After the race was postponed for rain Saturday night, the sun came out and shone brightly in victory lane for Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 Dollar General Toyota, for winning the 3rd Annual Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Kenseth’s pit road gamble of fuel only helped him beat Jimmie Johnson late in the race for the win in the rescheduled 267 lap race at Kentucky. Kenseth led twice in the race for 38 laps, including the final 23 laps.
“Jason (Ratcliff) did a great job, I didn’t think there was anyway that we were going to hold on for that win, he made the right call at the right time, and those guys got it done on pit road,” Kenseth said in victory lane.
This is Kenseth’s first victory at Kentucky Speedway and his fourth win of the 2013 season. Kenseth has 28 victories in 489 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Kenseth won a personal best 5 victories during the 2002 season.
“It’s been incredible, it’s great to have the four wins,” Kenseth said of his four victories this season. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Johnson appeared to have the race under wraps until Brian Vickers, driving the #55 Aaron’s/UnivofLouisvilleNatlChmpnshp Toyota, blew a right front tire and slammed hard into the outside wall on Lap 241 causing the ninth caution. Johnson opted for two fresh tires, but lost the lead to Kenseth whose crew chief opted for fuel only.
Urgency as the race was in the closing laps was shown when during the restart on lap 246 of the race, drivers went four-wide when in Turn 2 the #48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet spun after starting second on the restart. Johnson went from second back to 25th for the final restart with 17 laps remaining, Johnson who had the dominant car of the day leading for three times for 182 of the 267 laps, ending finishing in the 9th position.
“We were kind of in an awkward situation in that restart there,” Johnson told reporters after the race. “And then we were like three- and four-wide going in the corner, then something happened with the air and just kind of turned me around.” Johnson continued saying, “Unfortunate, but at least we rallied back for a good finish. The #20 (Kenseth) broke the pace car speed, which you aren’t supposed to, but they aren’t calling guys on that, so I need to start trying that in the future.”
Johnson has been arguementative about restarts since June 2 at Dover when during the restart he was black flagged for beating the leader, Juan Pablo Montoya, to the start/finish line.
Kenseth first heard of Johnson’s alligation in Victory Lane saying, “I had no idea what had happened to him or what I possibly could have done to upset him, when we got ready for the restart, we were on the top (outside lane), and we were the leader, so anywhere in that (restart) box we can start the race.”
“When the pace car peeled off, I felt like I went the same pace. I didn’t check my tach when the pace car went off, to see if we were going the same pace, but I think you can look at the data to see I didn’t slow down…When I got to the box, I went,” Kenseth said. “I certainly didn’t feel like I did anything wrong from where I was. But if you’re dominating all day, and then you have a problem at the end, I imagine it’s frustrating. I’ve been there, too.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers are heading back to Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola, televised on TNT starting at 7:30 eastern time.