Garry Jones Associated Press Eventual winner Matt Kenseth (20) gets a push from Clint Bowyer on the next-to-last restart of the Quaker State 400 in Sparta, Ky., on Sunday.

Pit gamble pays off for Kenseth

Published: Monday, Jul. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Monday, Jul. 1, 2013 - 6:30 am

SPARTA, Ky. – Matt Kenseth has raced long enough to know that rough starts can still be followed by good outcomes.

Especially when his crew chief takes chances.

Case in point was Kenseth's fuel-only pit-stop gamble that helped him beat Jimmie Johnson late to win the rescheduled Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Kentucky Speedway.

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," Kenseth said. "(Ratcliff) made the right call at the right time and (we) got it done."

Kenseth led twice for 38 laps, including the final 23. Johnson, the five-time series champion and this year's series points leader, finished ninth and leads Carl Edwards by 38 points.

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.

Second was Jamie McMurray in a Chevrolet, followed by Clint Bowyer (Toyota), Joey Logano (Ford) and Kyle Busch (Toyota).

Bowyer remained third in points and gave Michael Waltrip Racing its second straight top-two run following teammate Martin Truex Jr.'s road win last week in Sonoma.

Rain Saturday night forced NASCAR officials to postpone the race to a daytime start. The event was red-flagged for 18 minutes following a seven-car wreck involving defending race and Sprint Cup winner Brad Keselowski, who returned to finish 33rd.

NHRA in Joliet, Ill. – Tony Schumacher's engine exploded in a fireball as he crossed the finish line to win the Route 66 NHRA Nationals.

A seven-time season champion, Schumacher 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.

Matt Hagan extended his Funny Car series lead with his third win of the season, edging John Force at the finish line. Jeg Coughlin topped the Pro Stock field, and Michael Ray won in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Formula One in Silverstone, England – Nico Rosberg won the British Grand Prix after four drivers, including early leader Lewis Hamilton, had to deal with exploding tires and three-time champion Sebastian Vettel quit with 10 laps remaining because of mechanical problems.

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