Pit strategy pays off for Kenseth
On Sunday, intermittent clouds and sunshine replaced the persistent rain that had forced postponement of the 17th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season from Saturday night to noon the next day — and radically changed the handling characteristics of cars that had been set up for a night race and impounded since qualifying on Friday.
“I thought in my head we had about a five percent chance of winning, if something didn’t happen to the 48,” Kenseth said. “But, if we would have got two tires and came out behind the 48, unless he broke, I thought we had almost a zero percent chance of winning.
Runner-up Jamie McMurray was closing on Kenseth in the final laps but ran out of time. Clint Bowyer ran third, followed by Joey Logano and Kyle Busch. Johnson, the series leader, rallied to finish ninth and extended his standings lead to 38 points over Carl Edwards.
“I had no idea what had happened to him or what I possibly could have done to upset him,” Kenseth said. “When we got ready for the restart, we were on the top (outside lane), and we were the leader, so anywhere in that (restart) box we can start the race.
The impact recalled the wreck in late March that had caused a compression fracture of Hamlin’s first lumbar vertebra and forced him to the sidelines for four Cup races.
“My back feels good — really good, I’d say,” Hamlin asserted after leaving the care center. “It feels the same as it did this morning. Really, that was the least of the concerns after this hit.”
One circuit after a restart on Lap 47, Kurt Busch knocked the No. 2 Ford of reigning Cup champion and defending race winner Brad Keselowski across the track and into harm’s way. Busch turned his No. 78 Chevrolet down to the apron near the start/finish line, hit a large bump in the asphalt and shot back up the track into Keselowski’s car.
Keselowski agreed the contact was unintentional but questioned Busch’s judgment in running on the apron in the first place.
If the Keselowski crash was violent, the incident that preceded it was simply bizarre. After a restart on Lap 36 — following a competition caution called on Lap 31 — Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota sailed toward the outside wall with a right front tire down.
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