Matt Kenseth and Joe Gibbs Racing put a stamp on their domination of NASCAR’s regular season Saturday with an impressive victory in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
It was the fourth victory of the season for JGR’s Kenseth, who takes the No. 2 seed into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which will begin Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. JGR drivers have won nine of the past 15 Cup races.
Kenseth finished ahead of teammate and runner-up Kyle Busch, who will be the No. 3 seed in the Chase behind Jimmie Johnson. Pole-winner Joey Logano finished third.
Kenseth led 352 of 400 laps in a race that had just six cautions.
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Aric Almirola, needing a victory to make the Chase, finished fourth. He was in position to challenge Kenseth late in the race when he was third on a restart. But he couldn’t hang with Kenseth, Busch or Logano over the final 18 laps.
Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota was at its best over the long runs. So after he led for 56 laps early, the tone was set. He also led the final 103 laps.
Three who mattered
Matt Kenseth: Won for the fourth time this season, goes into the Chase as the No. 2 seed.
Jimmie Johnson: One of three drivers with four victories but is top seed ahead of Kyle Busch and Kenseth entering Chase, thanks to his three second-place finishes.
Aric Almirola: Had a chance at winning on final restart but ended up fourth in the race and 17th in the standings – 17 points out of the 16th and final spot.
▪ Michael McDowell had an awkward moment when his No. 95 Ford hit a safety truck during a caution lap. He would be summoned postrace to the NASCAR hauler along with his spotter and crew chief Wally Rogers, presumably for a stern talking-to.
▪ Denny Hamlin tore the ACL in his right knee earlier in the week playing basketball. He finished sixth.
▪ Jeffrey Earnhardt – nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and grandson of the late Dale Earnhardt – finished 40th in his first Cup start.
They said it
“Certainly, now, as a company, we’re on a roll.” – Kenseth on the success of Joe Gibbs Racing this season.
When/Where: Sunday. 3 p.m., Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet, Ill.
TV: NBC Sports Network.
Radio: Motor Racing Network.