Kenseth turns back Kahne in Kansas

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In a near-carbon copy of what occurred last month at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, pole sitter Matt Kenseth managed to hold off Kasey Kahne in the final laps to win the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway this afternoon.

Like in Vegas, Kahne steadily cut into Kenseth’s edge but ran out of time, with the latter notching his second victory of the season. Kenseth also made a bit of NASCAR history with his Kansas win, as three straight Sprint Cup events have been won from the pole — a feat that hadn’t been accomplished since 1985, when Bill Elliott won at Michigan International Speedway, Dale Earnhardt won at Bristol Motor Speedway, and Elliott won again at Darlington Raceway.

For Kenseth, clean air made all the difference for himself and his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

“We made some small adjustments I believe, but it was kind of like musical chairs — you had to be out front when the music stopped and I knew if we could be somewhere towards the front when you had that last caution and that last pit stop, then we’d have a shot at it,” Kenseth said.

“…Our car was really fast in clean air — it was reasonable in dirty air, but it wasn’t quite good enough to catch all them guys and pass them. Thankfully, we had a couple really crazy good restarts for some reason and made up some ground and that got us back in position.”

Kahne charged from 27th at the start to earn his fourth Top-5 finish of 2013.

“We tightened up a little bit on that final run and putting two [tires] on, and zero, I knew we were going to be a little loose, but didn’t think it would be quite that bad,” he said. “Matt was fast and I just did everything I could, and he would go to those spots and I couldn’t make any ground.”

Jimmie Johnson passed Martin Truex Jr. for third late in the race, and managed to stretch his lead in the Cup championship to 37 points with his result. Clint Bowyer was unable to deliver a win for his fellow Kansans, but managed to come away with a nice fifth-place finish. Defending series champion Brad Keselowski took heavy damage to the rear end of his car and had its rear bumper cover fly off during the race, but was still able to finish sixth.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.