NASCAR: Kenseth wins second race in three weeks
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Matt Kenseth claimed his second win in the last three races and his third victory of the season Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
BROOKLYN, Mich. - Matt Kenseth claimed his second win in the last three races and his third victory of the season Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
It was the fifth win for Joe Gibbs Racing in the last six races.
“We’ve had a great couple months,” Kenseth said. “We definitely have some momentum built. The guys gave us a rocket today. They’ve been giving us rockets the last couple of months, so we’re just going to work hard to keep it rolling.”
Kevin Harvick finished second, Martin Truex Jr. third, Austin Dillon fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth.
“We struggled to get that track position. It seemed like we kept getting in the wrong lanes on restarts,” Truex said.
On the final restart of the race following a caution that came out with 17 laps to go, Kenseth had Harvick next to him on the front row. Kenseth pulled away when the race went green, though, just as he did on several restarts throughout the race.
“The No. 20 (Kenseth) was the class of the field today, but everybody on our Jimmy John’s team did a great job,” Harvick said.
Carl Edwards and Dillon stayed out during a lap-120 caution, and, as a result, restarted the race as the top two. But when the race returned to green, Kenseth retook the lead and pulled away.
“My car took about five laps to get going, but once it got going, it was pretty stellar,” Kenseth said.
Kenseth and Dillon battled back and forth for the lead before Kenseth finally took command of the position just before Kenseth gave up the lead to pit under green for the final time on lap 164. With pit strategies varying slightly, the final round of green-flag stops was lengthy, but Kenseth eventually cycled back to the lead, with Harvick a distant second.
After starting on the pole, Kenseth led the way until pitting during a competition caution on lap 21. Dillon, who started in the back because an engine change and then got off pit sequence by pitting during the second caution of the race on lap 10, stayed out during the competition caution to take the lead.
“Well, I had fun,” Dillon said. “We gained a lot of spots starting 43rd and got to fourth where we qualified. Just overcame a lot today. I’m really proud of my guys. Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) made a good call at the beginning. We kind of had made that plan to ride around and save fuel and it worked out for us. Good track position and then staying up there, we had a good race car. We drove up to where we were, and I’m just proud of my guys.”
Dillon was able to run up front and pull away slightly until pitting under green on lap 41. A cycle of green-flag pit stops got underway on lap 51 and lasted until lap 63. By the time the cycle completed, Kenseth was back up front.
After a fourth caution on lap 72, Kenseth remained in the lead, with Kyle Busch also in the top five. Clint Bowyer and Truex lined up second and third for the restart. Several laps later, Truex moved into second, but after a second green-flag cycle of pit stops around the halfway point of the race, Kenseth had a cushion of more than three seconds over Truex.
Harvick led a number of laps during the lengthy cycle of stops, putting off his green-flag stop for a while as a result of pitting during the lap-72 yellow flag. He stretched things a little too far, though, running out of fuel as he headed down pit road on lap 114.
“We just fought a lot of things today,” Harvick said. “Just really proud of everybody on our Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet for fighting back today. We had some handling issues at the beginning of the race and then they were able to really make the car handle a lot better and then we overcame running out of gas there and we were able to put ourselves back in position up front.”
When Harvick and others who pitted during the most recent caution finally made green-flag stops, Kenseth was back up front.