Persistent rain on Saturday resulted in the Quaker State 400 being postponed to Sunday, and drivers had to factor in that their cars that had been set up for night racing and would handle differently in Sunday’s daytime weather conditions, with its intermittent cloud cover and sunshine. The Kentucky Speedway stadium was packed with fans when the race started on Sunday, and on-track action provided plenty of excitement, with Matt Kenseth crossing the finish line in first place and claiming his fourth victory of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Teammate Denny Hamlin was not quite so fortunate and blew a right front tire – his second blowout in the race – on Lap 147, sending him into the outside wall near Turn 4’s exit. Having missed four Cup races due to a compression fracture of his first lumbar vertebra from a similar wreck in late March this year, Hamlin was no doubt relieved to find that his back was unaffected by this wreck.
Other incidents during Sunday’s race included Kurt Busch hitting a large bump in the asphalt with his No. 78 Chevrolet, knocking Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford into the path of other contestants near the start/finish line. The resulting multicar crash included Greg Biffle, Travis Kvapil and Dave Blaney. While not directly blaming Busch for the accident, Keselowski reportedly commented that everyone is aware of this bump in the asphalt and Busch should not have gone there.
The top ten finishers at the Quaker State 400 on June 30, in order, are Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick. The top ten in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, in order, are Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Greg Biffle and Joey Logano.
Breaking his 30-race dry spell at Dover on Sunday, Tony Stewart later revealed that as the owner of his team it did cross his mind that pushing for a win might wreck his car, leaving him with repairs to pay for. But with a couple of laps left in the FedEx 400, when crew chief Steve Addington reportedly told him to ‘use it up’, he passed Juan Pablo Montoya to cross the finish line in first place. While it was generally expected among fans that Jimmie Johnson would continue his winning streak, he notched up a penalty for prematurely pulling ahead of Montoya off a restart with just 19 laps to go. Johnson was moved to the back of the field and finished the race 17th. Third place was taken by Jeff Gordon, with Kyle Busch in fourth and Brad Keselowski in fifth.
Johnson voiced his displeasure at the penalty, explaining that he had tried to give the position back to Montoya after the restart, and ran half-throttle for the first half a lap before pushing ahead. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president disagrees with Johnson, saying that the penalty was ‘a very easy call’. Up until the penalty it appeared that Johnson had a good chance of taking the victory at the so-called ‘Monster Mile’, despite the fact that he had started 24th and had some difficulty moving up in the field initially. An early pit-stop by Johnson on Lap 71 allowed him to regain lost time before the caution for debris in Lap 80 and after that he moved up rapidly in the field and was in sixth place by the time a caution for debris was called in Lap 160. A seventh caution was called when Denny Hamlin’s tire blew on Lap 382 and Montoya took two tires before beating Johnson to the pit road exit, with Johnson passing the start/finish line ahead of Montoya and collecting the race-changing penalty. While emphasizing that he disagreed with the call, Johnson noted that his team will ‘just come back and try to win in the fall’.