Two weeks ago Matt Kenseth was the surprise winner at Pocono as the leaders ran out of fuel on the final lap. Sunday Kenseth was the driver to beat as he led a race high 146 of the 200 laps to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. No one had anything for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver as Kenseth cruised to his 34th career win. Here’s how it all went down Sunday at Michigan.
Kenseth led the field to the green from his first career pole at Michigan but David Ragan spun entering turn 1 has the field exited turn 2 bringing the first caution of the day out. Kenseth had taken the lead while Jimmie Johnson slid into second, Denny Hamlin was third, Joey Logano fourth.
The green came back out on lap 6. Kenseth was able to break away to a clear lead, Johnson went to second, Hamlin third, as Carl Edwards fought Logano for fourth. By lap 10, Kenseth was just starting to stretch his lead out when caution two came out for debris on the backstretch. The debris was from the 98 of Timmy Hill who had delayed the start of the race after laying down oil; an oil drain pan was left under the car when he returned to the track and popped out on the backstretch.
Green flew again on lap 13. Kenseth got pushed by Logano and shot to the lead; Logano drifted back but took over second, Johnson was third, Clint Bowyer fourth, Hamlin fifth. By lap 17, Martin Truex Jr. and Hamlin were dueling for fifth; by lap 18, Truex took the spot.
NASCAR had announced a competition caution in pre-race and caution three came out on lap 21 erasing a two-second lead for Kenseth. The field came in for the first stops of the day with the exception of Austin Dillon who had pitted for tires during the previous caution.
Logano won the race off pit road ahead of Kenseth; both had taken two tires. Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up behind having taken fuel only. Dillon led when the green flew on lap 25. Kenseth tried to take the lead with a push from Logano but Dillon on the outside went to the front. Behind him, it was three wide for second; Kenseth fell into second, as Earnhardt took third on lap 26, Bowyer was fourth, Keselowski was fifth.
Dillon’s lead was 1.6 seconds over Kenseth by lap 31. He pitted form the lead on lap 41 for fuel handing the lead to Kenseth. Kenseth’s lead over second place Earnhardt was just over 6 seconds.
Johnson lost a right rear tire on lap 48 and slowed on the backstretch, he was forced to pit. Johnson was back out in 42nd two laps down. By lap 50, Kenseth’s lead was just over seven seconds. After starting at the back of the field, Kyle Busch was 14th.
Edwards pitted from sixth on lap 57 starting a round of green flag stops. Truex and Harvick followed a lap later. Kenseth pitted from the lead on lap 60 followed by Earnhardt and Logano. When the stops cycled through Dillon was back in the lead; Kenseth was able to get back by him on lap 64; Earnhardt was third, but 10 seconds behind the lead two. By lap 69, Kenseth had a three second lead over Dillon.
Caution four came out on lap 72 for debris. The caution was a big break for Dillon who was needing fuel; he pitted along with Earnhardt. The rest of the lead group stayed out. Dillon took four tires and fuel and Earnhardt took fuel only. Harvick also came in for two tires and fuel. Earnhardt restarted ninth, Dillon 14th and Harvick 10th.
The green came out on lap 77. Kenseth was first, Bowyer second, Truex third, Kurt Busch fourth and Kyle Busch fifth. Kenseth was able to return to the lead, Bowyer was second, Truex third, Kyle Busch was fourth, Logano was fifth. Truex took over second on lap 82. Harvick took over fifth on lap 85. By lap 90 Kenseth’s lead was 3 seconds as Kyle Busch had moved into third; Harvick went to third on lap 93, Bowyer had fallen to fifth.
Kurt Busch pitted on lap 99 starting a round of green flag stops; Kenseth pitted from the lead just behind as did Truex; Logano pitted on lap 101; Kyle Busch followed a lap later. Having pitted off sequence Harvick had the lead as the stops cycled though, Edwards was second, Dillon third, Keselowski fourth and Kyle Larson fifth. All had pitted off sequence and were sitting up for green flag stops. Larson pitted on lap 113. Harvick ran out of fuel and slowed on lap 114, Dillon pitted just behind. During the stops, Johnson over shot his pits. Harvick rejoined the field in 15th. On track Kenseth was back in the lead, Truex was second, Kyle Busch third.
Caution five came out on lap 121 for debris in turn 1. The leaders all came in for stops. The top three took two tires and fuel; Kenseth was out first, Truex second and Hamlin came out third; Logano came out fourth and Harvick fifth haven taken fuel only.
Edwards and Dillon stayed out and took over the top two spots. Kenseth was third, followed by Truex Logano and Hamlin.
The green came back out on lap 126: Edwards spun his tires and fell back and Kenseth rocketed to the lead. Behind them Bowyer spun exiting turn 2 hitting first the outside wall then the inside wall, he was able to continue but caution six came out. Bowyer had heavy damage and the crew furiously worked to repair the damage on pit lane. The crew was finally forced to take the Toyota to the garage.
Green came out on lap 130. Kenseth went to the lead as Edwards made it three wide for second with Dillon and Hamlin. At the end of the lap, Edwards was second, Dillon third Hamlin fourth and Harvick fifth.
Tony Stewart who had been struggling all day went for a solo spin exiting turn 4 on lap 136 and caution number seven flew. Stewart hit nothing and was able to continue. Keselowski and Kyle Busch were among the few who pitted. The top eight stayed out.
The green came out on lap 142. A lap prior to the green Edwards slowed with an electrical problem; he got it re-fired but fell back to 12th. Dillon was able to take the lead on the inside with a push from Harvick. By the end of the lap, Kenseth had caught and retook the lead from Dillon on the outside. Dillon stayed close and by lap 144 the two were side by side for the lead. Harvick lurked in third. By lap 145, Kenseth was finally able move ahead for sole possession of the lead. Edwards had rocketed back up to fourth by lap 151 as Kenseth had stretched his lead out to 1.4 seconds. Truex had moved to fourth by lap 156 as Edwards settled into fifth reporting that his Toyota seemed down on horsepower. By lap 160, Kenseth had a three second lead over Dillon.
Truex, Harvick and Edwards came in for green flag stops on lap 162. Dillon and Logano followed a lap later; Kenseth came in on lap 165. On track Kyle Busch was shown as the leader, Keselowski was second. Keselowski pitted on lap 173, Kyle Busch a lap later. When the stops finally cycled through on lap 175, Kenseth was back in the lead by 3.7 seconds, Harvick was second, Truex was third, Hamlin was fourth and Dillon fifth. Kyle Busch was reporting a possible tire issues on lap 181.
Johnson spun on lap 183 exiting turn 3, hit the grass and suffered front-end damage 183 bringing out caution number 8. Johnson came to rest at the entrance to pit road he crawled to his pit box and the crew went to work. Only Earnhardt and Logano pitted.
Kenseth was leading, Harvick was second, Hamlin third and Truex fourth when the green flew on lap 188. Kenseth was able to clear Harvick on the outside as Hamlin fell into third, Truex fourth, Dillon fifth. Dillon and Hamlin were fighting for fourth with 10 to go, Dillon won the fight and took the spot. With seven laps to go, Kenseth’s lead was less than a second. With five to go Kenseth was stretching his lead out to just over a second. A lap later, the lead was 1.4 seconds. There was no drama in the closing stages as Kenseth finished off his dominate day by scoring his third of the season and his third at Michigan.
Harvick was second, Truex was third, Dillon finished a career best fourth and Hamlin was fifth. Logano was seventh, Ryan Newman eighth, Keselowski ninth and Earnhardt Jr. tenth. The full results can be found here. Harvick continues to lead the points followed by Logano, Earnhardt, Truex and Keselowski. The NASCAR Sprint Cup series head s to Bristol Motor Speedway for Saturday nights Irwin Tools Night race with live coverage on the NBC Sports Network at 7:30 p.m. ET.