Jason Ratcliff, crew chief for Matt Kenseth's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Sprint Cup Series Toyota, made a no tire pit call on a late caution that gave him the lead over Jimmie Johnson for a restart with 21 laps to go. When Johnson spun in Turn 1 Kenseth then drove to victory in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway for his fourth win of 2013 and 28th of his career.
Johnson, who was the dominant driver of the race and led 182 of the 267 laps, stormed back through the field over the final 17 laps to finish in ninth but was left with more frustration over NASCAR restarts. He was starting second inside of Kenseth on the restart with 21 laps left and thought that Kenseth brought the field to the green too slow. Kenseth though was the leader and on replays seemed to do nothing wrong. Johnson got loose in Turn 1 with Joey Loagno just below him and other cars on his outside and went spinning to bring out the tenth caution of the race.
Johnson's restart mistake let Ratcliff's pit call turn into victory for Kenseth who then held off a late charge from Jamie McMurray to win.
"It's great to have the four wins so hopefully we keep it rolling, man it's been a lot of fun," Kenseth said in victory lane.
Kenseth's four wins are the most of any driver in the first 17 races of the 2013 season and even though he is fifth in points is solid going into the Chase.
The race was pushed back to a noon start time on Sunday due to rain which washed out the planned Saturday night race. Dale Earnhardt Jr was on his first pole of the year but it was Carl Edwards who jumped to the early lead making the pass on Earnhardt exiting Turn 2 on the opening lap.
At lap 30 the competition caution came out due to the rain and a track that had the rubber washed off of it. Edwards was leading over Earnhardt, Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch. Exiting the pits and after two tire stops the running order was Earnhardt, Johnson, Edwards, Juan Montoya, and Kyle Busch for the lap 36 restart. Denny Hamlin had a right-front tire go down as he went high in Turn 3 and slowed.
The second caution then came out on lap 38 when Hamlin's tire carcass came off and rolled right into the path of Dale Earnhardt Jr in the race lead. He hit it and then Jimmie Johnson hit it as well. Damage was done to the front of both cars but the most to Earnhardt's splitter. Both drivers stayed out on track though to keep track position.
The race restarted on lap 43 when Kyle Busch lost control and spun off of Turn 2 with a loose racecar and Jeff Gordon below him. That brought the third caution out and Johnson was scored the leader at the time.
The race went back green on lap 47 and Dale Earnhardt Jr started to feel the effects of his damage as he dropped from second to sixth. The fourth caution then came out on lap 48 for the biggest crash of the day.
Kurt Busch tired to make a pass on Brad Keselowski using the apron in the front stretch. When he came back on the track he clipped the rear of Keselowski sending the driver of the No. 2 Ford spinning sideways and out-of-control into Turn 1. He went up the track and right into the path of oncoming traffic. That is where Greg Biffle, Travis Kvapil, Dave Blaney, and Paul Menard all slammed into Keselowski. The red flag came out stopping all the cars on lap 49 while crews cleaned up the mess left.
Dale Earnhardt Jr came down pit road this time to see if his crew could fix the damage on his car which was never as fast the rest of the race. On the lap 52 restart Johnson pulled away from the field and by lap 75 held a good lead over Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, and Kasey Kahne.
A round of green flag stops started on lap 83 with Marcos Ambrose, lap 87 Edwards, Kahne, and Gordon, and lap 88 Kevin Harvick. That is when the fifth caution flew for debris from David Gilliland's flat right-rear tire. Harvick, Kahne, Edwards, Montoya, Gordon, Ambrose, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, and Martin Truex Jr were forced to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap. They restarted from 16th on back.
Meanwhile Jimmie Johnson kept the lead after pit stops and led for the lap 95 restart over Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, and Ryan Newman. Kenseth and Busch got good restarts and left Johnson back in third. But on lap 97 Johnson had moved back to second past Kyle Busch.
The sixth caution would come out on lap 108 when Matt Kenseth hit a piece of debris that was on the track. No damage was done to the No. 20 Toyota. Nine drivers stayed out the first of which was Johnson. Kenseth meanwhile dropped to 12th for the restart on lap 113.
Johnson pulled away and on lap 145 was leading over Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, and Jamie McMurray. On lap 147 Jeff Gordon started a round of green flag stops but the seventh caution flew on lap 148 when Denny Hamlin blew a right-front tire in Turn 4 and hit the outside wall a ton while running in sixth. He would finish in 35th. Gordon meanwhile received the free pass and restarted from 25th on lap 155.
The eighth caution then came out on lap 196 for debris. Jimmie Johnson took two tires to hold the lead and Brian Vickers moved up to second with two tires while the rest of the cars took four. Johnson nevertheless pulled away on the lap 200 restart and by lap 215 held a 2.2 second lead over Joey Logano.
The ninth caution then flew on lap 241 when Brian Vickers blew a right-front tire while running eighth. He slammed the wall and finished in 31st. This was the pit stop where Jason Ratcliff made the no tire call that got Matt Kenseth the lead from Jimmie Johnson. Kasey Kahne meanwhile was caught speeding and had to restart from the back.
The race went green on lap 246 and Johnson was a little slow and had to block Joey Logano. When he entered Turn 1 he got sideways and spun out. Logano did a good job not to run into Johnson's spinning car but the tenth caution did come out. Johnson also kept his car off the inside wall and in one piece but had to pit for four new tires.
That set up a restart on lap 250 with 17 laps to go with Kenseth ahead of Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano. Kenseth got another good start and opened a big lead. On lap 264 Jamie McMurray, who looked to have the best car besides Johnson at the end, passed Bowyer to move into second but would run out of time in trying to catch Kenseth for the win. It was McMurray's first top five finish since August of 2011.
Bowyer finished third, Joey Logano fourth, Kyle Busch fifth, Kurt Busch sixth, Martin Truex Jr seventh, Jeff Gordon eighth, Jimmie Johnson ninth, and Kevin Harvick tenth. Kasey Kahne was 11th, Dale Earnhardt Jr 12th, Marcos Ambrose 13th, Ryan Newman 14th, Aric Almirola 15th, Juan Montoya 16th, Ricky Stenhouse Jr 17th, Casey Mears 18th, Jeff Burton 19th, Tony Stewart 20th, Carl Edwards 21st, AJ Allmendinger 22nd, Danica Patrick 23rd, Austin Dillon 24th, and David Stremme as the last lead lap car in 25th.
David Ragan was two laps down in 26th, David Reutimann 27th, David Gilliland 28th, Ken Schrader 29th, and Paul Menard was eight laps down in 30th after his damage from the Brad Keselowski crash. Brian Vickers was 31st, JJ Yley 32nd, Brad Keselowski 33rd, Greg Biffle 34th, Denny Hamlin 35th, Landon Cassill 36th, Joe Nemechek 37th, Michael McDowell 38th, Josh Wise 39th, Dave Blaney 40th, Mike Bliss 41st, Travis Kvapil 42nd, and Scott Riggs 43rd.
After 17 races Jimmie Johnson still holds the points lead and opened his gap to 38 points over Carl Edwards. Clint Bowyer is 41 points back in third. Kevin Harvick is fourth, Matt Kenseth fifth, Dale Earnhardt Jr sixth, Kyle Busch seventh, Martin Truex Jr eighth, Greg Biffle ninth, and Joey Logano has moved into tenth place and currently in the Chase. He is one point ahead of Kasey Kahne who is 11th and has the first wild card spot due to his one win. Tony Stewart is 16th in points but holds the second wild card because of his one win. Jeff Gordon is only two points out of tenth in the 12th position and Brad Keselowski is now out of the Chase and in 13th in points after his crash and 33rd place finish.
Next up is the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, July 6th.
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