Sparta, Ky. — Matt Kenseth claimed his Sprint Cup Series- leading fourth win of the season after taking a gamble on his final pit stop in Sunday’s rain-delayed Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
The 400-mile event at this 1.5-mile racetrack was scheduled for Saturday night but persistent rain forced postponement until the following afternoon.
During the last round of stops under caution with 24 laps to go, Kenseth and his crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, decided to take fuel only while the other frontrunners made two-tire stops. Kenseth came out of the pits first.
Jimmie Johnson put on a dominating performance during the race by leading 182 of 267 laps. Johnson exited the pits in second, but after the restart, the five-time series champion got loose and spun around in front of Joey Logano in turn 2.
Kenseth held off challenges from Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray on the final restart with 17 laps left. He crossed the finish line 0.7 seconds ahead of McMurray.
“I didn’t think there was any way that we were going to hold on for that win,” said Kenseth, who claimed his 28th career victory in the series. “Jason did a great job, and he made the right call at the right time.”
Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, is in his first season as driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. The last time he won four or more races in a season occurred in 2006. Kenseth scored a personal best five victories in 2002.
“It’s been incredible,” he said. “We’ve had some moments that have tested us this season already. It’s great to have the four wins. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling. It’s been a lot of fun.”
McMurray’s second-place run was his best finish since October 2010 when he won at Charlotte.
“It was a good day,” McMurray said. “I got a little unlucky on the last restart with the bottom line checking up, and then the car was just about as good as it had been all day on the last run.”
Bowyer finished third, while Logano took the fourth spot. Kyle Busch overcame an early-race spin to complete the top-five. Johnson ended up finishing ninth. He increased his points lead to 38 over Carl Edwards, who placed 21st.
British Grand Prix
Silverstone, England — Nico Rosberg from Mercedes won Sunday’s British Grand Prix after avoiding tire issues that had plagued several drivers and then capitalizing on Sebastian Vettel’s gearbox problem late in the race.
Four drivers, including Rosberg’s teammate, Lewis Hamilton, and Felipe Massa from Ferrari, suffered left-rear tire failure during the 52-lap race at Silverstone Circuit. Hamilton started on the pole and led the way before his tire blew on lap 8. Massa’s incident occurred two laps later. McLaren’s Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne from Toro Rosso experienced the same problem as well later in the event.
Vettel, the three-time defending Formula One champion and current points leader, took over the top spot when Hamilton had his mishap. The Red Bull driver appeared to be on the way to his fourth win of the season, but his gearbox failed with 11 laps to go, which put him out of the race. Rosberg grabbed the lead and then held off Vettel’s teammate, Mark Webber, at the finish by 0.7 seconds.
Rosberg scored his second win of the season and the third of his F1 career. He won the May 26 Monaco Grand Prix. The German also has claimed the pole in three grand prix this season. He started second in this event.
“It’s a very special day,” Rosberg said. “Our team has done such a fantastic job. We’ve had good momentum going right now, and we’re progressing all the time. We’re massively quick in qualifying and getting faster and faster in the races. I think today we had the fastest race car. So it’s a very special day for me.”
Rosberg’s win, though, was nearly taken away when race stewards determined he failed to slow down to a sufficient speed between turns 3-5 under yellow flags during the mid-stages of the event. Shortly after the race concluded, the Mercedes driver had to meet with stewards to discuss his actions. He was issued a reprimand and did not receive any penalties.
Webber’s second-place finish comes three days after his announcement that he will leave F1 at the end of the season and join Porsche’s new sports car program in the Le Mans 24 Hours and World Endurance Championship in 2014. Webber won last year’s British GP.
Webber started fourth but struggled on the opening lap, as he fell to 11th.
“I didn’t have a clue what happened at the start,” Webber said. “We’ve had good starts in the last few races. That was frustrating, but the (team) did a great job. Obviously, there were a lot of people who had issues with their tires. We were lucky not to have any issues. It was a clean race and good strategy. I would have liked a few more laps at Nico, but he deserved to win. He was quick all day.”
Fernando Alonso from Ferrari finished third and trimmed Vettel’s lead from 36 points to 21.
“It was a good race for us,” Alonso said. “Not having any problems with the tires, we have to consider ourselves lucky. And with Sebastian’s problem, we were lucky to recover some points.”
It was the first time Vettel retired from a grand prix since September 2012 in Italy, where he suffered a mechanical problem with six laps to go. He had finished no worse than fourth in the first seven races this season.
“It’s quite disappointing to retire when we were only a few laps from the end,” Vettel said. “We had a gearbox issue. I think the fifth gear broke and damaged the rest of the gearbox as well, so it was not possible to carry on.”
Hamilton fell to last in the field after he had limped back to pit road for new tires, but the Englishman came storming back in front of his home crowd to finish fourth.
“With Lewis, I feel sorry for all of the British fans,” Rosberg said. “It would have been a great race for Lewis in front of his home crowd. It was a massive disappointment for him, but that’s racing sometimes. When Sebastian stopped, I wasn’t disappointed by that one. I’ll be honest and won’t lie about that.”
Pirelli, which is the tire supplier for F1, received criticism for the tire it used in this race. Hamilton was the most outspoken about the issue.
“The safety is the biggest issue; it’s unacceptable,” Hamilton told the BBC. “We had a tire test to improve the tire and to have four blowouts is unacceptable. It’s only when someone gets hurt that someone will be doing something about it. I think it’s a waste of time talking to the FIA, and if they don’t do anything that says a lot about them.”
Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus took the fifth spot, while Felipe Massa drove his Ferrari across the line in sixth.
Force India’s Adrian Sutil finished seventh, followed by Daniel Ricciardo from Toro Rosso and Sutil’s teammate, Paul di Resta, who had to start the race from the rear of the field after his car failed post-qualifying inspection on Saturday. His car was underweight. Nico Hulkenberg from Sauber completed the top-10.