Matt Kenseth claimed his third NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the season in Sunday’s Chase round at Kansas, despite early contact with the wall.

The Roush Fenway driver emerged up front from the final round of pitstops, which took place under the 13th of a record 14 cautions at the reconfigured track.

Kenseth made the outside lane work for him on the final two restarts and was able to pull away, first from Hendrick’s Kasey Kahne and then from Michael Waltrip Racing’s Martin Truex Jr, his closest pursuer on the final run to the flag.

The 2003 Cup champion finished with a damaged right-side after hitting the wall at the exit of Turn 2 on lap 172 while trying to avoid a spinning Aric Almirola. The Cuban-American had been a leading contender before hitting the wall twice due to left-front tyre issues on his Richard Petty Motorsports Ford.

“I thought it was over when I got in the fence when Aric wrecked [while running] under Mark [Martin],” said Kenseth.

“I was watching them and trying to make sure I didn’t hit them and I flat-sided it pretty bad. It ended up working in our favour. They fixed the body as good as it was when we started and we had to take less gas in that last pitstop and this pit crew put me out front.”

The new track surface, which kept changing grip levels throughout the weekend, caught out many of the strong contenders including five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who led 44 laps before losing control of his car on lap 137, shortly after an ill-timed pitstop just before a yellow dropped him back.

The Hendrick driver was eventually able to recover after his crew worked miracles to repair the #48 Chevrolet’s battered rear. Johnson finished ninth, right behind Chase leader Brad Keselowski, who was not among the day’s strong contenders but still kept his seven-point lead in the championship.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin battled to a 13th-place finish, having lost a lap when he pitted just before the yellow for Almirola.

Hamlin also needed an extra fuel stop late on, but the final caution allowed him to make up some ground in the closing stages.

Kahne and MWR’s Clint Bowyer gained in the Chase by finishing ahead of the championship leaders, taking fourth and sixth at the flag.

Ahead of them Paul Menard was best of the non-Chasers in third, while Tony Stewart split them in fifth, recovering from a spin 100 laps from the end and earlier contact with Jeff Burton.

Greg Biffle was another Chase contender in trouble, hitting the wall hard on lap 176 following a solid run.

Danica Patrick retired from the race after a clash with BK Racing’s Landon Cassill. The Stewart-Haas racer came off worst while trying to retaliate against him for an earlier incident.

Regan Smith, filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr in what is expected to be his final outing in the #88 car, finished a strong seventh ahead of the championship leader.

Phoenix Racing’s AJ Allmendinger had a promising run on his second outing since his return and was sixth in the order when a blown tyre put him in the wall on lap 72.


Max Jean Stefan Johansson Eddie Johnson Leslie Johnson