He didn't leave Dover International Speedway with his first victory of the year, but Matt Kenseth did capture the Sprint Cup points lead after a third-place finish Sunday. The result, accompanied with Jeff Gordon's 12th-place effort, jumped Kenseth ahead of Gordon by two points at the halfway point of the regular season.
For the majority of the afternoon Kenseth enjoyed a fairly uneventful day, running consistently in the top 10.
His day, though, took a turn when late contact with Clint Bowyer caused Kenseth to hit the wall resulting in what he thought was significant damage. The incident occurred on a restart with four laps remaining with Kenseth lined up fourth and Bowyer sixth, and began when Kenseth spun his tires.
Jimmie Johnson back to form
Surgery and a lack of offseason testing contributed to Jimmie Johnson’s slow start to 2014, but in a likely precursor of things to come, he blitzed the competition in winning Sunday at Dover.
"I did an awful job on that last restart," Kenseth said. "Just got spinning the tires too much.
"I was still trying to get it going — I think I was still spinning tires in fourth gear — when Clint hit me. I guess he was trying to give me a push there and just destroyed our car. I think I destroyed it. I was glad to still finish after that."
Bowyer explained he had a run and was trying to help Kenseth get going when he tapped him from behind. The two talked on pit road after the race and neither side showed any hard feelings.
That wasn't Bowyer's first encounter with a Joe Gibbs Racing on Sunday. Earlier he played a prominent role in a wreck that knocked out Kyle Busch, as the two made contact off Turn 4. Bowyer continued with repairable damage, while Busch, who led the first 81 laps, finished 42nd.
Bowyer accepted blame for his role, as did his spotter, Brett Griffin, who cleared Bowyer before he had in fact cleared Busch.
"That deal with Kyle, I felt horrible," Bowyer said. "It's just kind of the way our year is going. You try to stay out of trouble — I mean it's a team effort. (Griffin) told me I was clear, and I wasn't."
Sprint Cup standings
|5||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||429||1|
|25||Martin Truex Jr.||289||0|
|26||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||261||0|