Matt Kenseth Scores a Dominant Win at Michigan

Matt Kenseth Scores a Dominant Win at Michigan

by August 17, 2015 0 comments

BROOKLYN, Mich. — There was no denying Matt Kenseth at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday as the driver of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota claimed victory in the Pure Michigan 400.

Kenseth’s third win of the season was delivered on the back of a dominant performance that included the now 34-time Sprint Cup Series race winner leading 146 of 200 laps.

“We had, obviously, a dominant car since we got here,” Kenseth said. “It showed up in qualifying and Jason [Ratcliff, crew chief] had it tuned up today where the handling was great as we had enough speed to stay up there.

“You never like to see late‑race restarts, especially at Daytona and Talladega, and this was almost a cross between that from the restart zone until the middle of 1 and 2, a lot of the guys would draft pretty good, and I had a hard time getting that to happen.

“The Chevys could lock up pretty good, so I was pretty worried about that last one and Denny gave me a nice push there, and our TRD engine ran really good and was able to stay alongside Kevin at least and clear him off of Turn 2, so that was obviously a big key for us.”

Crossing the finish line behind Kenseth in the top-10 were Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Harvick, the points leader entering and exiting Michigan, stated in his post-race press conference that he believed he didn’t have anything for Kenseth during the end stages of the race; but despite being outperformed by the No. 20 team, he was still plenty proud of his No. 4 Jimmy John’s crew.

“We had an up‑and‑down day, that’s for sure,” Harvick stated. “The first half of the race or so really struggled with the handling of the car.  The guys did a great job of getting that, and then ran out of gas and came back and didn’t lose a lap and were able to have a good enough handling car to drive back up through there and good everything go good.

“Just really proud of my team and everything that they did.  I didn’t have anything for the 20 today, but for everything that we overcame, it was still a good day.”

Dillon utilized pit strategy early on into the race after starting from the rear of the field due to an engine change to get his team off-cycle to help advance their track position.

After catching a rash of several early cautions, the No. 3 Dow team found themselves back on cycle with great track position and were able to fight for their first top-five finish of the year.

“We had some circumstances where we had to start at the back and had to figure out a way to get our track position back, and just got to thank my guys,” Dillon said. “Slugger [Labbe, crew chief] and the engineers did a good job coming up with a plan.

“That first 20 laps was no fun for us because we had to ride around and try and stay in front of the leader, but we saved gas and decided to not come down on that first competition caution for fuel, and it worked out.”

“We’ll take this and build some more momentum.  The last seven weeks have been great for us, and really enjoyed working with Slugger.”

With three races now remaining until the Chase cutoff, the battle for the 16th and final Chase seed tightened up following the Sprint Cup Series’s last trip to the Irish Hills for the season.

A Lap 127 spin on the backstretch inflicted damage to the rear end of Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota. While his crew toiled in the garage to repair their car, Bowyer lost over 30 laps to the leaders and had to settle for a 41st-place finish.

Entering Michigan safely in the Chase by 50 points, Bowyer now retains a 23-point lead over Aric Almirola for the final Chase seed.

Jimmie Johnson, a driver locked into the Chase already by virtue of his four race wins, had an uncharacteristically bad day at the race track as he finished way down the order in the 39th position.

The six-time series champion’s woes started midway through the race after sliding through his pit stall and having to back up on pit road back to it – it being the first stall on the pit lane.

Things went from bad to worse for the No. 48 Lowe’s team as Johnson spun in Turn 4 and dug his car’s front splitter into the turn’s grass, ripping up the front end of his car and bringing out the eighth and final caution of the day. With his crew having to make significant repairs to the front end of the car, Johnson finished the race 10 laps off of the lead.

Apart from the respective cautions involving Bowyer and Johnson, six other caution flags flew during the 200-lap race.

Amongst three debris cautions and a competition caution were yellow flags for a spin by David Ragan on the second lap of the race and for a spin by Tony Stewart on Lap 137.

Exiting Michigan, the Sprint Cup Series competitors now turn their attention towards Bristol Motor Speedway and next Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race.

Top-10 Finishers of the Pure Michigan 400

  1. 20 – Matt Kenseth – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
  2. 4 – Kevin Harvick – Chevrolet – Stewart-Haas Racing
  3. 78 – Martin Truex Jr. – Chevrolet – Furniture Row Racing
  4. 3 – Austin Dillon – Chevrolet – Richard Childress Racing
  5. 11 – Denny Hamlin – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
  6. 19 – Carl Edwards – Toyota – Joe Gibbs Racing
  7. 22 – Joey Logano – Ford – Team Penske
  8. 31 – Ryan Newman – Chevrolet – Richard Childress Racing
  9. 2 – Brad Keselowski – Ford – Team Penske
  10. 88 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Chevrolet – Hendrick Motorsports

Top-10 in the Drivers Standings after Round 23 of 36

  1. 4 – Kevin Harvick – Stewart-Haas Racing – 866 | Leader
  2. 22 – Joey Logano – Team Penske – 818 | -48
  3. 88 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Hendrick Motorsports – 784 | -82
  4. 78 – Martin Truex Jr. – Furniture Row Racing – 755 | -111
  5. 2 – Brad Keselowski – Team Penske – 754 | -112
  6. 48 – Jimmie Johnson – Hendrick Motorsports – 752 | -114
  7. 20 – Matt Kenseth – Joe Gibbs Racing – 751 | -115
  8. 41 – Kurt Busch – Stewart-Haas Racing – 683 | -183
  9. 11 – Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing – 670 | -196
  10. 1 – Jamie McMurray – Chip Ganassi Racing – 663 | -203

Chase Seeds after Pure Michigan 400: 1. Jimmie Johnson, 2. Kyle Busch, 3. Matt Kenseth, 4. Kevin Harvick, 5. Joey Logano, 6. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 7. Kurt Busch, 8. Martin Truex Jr., 9. Brad Keselowski, 10. Denny Hamlin, 11. Carl Edwards, 12. Jamie McMurray, 13. Paul Menard, 14. Ryan Newman, 15. Jeff Gordon, 16. Clint Bowyer

Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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