Matt Kenseth earned his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) victory of the season on Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway.
The victory was Kenseth’s second consecutive NSCS win at Kansas and 26th career Sprint Cup victory.
Kenseth started from the pole and led a race-high 163 laps (of 267) en route to his second victory in a Camry after joining Joe Gibbs Racing at the beginning of the season.
The win marks the fourth of 2013 for Toyota and the second consecutive win from the pole for the manufacturer (Kyle Busch, Texas).
Toyota drivers Martin Truex Jr. (fourth), Clint Bowyer (fifth) and Mark Martin (ninth) also earned top-10 results at the 1.5-mile oval.
Other Camry drivers in the field included Bobby Labonte (24th), David Reutimann (28th), Brian Vickers (31st), David Stremme (32nd), Travis Kvapil (36th), Busch (38th), Elliott Sadler (40th) and Mike Bliss (41st).
Three Camry drivers are in the top-12 in the unofficial point standings — Busch (seventh), Kenseth (eighth) and Bowyer (ninth).
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Tools Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Finishing Position: 1st
How were you able to hold off Kasey Kahne in the closing laps? “It’s funny, we had a big time softball game last week and we were talking about it a little bit. He’s (Kasey Kahne) finished second to us a couple times. Man, I really thought he had me and our car started getting loose into (turn) three and I got really loose getting into three with about five (laps) to go. I actually did it twice in a row and thought we were going to get beat. Thanks a lot to Jason Ratcliff (crew chief) and everybody at Toyota — big power. JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), Sprint, Husky Tools, Dollar General, Gatorade, Citizen Watches and GameStop and Reser’s — we’ve got great partners over here. This is a dream come true to drive this stuff. It’s just awesome.”
How special is a win when you don’t know when your next will come? “You really don’t — standing here right now you don’t know if or when you’ll ever win again. Our cars have been so incredibly fast all year and we don’t have all the finishes to show for it, but I’m so thankful to have another win and hopefully that will get us up there a little bit in the points. I knew the first time I talked to these guys (Joe Gibbs Racing), I really started to feel it — these guys really are contenders. They’re an awesome race team and I’m glad to be with them.”
How strong was the race car? “This is such a fast race car obviously — be on the pole and really a dominant race team. This stuff runs so good and I took off there running and we were pretty good. At the beginning of the race I found myself not lazy, but not looking around a lot because we were leading so I really looked around. Chris (Osbourne, spotter) helped me out a lot spotting and did a wonderful job. Found some grip out there and got going, but with about 15 (laps) to go my car turned loose and especially into turn three. Almost lost it two or three times and gave up probably a second a lap to him (Kasey Kahne). I was afraid he was going to get me — one more lap and he probably would have.”
Were there many adjustments made to the car during the race? “It was really pretty good all day. We made some small adjustments I believe, but it was kind of like musical chairs — you had to be out front when the music stopped and I knew if we could be somewhere towards the front when you had that last caution and that last pit stop then we’d have a shot at it. Once we got back behind about fifth then it was hard for us to go forward. Our car was really fast in clean air — it was reasonable in dirty air, but it wasn’t quite good enough to catch all them guys and pass them. Thankfully, had a couple really crazy good restarts for some reason and made up some ground and that got us back in position.”
How strong is this team? “We’ve been incredibly strong. It is kind of cliché, but I really feel like I’m living a dream — this is a dream come true. This stuff — every single track, we were a little off at California, but other than that we had cars I thought that if all the stars would have aligned then we could have won the race. We’ve been incredibly fast and I’m just so thankful to be wheeling them and glad we could hold on.”
JASON RATCLIFF, crew chief, No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Tools Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is the strategy to close on Jimmie Johnson’s point lead? “Well, right now for us it’s just getting to next week. It’s getting to Richmond, it’s getting to Talladega and doing the best we can to continue the progress that we’ve been making so far. I still feel like we have — yeah, we’re running well, and yes, we’re winning races and doing the things we need to do, but I feel like we have a lot of room to grow as far as our race car. I feel like there’s still a lot of speed to find to be a contender in the Chase, and I feel like the adjustments we make from not necessarily from practice to the race but throughout the race, these races are long. You can be fast for 300 miles and let the thing get away from you at the end. That’s what makes them so difficult. So we have a lot of room to grow, which is good, considering as well as we’re doing now. So we’re looking forward to it, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing | Finishing Position: 4th
Did the team need these two top-five finishes? “We do and the guys on this NAPA team did such a good job this weekend. Everybody at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) and the 15 (Clint Bowyer) was fifth too so it was a good day for us as a whole. Happy with that. We fought the car all day long — had to go to the back once for a pit road penalty and fight our way through there. All in all, I’m very happy with fourth place. Got a lot of questions this week about being second and how I seemed so disappointed and all that. Of course I was — circumstances. Today is the complete opposite. Very happy and excited about a fourth-place finish. It just depends on circumstances. It was a great day, we overcame a lot and the guys did a great job bouncing back after that pit road problem we had and we had a great race car. Just needed a little bit. These newer paved tracks, we’re off just a little bit, but looking forward to going to Richmond next week.”
Why was turn two so treacherous? “I think a lot of it is the wind. I was so loose going into turn three all day with that wind. I tried everything and the only thing I could do was creep in there nice and straight to the white line. Otherwise, it would just try to spin out. I think some of it was the wind and I think a lot of it is just that it’s a lot warmer today than it was all weekend in practice and I think it just caught a lot of us off guard.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing | Finishing Position: 5th
What do you take away from this race? “Just momentum. We needed a turnaround after last week. Certainly you want to win it at home, but a good top-five finish is a great way to get things bounced back with our 5-hour ENERGY Toyota. Proud of (Brian) Pattie (crew chief) – we weren’t very good in practice. The guys dug deep and leaned on all their tools and got us better. It looked like a wild race right there at the end — wish we had been a part of it. Nonetheless, it’s exciting to see good racing here.”
How slick was the race track? “This track is slick, it’s treacherous. You have to stay in track position. I was proud of (Brian) Pattie (crew chief), his strategy and the way he called the race was great. Kept us up front for the most part. All those restarts were crazy. It got pretty wild there for me. I slipped up and got loose in and about got into (Greg) Biffle and ruined our day. All in all, top- five finish at home for our 5-hour ENERGY Toyota — I will take it and go on.”
Do you put extra effort into trying to win at Kansas? “You want to run well here. Not that you don’t want to run well everywhere, but you dig deep here and give it everything you’ve got because you want to win here. Our day will come. If we keep knocking down top-fives at your home track, eventually you’re going to knock into the victory lane there. Happy all three MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) cars are in the top-10 — another Toyota in victory lane. It’s a good day, not a great day for us. Obviously, a great day is winning, but I’ll take it.”
How treacherous was the race track? “It was slick, especially on them restarts. It’s just a product of these repaves. This race track, these hard tires — you’ve got your hands full. I’m telling you, a couple times I about got turned around and I know a lot of people did. It’s just the nature of the beast. You have to hold on, you have to be patient, you’ve got to be conscious of what’s going on, what you’re up against and you have to play defense, but you have to play offense too and that’s where you get yourself in trouble. Sometimes playing defense when you’re car is not as good on those restarts and get yourself in trouble and sometimes when your car is better than another guy and you can be a little too offensive and get yourself in trouble too.”
MARK MARTIN, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing | Finishing Position: 9th
How was the race? “Rodney (Childers, crew chief) just did a great job on the pit box adjusting the car. We missed it pretty good but our best run of the day was the last run of the day. That’s the way you do it. I’m really proud of the guys and how hard they fought. We’ve got a little work to do to get a little better.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Finishing Position: 38th
What happened that took you out of the race? “Spun twice on our own. Just don’t know what to do with Kansas.”
Is there a lack of grip on the surface? “Yeah, absolutely no grip for me anyways. But, you know, you’re running third and doing fine, car a little tight and you spin out. I don’t know what to do with that and then we’re back in traffic all day. Traffic is way worse. Just trying to get back up to the front and making some gains, but car just snaps out from you every corner.”
ELLIOTT SADLER, No. 81 ALERT Energy Gum Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Finishing Position: 40th
What happened that took you out of the race? “We just got a little loose getting into turn three. The car was kind of darting around a little bit and I was just kind fighting the steering of it some. Just came around on me too quick — just ended a lot shorter than I wanted to. Need to thank all the guys for their hard work and ALERT for coming on board. Not the day that they wanted to have here today.”
Did the wind impact the accident? “I don’t think the wind had any effect on what we were doing. We are going to dissect it and see what changes we made and things we can do to better prepare ourselves for the next race.”