Ricky Stenhouse rallied from two laps down to win Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway and tighten the battle for the series championship.
During a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the race six laps beyond its scheduled distance of 200 laps, Stenhouse surged to the front in the final turn after Kyle Busch ran out of fuel.
Austin Dillon ran second, .288 seconds behind Stenhouse. Pole-sitter Joey Logano finished third, followed by Elliott Sadler and Cole Whitt, respectively.
In winning for the sixth time this season and the eighth time in his career, Stenhouse cut Sadler’s series lead from 13 points to six with three races left in the season.
To get to Victory Lane, Stenhouse had to survive a collision with Logano’s No. 18 Toyota — an incident team owner Jack Roush said was Stenhouse’s fault — just past the halfway point (watch).
“The guys did an awesome job getting the car back together, and we never gave up,” Stenhouse said. “Mike [Kelley, crew chief] made great calls and adjustments to fix how the car drove with the damage, and it was still one of the fastest cars out there.
“I didn’t see the win coming like this, but we will take it.”
Saturday’s event was the first NASCAR race on a track that was newly repaved and reconfigured with graduated banking, and there were some growing pains. The race produced a record 12 cautions for a total of 50 laps.
The championship battle took an ominous turn for Stenhouse, the defending series champion, just after the midpoint of the race. Stenhouse and Logano collided off Turn 2, damaging both cars, but both were able to continue.
Stenhouse was following Logano closely just before the contact.
“We had a lot of debris on the grille, and we were 300 [degrees] on water and oil, and I thought we would have to pit to come get that off before we blew up,” Stenhouse said. “I was trying to get behind him to get the debris off and he checked up at the last second and I turned and just drove right into the side of him. There wasn’t much he could do about it, and I thought it ruined our day, but we were able to bounce back from it.”
Stenhouse lost two laps during a green-flag pit stop but got them back on a wave-around before a Lap 142 restart and a free pass as the highest-scored lapped car under the 10th caution of the afternoon.
Back on the lead lap for a restart on Lap 167, Stenhouse had charged to 13th by the time Mike Bliss’ slide through the tri-oval caused the track-record-tying 11th caution. Stenhouse was two spots behind Sadler in fifth when first-time Nationwide starter Hal Martin and Scott Lagasse Jr. wrecked off Turn 2 on Lap 198.
Fearing they would run out of fuel in overtime, Sadler and Dillon both pitted for a splash of fuel under the 12th caution. Stenhouse restarted fourth and took the checkered flag when Busch ran out of fuel on the final lap.
So ended another disappointing day for Busch, still trying to win for the first time behind the wheel of the No. 54 Toyota he owns.
“That’s our year, man — nothing else to it than that,” said Busch, who rolled across the finish line in sixth place. “What a frustrating defeat.”
The race marked the first appearance for a Pakastani driver in a NASCAR event. Nur Ali finished 33rd in his NASCAR debut after slamming the Turn 3 wall on Lap 69.
Derek White, who wrecked in Turn 4 on Lap 138 to cause the ninth yellow, was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
Danica Patrick (10th) posted her third top-10 finish of the season, but she’ll remember this race for a spectacular three-wide pass of Sadler and Ryan Blaney for the sixth spot on Lap 171.
With Dillon’s second-place finish, Chevrolet clinched the manufacturers’ championship for the 15th time in series history.
1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2. Austin Dillon (R)
3. Joey Logano
4. Elliott Sadler
5. Cole Whitt (R)
6. Kyle Busch
7. Justin Allgaier
8. Michael Annett
9. Sam Hornish Jr.
10. Danica Patrick
11. Ryan Blaney
12. Joe Nemecheck
13. Mike Bliss
14. Danny Efland
15. Eric McClure
16. Paul Menard
17. Erik Darnell
18. Kenny Wallace
19. Joey Gase (R)
20. Jason Bowles (R)
1. Elliott Sadler
2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., -6
3. Austin Dillon (R), -26
4. Sam Hornish Jr., -98
5. Michael Annett, -150
6. Justin Allgaier, -162
7. Cole Whitt (R), -223
8. Mike Bliss, -316
9. Brian Scott, -378
10. Danica Patrick, -394
NASCAR Wire Service, photo courtesy of NASCARmedia.com
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