Race Report: Kansas

Joe Gibbs Racing had a strong showing in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 from Kansas Speedway, but it would end with frustration, when Matt Kenseth was hit from behind while leading with just three laps remaining. Kenseth would be left to finish back in 14th, while his three teammates all earned top ten finishes. Denny Hamlin would lead JGR with a second-place finish, while Kyle Busch was fifth and Carl Edwards eighth.

This was the second race of the Contender Round of 12 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. The current field of 12 will be reduced to just eight following next week’s race at Talladega. Today’s finish leaves Hamlin as the leader in points behind Joey Logano, who won both of the races to open this round of the Chase and thus is the only driver entering Talladega assured of advancing into the round of eight. Hamlin is 18 points in front of the ninth place, while Edwards is currently fourth in the point standings and 12 points in front of ninth. Busch is in the ninth position, but just six points out of eighth.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in the fifth position but dropped back to run eighth prior to the first round of pit stops. He would restart ninth on lap 39 and fell back outside the top ten on the ensuing green flag run. The handling of his FedEx Camry would need adjustments and the No. 11 team would take the time to make those during the second round of stops. Hamlin would drop back to run just inside the top 20. However the adjustments appeared to work as he began to drive back toward the front of the field. He was back inside the top ten by the halfway point and battled there the remainder of the race. Hamlin would re-enter the top five and a great pit stop put him on the second row for a restart on lap 248. He would line up second for a green-white-checkered restart but was unable to get past the 22 car over the final two laps and settled for a strong second-place run.

Kyle Busch started the No. 18 M&M’S Halloween Toyota in the third position and dropped back to run seventh prior to the first caution of the race. He would restart eighth on lap 39. Busch would drop outside the top ten on the next green flag run, but crew chief Adam Stevens would make the call for the necessary adjustments to help the M&M’S Camry turn better in the corners. He would re-enter the top ten by lap 90 and remained in the top ten the remainder of the afternoon. Busch would manage to drive his way to a fifth-place finish.

Carl Edwards started the No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota in the second position but fell back to run fifth prior to the first caution of the afternoon. He would restart third on lap 39 following the first round of pit stops. The No. 19 Camry would struggle to find the proper handling on the difficult mile and a half track in Kansas and Edwards would find himself outside the top ten. He would continue to battle however and managed to work his way back toward the front. He would manage to lead twice on the afternoon during rounds of green flag pit stops and patiently worked his way back toward the top ten. Edwards would go on to earn an eighth-place finish.

Matt Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota from the 11th position but quickly advanced into the top ten. He would enter the top five for a lap 39 restart following the first round of pit stops. He would hold steady inside the top five for the rest of the afternoon. In fact, Kenseth dominated much of the race, taking his first lead of the afternoon on lap 72. He would lead a race-high seven times for 153 total laps. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would bring the Dollar General Camry down pit road for a final time following a lap 244 caution and he would restart second behind the 48, who made the call to remain out on the track. Kenseth immediately took the lead once again on the restart and was working hard to hold off the 22 car of Logano. Unfortunately as the two approached lapped traffic with three laps remaining, the 22 made contact with the left rear corner of the No. 20 and sent Kenseth spinning down the track. He would bring the car down pit road for four fresh tires, but had to restart 15th. Despite a strong performance throughout the afternoon he would go on to finish 14th.

Joey Logano captured the win, followed by Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch rounded out the top five. There were seven cautions for a total of 39 laps and 21 lead changes among nine different drivers. The race was extended two laps for a green-white-checkered finish.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series continues the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship next weekend in Talladega. NBCSN will provide live broadcast coverage of the race starting at 2:30 PM ET (race begins at 2:45 PM ET) on Sunday, October 25.