Kyle Busch led Joe Gibbs Racing with a third-place finish in today’s first race of the second round of The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Meanwhile teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth finished seventh and 13th respectively in this afternoon’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota in seventh position and maintained a position just inside the top ten through the early going of this afternoon’s race. He would pit following a lap-71 caution and his M&Ms crew would gain him two spots to restart eighth on lap 75. Busch was hit with a speeding penalty while exiting pit road on lap 123 and the pass through penalty would leave him back in 22nd for a restart on lap 127. He would patiently gain ground on the leaders and was running 18th on lap 131. Busch continued to gain ground and was running 11th with just over 100 laps remaining. He would line up eighth for a restart with 73 laps remaining following a four-tire stop and managed to gain two spots to run sixth. He would take over the fifth position with 46 laps to go. A great two-tire stop following a lap 228 caution would give Busch the second position on the restart with 33 to go. Busch would drop two spots before another caution quickly followed. This time Busch would take advantage of restarting on the outside with 28 to go and jumped into the second position. He took the checkered flag in third to earn his first ever top-five finish in Kansas.
Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota from 25th position and was patient early in the race while battling a loose handling car. He was running 22nd on lap 53 following the first round of green flag pit stops but the adjustments appeared to help the car turn better and Hamlin was able to drive his way into the top 20 and ran 15th on lap 71. He would restart 13th on lap 75. He would enter the top 10 and lined up eighth for a restart on lap 127. Hamlin would report smoke coming from the dash shortly after the restart but turning off the fans appeared to alleviate the problem and he managed to keep the FedEx Camry just outside the top 10. He would return to the top ten and was running seventh shortly after a restart with 100 laps to go. He would line up 12th following a four-tire stop with 73 laps remaining. Hamlin would drop two spots on the restart when the outside line couldn’t get going and he settled in to race in 14th. He would slowly work his way toward the top ten again and was running 11th with 50 to go and re-entered the top 10 on lap 224. A caution on lap 228 would bring the leaders down pit road and a great two-tire stop would place him third for the restart with 33 to go. Hamlin would get stuck on the bottom line however and dropped back to seventh before another caution. He would hold his position through the next restart and ran seventh to the finish.
Kenseth started his No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the 27th position but was able to patiently race his way inside the top 20. He was racing 20th on lap 25 and following a round of green flag pit stops Kenseth cycled through in 13th on lap 53. He would line up 12th for restart on lap 75. The field would get bunched up in front of Kenseth on the restart and the No. 20 Camry would make contact with a car in front of him causing a small crack just above the headlight on the right side of the car. Kenseth would ride it out and held the 13th position at the 100-lap mark. However as the green flag run continued the crack became larger causing handling issues to his Dollar General Camry and Kenseth would drop back to run 18th. A caution would allow him to come down pit road on lap 123. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff would call for an extended pit stop to give the Dollar General crew ample time to make the necessary repairs. Kenseth would restart 19th on lap 127. The No. 20 Camry was back up to 13th following a restart with just over 100 laps to go. Following a four-tire pit stop he would line up in 11th for a restart with 73 laps remaining and managed to work his way up to run eighth as the race went past lap 200. With just over 50 laps to go Kenseth would radio in that he felt he might have a tire going down and he came down pit road from the 10th position with 47 laps remaining. The Dollar General team was hoping the race would remain green so he could cycle back in after the other leaders made their final stop, but unfortunately a caution would come out on lap 228. That forced Kenseth to take the wave around to get back on the lead lap and he would restart 22nd on lap 234. He would gain two spots before another caution followed and Ratcliff made the call to bring the Dollar General back down pit road for four fresh tires. He would restart 20th with 28 to go and was up to 15th just eight laps later. Kenseth would gain two more spots over the final laps to finish 13th.
Joey Logano won the race followed by Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex, Jr. and Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. There were eight cautions for a total of 34 laps and 25 lead changes among nine different drivers.
The point standings reset prior to today’s race. After round one it is Busch holding down the second position in the standings, while Hamlin is currently fifth and Kenseth seventh. There are two more races before the field is narrowed again to the Eliminator 8 round following the race at Talladega Superspeedway. Logano automatically advances courtesy of today’s win. Ultimately a final Championship 4 will race for the Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
It will be a homecoming of sorts next weekend, when the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship returns to Charlotte and Charlotte Motor Speedway for the second race of the Contender round under the new Chase format. Live coverage from Charlotte will begin on ABC Saturday, October 11 at 7 PM ET (race begins at 7:30 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.