KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The fast, smooth new surface at Kansas Speedway had the potential to wreak havoc on NASCAR's Chase for the Championship.
The recent repave cluttered Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 with a record 14 cautions, a season high in the Sprint Cup series, and contributed to issues that affected at least four title contenders. But the standings looked much the same after Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag in a battered Ford.
Kenseth managed to drive it to his second victory in three races, and Chase leader Brad Keselowski dodged accident after accident to hang on to his seven-point lead over Jimmie Johnson with four races left. Kenseth is ninth, 55 points out.
"I was thinking, 'Man, this has to be entertaining for everybody to watch,' " Kenseth said. "There was a lot of wild stuff happening."
The longest green-flag run was 35 laps. Some cautions were caused by tire problems, others were for single-car spins, including Chase drivers Johnson, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle. "Everybody has been asking all season long where the cautions have been," Keselowski said. "Well, they flew to Kansas, and they've been hanging out here, because there was caution after caution."
Johnson was luckier than most who had mishaps. He had pitted from the lead and was back in traffic when a caution came out, and he spun by himself after the restart. He, too, hit the wall, but crew chief Chad Knaus called him to pit road instead of conceding laps in the garage.
Knaus gave the team orders as Johnson stopped at least a half-dozen times over two cautions.
"There's nothing wrong with that thing. Nothing," Knaus told Johnson over the radio after his fourth trip to the pits. Team owner Rick Hendrick said, "I have never in my 30 years of racing seen anyone perform that kind of surgery and not lose a lap."
Johnson salvaged a ninth-place finish and after inspecting his car said: "I'm impressed that they fixed it as they did. All things considered, without my mistake, I think we had a shot to win."
It was still good enough to keep the Chase margin unchanged with Keselowski, who finished a spot ahead in eighth. "I'm glad to have survived the carnage and brought back a decent car," he said. "Whew! Just a tough day."
Part-time Cup driver Danica Patrick took exception to Landon Cassill hitting her from behind.
"At some point in time, I have to stand up for myself or everybody is going to do it," said Patrick, who nudged him after he passed. Both cars spun, but Cassill saved his while Patrick slammed into the wall. Cassill offered this opinion over the radio: "Rule No. 1 in stock car racing is learn how to wreck someone without wrecking yourself."
Junior's return: Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has missed the past two Cup races, has been headache-free for more than a week and has shown no lingering issues from sustaining two concussions in six weeks, Hendrick, his team owner, said. Earnhardt was scheduled to drive today, and if everything goes well on the track and during a doctor visit Tuesday, he could be cleared to return Oct. 28 at Martinsville Speedway, Hendrick said, supporting what Earnhardt's sister said last week.
EAST BAY RACEWAY: Keith Nosbisch won the Late Model feature late Saturday in Gibsonton.