Matt Kenseth’s fuel-only pit road gamble helped him beat Jimmie Johnson late and win Sunday’s rescheduled 400-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
A race that was Johnson’s to lose ultimately became Kenseth’s series-high fourth victory of the season — and third on a 1.5-mile track — after crew chief Jason Ratcliff passed on putting new tires on the No. 20 Toyota following the race’s ninth caution.
“I thought he was slightly crazy when that happened,” said Kenseth, who widened his lead when the field went four-wide after the restart on lap 246 and saw Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy spin from second place on a day he led three times for 182 of 267 laps.
“I didn’t think there was any way that we were going to hold on for that win. He made the right call at the right time and those guys got it done.”
Johnson, the five-time champion and series points leader, finished ninth and leads Carl Edwards by 38 points.
Kenseth led twice for 38 laps, including the final 23 in the No. 20 Toyota.
The restart bothered Johnson, who accused Kenseth of breaking the pace car speed. But Johnson took solace in salvaging his 11th top-10 finish despite between sandwiched in the logjam that could have been worse.
“We were kind of in an awkward situation in that restart there,” he said. “We were like three- and four-wide going in the corner, then something happened with the air and just kind of turned me around. Unfortunate, but at least we rallied back for a good finish.”
Second was Jamie McMurray, followed by Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.
Rain on Saturday forced NASCAR officials to postpone the race to Sunday.
The race’s biggest incident came on lap 49 when Kurt Busch spun out Brad Keselowski, triggering an accident that red-flagged the race. Greg Biffle of Vancouver, Wash., slammed into Keselowski, lifting his car off the asphalt and leaving both Fords mangled.
Somehow, both returned to finish 33rd and 34th, respectively.
Enumclaw’s Kasey Kahne finished 11th.
EXPLOSIVE WIN AT NHRA
Tony Schumacher’s engine exploded in a fireball as he crossed the finish line to win the Route 66 NHRA Nationals in Joliet, Ill.
Schumacher, the seven-time season champion, raced to his third victory of the season and the 72nd of his career. He finished in 3.930 seconds at 269.29 mph to hold off Clay Millican and regain the season points lead.
Other winners were Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock field) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Nico Rosberg won the British Grand Prix in Silverstone, England, after four Formula One drivers, including early leader Lewis Hamilton, were hit by tire blowouts and Sebastian Vettel retired while leading with 10 laps to go due to mechanical problems. … Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa won the Six Hours of The Glen for their second consecutive Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series victory in Watkins Glen, N.Y.