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Kenseth survives wild race on new pavement

October 21, 2012, NASCAR Wire Service,

No. 17 team avoids track-record 14 cautions to earn victory at repaved Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Fans who came to Kansas Speedway on Sunday thought they were attending a Sprint Cup Series race.

Instead, they witnessed the latest episode of "Survivor."

Matt Kenseth won a wild war of attrition, otherwise known as the Hollywood Casino 400, beating Martin Truex Jr. to the checkered flag by .495 seconds to claim his third victory of the season, his first at Kansas and the 24th of his career.

Paul Menard ran third, followed by polesitter Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart, who rallied from a 33rd-place starting position and a spin on the backstretch during the race.

Kenseth won the race despite scraping the wall behind a spinning Aric Almirola after a restart on Lap 173.

* Video: Tire trouble for front-runner Almirola

"I thought it was over when I got in the fence when Aric wrecked under Mark [Martin]," Kenseth said. "I was watching them and trying to make sure I didn't hit them and I flat-sided it pretty bad. It ended up working in our favor. They fixed the body as good as it was when we started, and we had to take less gas in that last pit stop, and the pit crew put me out front.

"I knew I hit it really hard but thought it was centered up in the door real good, and we had a similar thing happen at Homestead last year. As soon as we got the fender back 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."

Throughout the day, however, other drivers found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. The slick, new racing surface at the 1.5-mile speedway produced a track-record 14 cautions for 66 caution laps, and no one was immune from disaster -- not even a five-time champion.

* Video: Final Laps | Victory Lane | Post-Race Reactions

Jimmie Johnson's quest for a sixth Cup title appeared to have suffered a severe setback on Lap 135, when the No. 48 Chevrolet spun in heavy traffic and backed into the Turn 4 wall. After leading 44 laps, Johnson had just taken a wave-around for a restart on Lap 128, having been trapped a lap down when Aric Almirola smacked the Turn 2 wall, and the resulting caution interrupted a cycle of green-flag pit stops.

Johnson, however, stayed on the lead lap through a succession of pit stops under the yellow, and a liberal application of BearBond kept the No. 48 competitive. Astoundingly, Johnson and his team salvaged a ninth-place finish on a day that could have been much worse and remained seven points behind eighth-place finisher and series leader Brad Keselowski with four races left in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

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"I'm very proud, but also disappointed," Johnson said. "I crashed the car. I spun out trying to get inside the 56 [Truex]. He bobbled a little in front of me, and I thought that was an opportunity to jump in the gas real hard.

"When I did that, my car took off and I couldn't catch it. All-in-all, a good day, but it could have been a lot better. I think we could have been in Victory Lane, and stretched some points on these guys."

* Video: Trouble strikes for Johnson

Keselowski, who fought his way forward from the 25th starting position was thankful for a day that ended with his No. 2 Dodge intact.

"I'm ready to go home and have a couple beers," Keselowski said after climbing from his car."It's just been a long day, Everybody has been asking all season long where the cautions have been. Well, they flew to Kansas and they've been hanging out here, because there was caution after caution, and it seemed like every wreck that happened today happened right in front of me.

"So, I'm glad to have survived the carnage and brought back a decent car in great shape and dodged a bullet of a race. That's the only thing I can use to describe it."

Despite the conditions, the repaving job, which included a reconfiguration with graduated banking, drew favorable reviews -- not surprisingly -- from drivers who finished near the front of the field.

* Press Pass: Kenseth | Truex Jr. | Menard

"I thought the track was great," Truex said. "The outside lane is going to come in really, really good -- probably by next year, I would say. Their winters here are pretty rough, and I expect it will weather the track in really nicely.


• Matt Kenseth picked up the 24th victory of his career in his 468th start.
• Matt Kenseth last won at Talladega two weeks ago.
• This marks the third trip to Victory Lane for Matt Kenseth in 2012 (Daytona in Feb. and Talladega in Oct.).
• Matt Kenseth earned his second victory of the 2012 Chase and fourth career Chase win.
• Matt Kenseth garnered his first win at Kansas in his 14th start there, his previous best was fourth in each of the last two races.
• Matt Kenseth became the 10th different winner at Kansas in 14 races.
• Eight of Kenseth's 24 career wins have now come on 1.5 mile tracks.
• Matt Kenseth led twice for 78 laps including the final 49.
• Roush Fenway Racing won for the 130th time, including its fifth victory in 2012.
• Roush Fenway Racing picked up its fourth win at Kansas, tying it with Hendrick Motorsports for the most.
• Roush Fenway Racing also garnered its 22nd-career Chase victory in the process.
• Ford won for the sixth time in 2012 and the fourth time overall at Kansas.
• Martin Truex Jr. (second) earned his second consecutive runner-up finish at Kansas; also posted his 18th top 10 this season, three of which have come in the Chase.
• Paul Menard (third) placed in the top five for the first time since his win at Indianapolis last year.
• Kasey Kahne (fourth) posted his fourth top 10 of the Chase, he has yet to finish worse than 15th in a Chase race in 2012.
• Tony Stewart (fifth) picked up his best finish of the Chase so far; he now has nine top 10 showings in 14 races at Kansas.
• Clint Bowyer (sixth) now has top 10s in five of the six Chase races this season.
• Regan Smith (seventh) garnered his fourth top-10 finish of 2012 including two of the last three races.
• 14 cautions is the most ever at Kansas and the most of the 2012 season to date.

"Once the outside got working, it was actually pretty darn good. It's going to be a cool race track here in the future, and they did a great job with it."