Starting in pole position at Bristol Motor Speedway, Matt Kenseth battled for first place through a race that was delayed four times by rain, extended by 11 laps and included numerous cautions, driving the Joe Gibbs Racing #20 Toyota Camry to victory in the NASCAR Food City 500 on Sunday. Although Kenseth was in the lead position for only 47 of the 511 laps of Sunday’s race, he consistently remained among the top ten leaders while avoiding making any critical mistakes.
Kurt Busch looked set to win the race, but headed to pit road on a late caution, being the only driver among the leaders to do so, and when he rejoined the race he had fallen to sixth position. Matt Kenseth was followed by Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Newman in the top five positions for the rain-drenched 2015 Food City 500.
The start of Sunday’s race was delayed by nearly 90 minutes due to the rain, and was stopped three more times before the checkered flag came down. One delay lasted nearly four hours, but organizers were determined to stage a complete race and crowds of die-hard fans stuck around to witness Kenseth crossing the finish line. Other glitches in the events included Austin Dillon running out of gas, reportedly due to the lengthy final caution. Denny Hamlin failed to return to the track after the first break due to a neck-related health issue, and two Team Penske drivers were involved in a wreck twenty laps into the race.
Born in Cambridge, Wisconson, on March 10, 1972, Matt Kenseth started stock car racing at Madison International Speedway at the age of 16, driving a 1981 Camaro. He started competing in the Sprint Cup Series in 1998, filling in for Bill Elliot in the Winston Cup Series at Dover, where he finished in 6th place. His career has included a number of highlights and he has driven for various teams through the years. In September 2012 it was announced that Kenseth would be competing in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as part of the Joe Gibbs Racing Team, driving the #20 Toyota. He started the 2015 season by winning the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, ahead of Martin Truex, Jr. and Carl Edwards in second and third places respectively.
Eight races into the 2015 season, currently Kevin Harvick is in the #1 spot in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, followed by (in order) Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Aric Almirola.
Joey Logano raced to victory in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, securing his spot in the eight-driver Eliminator round of NASCAR’s new Chase for the Sprint Cup format, irrespective of his performance in the next two races – the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway – the latter being one of four Sprint Cup races run with restrictor plates. The other three races run with restrictor plates are Aaron’s 499 (won in 2014 by Denny Hamlin), the Coke Zero 400 (won in 2014 by Aric Almirola), and the Daytona 500 (won in 2014 by Dale Earnhardt, Jr.).
Kevin Harvick started in pole position in Sunday’s race, finishing in 12th position. Starting in 4th position in the Team Penske #22 Ford, Joey Logano held the lead in 122 laps of the 267 lap race, notching up his 5th win of the season. Kyle Larson took 2nd place, followed by Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Carl Edwards in that order. Three of Sunday’s top five winners are in the Chase, being Logano, Busch and Edwards.
The Eliminator round begins October 26 at Martinsville Speedway with the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, followed by the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, and Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 9. Drivers start this three-race round with 4,000 points each.
As has been tradition since 2002, the final race of the season will be the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race forms part of the Ford Championship Weekend, featuring the Ford EcoBoost 300 and Ford EcoBoost 200. Taking place on November 16, the last four competing drivers start the Ford EcoBoost 400 with 5,000 points each. The highest finisher in the race wins the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Car Champion title.
Team Penske is leading the pack in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup, with Brad Keselowki on 2097 points and Joey Logano on 2096. Logano took the checkered flag in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, with his #22 Ford leading 73 laps, including the final 30 laps, of the race. Teammate Keselowski came in at seventh place on Sunday, nonetheless retaining the top spot in the standings. Kyle Larson took second place in the Sylvania 300, with Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson in third, fourth and fifth place respectively. The upcoming AAA400 at Dover International Speedway on September 28 will decide which four of the sixteen Chase drivers will be eliminated.
As his fourth victory of the season (and seventh in his career), Logano enters into the second elimination round in the new NASCAR format. Observers note that taking four tires on Lap 247 may have given Logano an edge, but after restarting 16th on Lap 251, he sped past Harvick and Keselowski on the Lap 274 restart to take the lead. In a post-race interview Logano noted that New Hampshire is his home race track and “the coolest place to win for me”.
Sunday’s race at New Hampshire featured 15 caution flags, and quite a number of drivers battled with mechanical failures and other issues. Having led 32 laps, Denny Hamlin’s #11 Toyota experienced a fueling problem which knocked him back four laps, and his efforts were further hampered when he was caught up in a multicar wreck on the 181st lap.
When the race ended, five Chase contenders were outside the top 20 – Kasey Kahne (23rd), Denny Hamlin (37th), Matt Kenseth (21st), Kurt Busch (36th) and Jeff Gordon (26th) – but remain in the running. Aric Almirola bounced back from his setback with engine failure at Chicagoland Speedway last week to finish in sixth place, keeping his Chase contender status.
Starting the race from pole position in the Team Penske #2 Ford at Richmond International Raceway on Sunday, Brad Keselowski held onto the lead for all but 17 of the 400 laps of the Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 and crossed the finish line in first place, to claim his fourth win of the season and put him in the number one spot in the Sprint Cup Standings. As the last race for drivers to qualify for the Chase on the new win-and-in rules, fans were no doubt expecting a lot more action, but there appeared to be no serious challenger for Keselowski and the race ended with Jeff Gordon in second place, followed by Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick in third, fourth and fifth places respectively.
As the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Keselowski needed a strong finish at Richmond in order to make the Chase field. As it turned out he finished in 17th place and missed out on the opportunity to defend his title. This time around he is in a good position to reclaim the title. In a post-race interview Keselowski noted that when he pulled into Victory Lane, he had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, going on to say that “These are nights you don’t forget as a driver and you live for.” Describing the 2013 season as a “bit of a kick in the butt”, Keselowski concedes that it did motivate the Penske Team to “find another level”.
The race was fairly incident free apart from the fact that, with 71 laps of the race remaining, an apparently inebriated fan climbed to the top of the catch fence between the track and the grandstand resulting in a caution while he was removed. Most of the field used the caution as an opportunity for a pit stop, with Keselowski remaining ahead of the pack back into the race.
The Chase for the Sprint Cup standings are:
1. Brad Keselowski #2 – Ford
2. Jeff Gordon #24 – Chevrolet
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – #88 Chevrolet
4. Jimmie Johnson – #48 Chevrolet
5. Joey Logano – #22 Ford
6. Kevin Harvick – #4 Chevrolet
7. Carl Edwards – #99 Ford
8. Kyle Busch – #18 Toyota
9. Denny Hamlin – #11 Toyota
10. Kurt Busch – #41 Chevrolet
11. Kasey Kahne – #5 Chevrolet
12. Aric Almirola – #43 Ford
13. AJ Allmendinger – #47 Chevrolet
14. Matt Kenseth – #20 Toyota
15. Greg Biffle – #16 Ford
16. Ryan Newman – #31 Chevrolet
Joey Logano notched up his third win of the season and his first at Bristol Motor Speedway, when he took the checkered flag in the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday. Following a late restart and with 45 laps to go, Logano took the lead from Matt Kenseth and held off teammate Brad Keselowski to win the race. Having finished in the top six in five consecutive races, Logano is firmly in the picture for the Chase for the Sprint Cup which starts on September 14 with the MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Keselowski took second place in the Irwin Tools Night Race, with Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Kurt Busch taking third, fourth and fifth spots respectively.
In a post-race interview Logano was quoted as saying that the past six or seven races have been unbelievable and running up front has “been so much fun”. While acknowledging that he really wanted the victory, Keselowski note that a “Penske 1-2 is something to be proud of.”
There were two big crashes in the Irwin Tools Night Race, fortunately with no injuries. The first crash, between Brian Vickers and Aric Almirola, collected Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch, but the second crash is the one getting a lot of media attention as it raises the issue of how drivers should handle accidents. On lap 161 Kevin Harvick connected Denny Hamlin, sending him across the track to slam into the inside wall. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also became a casualty of the collision as he tried, and failed, to avoid Hamlin’s spinning car. When Hamlin got out of his car, he threw his HANS device at Harvick as the race continued. Although Hamlin remained in his car until safety crews arrived and was on the apron when he threw the device, it remains to be seen whether he will face a penalty for his action, particularly as on track safety and driver accountability remains under the spotlight following the altercation between Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr. which led to Ward’s death.
With 845 points, Jeff Gordon is currently in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in second place with 818 points, with Brad Keselowski (776 points), Joey Logano (761 points) and Matt Kenseth (751 points) in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.