Kenseth wins from the pole

Matt Kenseth won the STP 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race after starting from the pole on Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

Kenseth led 110 of the first 111 laps of the race before losing some spots on pit road because of pit strategy during a caution. He regained the top spot with less than 50 laps to go in the 267-lap race and held off Kasey Kahne for his second win of the season.

“I really thought he (Kahne) had me,” Kenseth said. “My car was really getting loose in (turn) three.”

Jimmie Johnson finished third behind Kenseth and Kahne.

“I drove right up through the field and got to the front and at times felt like my Kobalt Tools Chevrolet to win,” Johnson said. “The last two runs we were a little too tight but other than that, a really strong performance with a car that drove through traffic, which is hard to do in today’s world of racing. So happy to be able to do that.”

On lap 111, Kenseth pitted during a caution while Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Mark Martin and Brad Keselowski stayed out and moved to the front. Keselowski had recovered from going a lap down earlier in the race when he had to make lengthy pit stops to repair damage to his car from contact in the opening laps.

“Something happened where there was a check-up in front,” Keselowski said of his trouble early in the race. “I think somebody was wrecking and I slowed down and the guy behind me didn’t. He just drove through the quarterpanel and tore it all up and eventually the dirty air of cars being around me just sucked it apart. It’s kind of weird. I think that’s probably a really good aero lesson for everybody how dirty the air is that, when another car gets beside us, it literally blew the quarterpanel off of it, so it’s just part of the deal.”

Around lap 147, the drivers who stayed out were forced to pit under green for fuel, moving Johnson, Kenseth and Carl Edwards back to the front.
Johnson, Truex, Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spent time up front until cars began cycling through green-flag pit stops with about 54 laps to go. A caution came out for debris from Keselowski’s heavily damaged car with about 50 laps left, catching those who had pitted a lap down.

Kenseth, Truex and Johnson hadn’t made their stops under green and were able to head down pit road under the caution. Kenseth got off pit road first to restart the race. Meanwhile, those who had pitted just before the caution, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., took the wave around to get back on the lead lap.

Kahne quickly made his way up to the second spot and gained ground on Kenseth during the remainder of the race but was unable to catch him.

“I needed clouds. We tightened up a little bit on that final run and putting two on, and zero, I knew we were going to be a little loose but didn’t think it would be quite that bad,” Kahne said of his inability to catch Kenseth in the closing laps. “Matt was fast and I just did everything I could and he would go to those spots and I couldn’t make up any ground.”

Truex finished fourth and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five. Finishing sixth through 10th were Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola, Mark Martin and Paul Menard.

“It’s not a win, but when you go through everything we did today, it feels like it,” Keselowski said of recovering from his early-race struggles.

NOTES: The win was Kenseth’s second straight at Kansas Speedway. He also won the fall 2012 race. … Kenseth became the third repeat winner this season. His earlier victory was at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, … The last three race winners in the Sprint Cup series have started from the pole. … The win was the 26th of Kenseth’s career and gave Joe Gibbs Racing its 104th victory and its fourth victory of 2013