Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Matt Kenseth probably feels lucky that he’s still atop the standings after a bizarre Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
In addition to having to deal with a record 15 cautions, Kenseth also had to fight with an ill-handling No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and overcome a speeding penalty on pit road in order to claim an 11th-place finish.
As a result, Kenseth holds a three-point lead over Jimmie Johnson in the Chase; Johnson was able to finish sixth.
“It was a struggle all day – even when we were in front, it was a struggle. I’ve been so incredibly spoiled this year – I haven’t had to drive a car like that in a long time,” said Kenseth, who charged from 28th position off a restart with 35 laps to go in order to salvage his afternoon.
“Everybody was on the same tires – you can’t really blame that – but it was just incredibly treacherous and I was just so loose I was ready to crash pretty much at all times of the race, so [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] did a nice job with some strategy calls and I still lost all our track position, but good adjustments at the end.
“We drove back to 11th, which definitely isn’t what we wanted or what we need to contend for this thing, but it was a good save for as bad as we were.”
Going into Sunday, Kenseth had been struggling to cope with the second version of Goodyear’s “zone tread” tires, which were used this weekend as right-side tires in Kansas. Afterwards, the former Cup champion said that they were “obviously not the answer.”
“That’s the worst conditions I’ve raced in I don’t know how long – probably since they paved Charlotte probably and had that hard tire,” Kenseth said. “I’m sure [race winner] Kevin’s [Harvick] happy, but other than that, I think everybody kind of struggled with [the zone tire].”
Still, it could’ve been much worse for Kenseth, something he himself noted. Also helping the Wisconsin native was Johnson’s power failure with two laps to go, which forced him to basically coast for the remainder before he wound up sixth at the checkered flag.
That sequence likely helped Kenseth retain the points lead heading into Charlotte Motor Speedway next weekend.