Race Report: Kentucky
Joe Gibbs Racing secured two top-five finishes tonight with Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth finishing second and fourth respectively in tonight’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Denny Hamlin was running third and hopeful of joining his teammates in the top five but a blown right front tire early in the race sent him hard into the wall and left him back in 42nd.
Busch qualified his No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in the 18th position and was quick through the opening green flag run gaining eight positions and moving into the top ten over the first 28 laps before the day’s first caution came out. He would continue his climb to the front on the next run and was running sixth by lap 60 and entered the top five for the first time just a few laps later. The M&Ms team would do a great job on pit road under caution on lap 78 allowing Busch to restart third on lap 81. He would take over the second position on lap 114. Busch ran third at the halfway point and lined up in the same spot for a restart on lap 161. He would fight loose handling conditions on the next run but still managed to hold a spot in the top five and was running fourth at lap 200. He would come down pit road on lap 214 when a caution came out while he was on pit road. Great work by the M&Ms pit crew got Busch off pit road before the leaders reached the line which allowed him to restart as the leader on lap 220. He would continue to hold the lead for 31 laps before giving way to the 2 car. He would go on to finish second.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in 14th and was able to hold that position through the opening run before the night’s first caution on lap 29. He would climb into the top ten following the opening round of pit stops and was running 10th on lap 50 and eighth on lap 75. He would restart seventh on lap 84. He was running sixth on lap 120 when he came on the radio to report a right front tire going down. Kenseth was able to keep the car on the track and make it down pit road to change his right side tires. The unscheduled stop would put the 20 car a lap behind and when a caution came out just a few laps later Kenseth would take the wave around to get back on the lead lap. He would have to restart at the back of the lead lap cars in 26th on lap 132. He would battle tight conditions on the ensuing run and was running 25th when the next caution came out on lap 154. Kenseth would restart 24th on lap 161 and gained two spots to run 22nd with 100 to go. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would make the call to remain out on the track allowing him to restart ninth on lap 182 and he was running eighth at lap 200. A caution on lap 214 would bring the Dollar General Camry back down pit road and the pit crew delivered gaining several spots and allowing him to restart fifth on lap 220. He would continue to run in the fifth position and passed the 4 car with six laps to go to earn an impressive fourth-place run.
Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota in the fourth position and moved into third over the course of the opening laps, but a blown right front tire sent him hard into the outside wall on lap 29 ending his night early. It was a disappointing finish for Hamlin and the No. 11 team who had a proven fast car all weekend and was just a couple laps away from would have been a competition caution following an afternoon rain storm that washed all the rubber from the track. The car would be beyond repair and Hamlin was scored in 42nd.
Brad Keselowski won the race followed by Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Kenseth, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 34 laps and 12 lead changes among three different drivers.