it,” he said. “I’m so thankful to have another win.”
Kahne also finished a close second to Kenseth last month at Las Vegas.
“We were very close at the end battling with Matt,” Kahne said. “It felt like Vegas all over again, just kind of felt like really similar to that in how I could catch him but couldn’t really do anything once I got close. It made my car a little bit looser. So I tried a few things there, and he kind of blocked those spots and went those directions and gained the speed that I was, and then we were even again. It was tough, but we still had a great race.”
Johnson, the current points leader, finished third, while Truex and his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate, Clint Bowyer, a Kansas-native, rounded out the top-five.
Johnson now holds a 37-point advantage over Kahne, who moved up five positions to second in the standings.
“It’s hard to believe we’ve got a huge gap like that in the points already,” Johnson said. “We’ve been off to a great year and even had some trouble at Bristol (March 17) and didn’t finish as well as we did there. So 37 points up on everybody is pretty awesome.”
Brad Keselowski, the defending series champion, finished sixth after he overcame a one-lap deficit due to a fuel issue on pit road in the early going. Shortly after, Keselowski was penalized for pitting too early during a caution. He also sustained damage to the rear of his car, as a panel from the back fell off, which forced NASCAR to throw out the eighth and final caution flag with less than 40 laps remaining.
“Usually, you’re not happy unless you win, but a day where you can fight through adversity like we did today and get a solid finish, that kind of is a win,” Keselowski said.
Keselowski is now 38 points behind Johnson, thanks to a loss of 25 driver points as part of his team’s penalty for unapproved parts discovered on his and Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano’s cars during pre-race inspection at Texas. Both drivers had their crew chiefs and car chiefs at the track while Penske is appealing the penalties from NASCAR. A total of seven team members from Penske received six-race suspensions due to the infraction.
Logano, who was also docked 25 points, had his unfortunate week continue when he was involved in a hard crash with Kyle Busch just before the halfway point. Busch spun and hit the outside wall before his car slid down the track. Logano plowed into the front end of Busch when he dipped down to the apron of the track to avoid hitting him.
“We weren’t having a good day as it was, but you don’t want to end up in the garage like this,” said Logano, who finished 39th, one spot behind Busch.
Busch had been on a hot streak by finishing fifth or better, including two victories, in the last five races. He continues to struggle at Kansas. It is the only track on the Sprint Cup schedule where he has yet to post a top-five finish. On lap 5, he spun around while running in the third position.
“I just don’t know what to do at Kansas,” Busch said.
Jamie McMurray finished seventh, followed by Aric Almirola, Mark Martin and Paul Menard.