In a race that featured no shortage of crumpled fenders and a track-record 15 cautions, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson both escaped Kansas Speedway unscathed while distancing themselves further in the Sprint Cup Series standings.
The Hollywood Casino 400 was far from uneventful for either driver, however.
Kenseth struggled to find a grip on the recently repaved 1.5-mile track, even referring to his car as "evil." On more than one occasion, he appeared to be on the verge of losing control completely. Kenseth wasn't able to repeat his April victory at Kansas, but he did persevere to finish 11th. His lead over Johnson was trimmed to three points, however, with six Chase races still remaining.
When considering the alternative, Kenseth was happy with the outcome.
"Even when we were in front, it was a struggle," Kenseth said. "I've been so incredibly spoiled this year -- I haven't had to drive a car like that in a long time. It was just incredibly treacherous and I was just so loose I was ready to crash pretty much at all times of the race."
Kenseth still holding the points lead is attributed to numerous issues that hampered Johnson Sunday, including being trapped in the pits when a caution fell during a routine green-flag pit stop and, like Kenseth, a car that was precariously close to crashing at times.
Johnson's biggest problem, however, was an engine that he thought was "blowing up" with two laps remaining in the race. He was able to limp to the finish line, though, and lost just one spot due to the mechanical gremlins.
"What a day!" Johnson said. "We had so many things happen to us and still salvaged a very strong sixth-place finish. I feel kind of bummed out that we left some points on the table, but at the same time I'm happy I made it to the finish line under power and I got a nice finish."
Kenseth and Johnson were able to leave Kansas with their respective championship hopes still intact, but the same can't be said for Kyle Busch.
Busch's weekend to forget began Saturday when, minutes into practice, he wrecked his primary car. That necessitated a switch to his backup and, per NASCAR rules, required him to fall back to the rear of the grid Sunday.
It just got worse from there, beginning with a single-car incident on Lap 188 that saw Busch spin in front of the field. He was able to escape without damage, but was not so lucky 13 laps later.
That was when Busch made contact with Brian Vickers and Carl Edwards, culminating with him pounding the Turn 2 wall and sustaining significant damage. Busch finished 34th, dropped from third in the standings and 12 points behind Kenseth to fifth place and now 35 points out of first.
"We'll just try to get back in it," Busch said. "Try to work hard and see what falls our way and if it doesn't happen -- it doesn't happen."
With his third victory of the year, Kevin Harvick moved up a spot in the standings to third overall, trimming 14 points off the margin between himself and Kenseth. Jeff Gordon, who finished third, is ranked fourth.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Standings
|8||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2129||-54||0|
|16||Martin Truex Jr.||806||-1377||1|