The fast new surface and a hard tire contributed to Sunday’s race-record 14 cautions, a season high for the Sprint Cup Series.
“You know, everybody has been asking all season long where the cautions have been,” points leader Brad Keselowski said. “Well, they flew to Kansas and they’ve been hanging out here because there was caution after caution.”
Nobody was immune from the problems, either, as at least five title contenders had issues.
Jimmie Johnson led 44 laps early, but crashed hard after spinning by himself. He had to stop at least a half-dozen times on pit road for repairs over two caution periods to salvage a ninth-place finish.
“I have never in my 30 years of racing seen anyone perform that kind of surgery and not lose a lap,” team owner Rick Hendrick said about the No. 48 team’s work on the car.
It was good enough to keep the Chase margin unchanged with Keselowski, who finished one spot ahead in eighth and maintained his seven-point lead in the standings with four races remaining.
“I’m glad to have survived the carnage and brought back a decent car,” Keselowski said. “Whew! Just a tough day.”
Martin Truex Jr. finished second, Paul Menard was third in the first race back for crew chief Slugger Labbe, who served a six-race suspension for an infraction at Michigan.
Kasey Kahne finished fourth and was followed by Tony Stewart, who overcame both a spin during the race and a pit road penalty for leaving his stall with equipment still attached to his car.
Clint Bowyer, from nearby Emporia and the winner last week at Charlotte, finished sixth to maintain fourth in the Chase standings. He trimmed his deficit by three points to 25 behind Keselowski.
Regan Smith, in his second race filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., was seventh. Earnhardt is expected to be cleared to return to the No. 88 Chevrolet next week at Martinsville after sitting out two races because of two concussions in a six-week span.
Keselowski, Johnson and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top 10. Denny Hamlin was 13th to remain third in the standings, but he lost five points and now is down 20 to Keselowski.
For Kenseth, it was his second win in three weeks, but not enough to put him back in the title picture. Although he gained two spots in the standings, he’s still ninth in the Chase and 55 points out.