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Kenseth survives to win crash-prone Kansas

The new-look Kansas Speedway proved a tough beast for the Sprint Cup drivers to get to grips with on Sunday, with Matt Kenseth holding on best to win the Hollywood Casino 400.
After claiming pole position for Sunday afternoon's Hollywood Casino 400 at the newly repaved and reconfigured Kansas Speedway, Kasey Kahne had dubbed the new-look 1.5-mile tri-oval "stupid fast" as every single qualifier on Friday broke the previous existing track lap record. His verdict was endorsed by the subsequent Nationwide Series race, which saw a record number of cautions for an assortment of spins and incidents during the Saturday afternoon event.

The warning was clear: the new surface and the addition of increased and variable banking on the track was making it a handful, especially in race trim. Anything could happen: and over the course of the three and a half hour Cup race, pretty much everything did before Matt Kenseth emerged as the fastest of the survivors and duly claimed the chequered flag for Roush Fenway and Ford, just weeks before he exits the squad at the end of the season.

Kahne led the field to the green flag alongside Mark Martin, but it was Martin who claimed the initial lead while Kahne was also quickly dispatched by Richard Petty Motorsport's Aric Almirola, who was on the pace early. Almirola now only blew past Kahne for second in turn 1 on lap 3, he went on to catch Martin and claimed the veteran's scalp for the outright lead on lap 7.

Almirola pulled out a lead of almost five seconds before the first caution of the day on lap 32, which was for debris from Casey Mears hitting the wall. That allowed the leaders to take a reasonably civilised pit stop under the caution, and when the green came out again it was Almirola leading Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin to the line. There was a frantic four-wide battle for position at the green flag which saw Martin fly up the track and then Kyle Busch spin out of turn 4 on lap 41 to trigger the second caution of the day.

Almirola still had point ahead of Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Kahne and Greg Biffle, and the #43 was still the fastest thing on the track as it effortlessly cleared to resume his run out on front. The former driver of the car - AJ Allmendinger, today back for his sophomore outing in the Phoenix Racing #51 at Kansas - was also looking mighty fast and was up to sixth place by the time the next caution came out on lap 71. Unfortunately for Allmendinger, he was the cause of the caution - his great early run ended in a wreck in turns 3 and 4 after a tyre blew out on him. Worse, he'd felt it coming and had been just seconds from pitting.

"It was getting tight the last couple of laps, but I just thought that was how the race track was going," he explained afterwards. "I had that for the first run. Then I went in turn one, and felt it get really tight. I actually radioed in and said 'I'm pitting this lap'.

"I tried to checkup down the back straightaway and try to save it and make sure it didn't blow. Unfortunately it did. I just feel bad for everybody at Phoenix Racing," he added. "The car was really fast. We were running so well. I thought we could have an easy top-10, if not a top-five. Just so disappointed."

Allmendinger only got the #51 ride at short-notice when Regan Smith was called up by Hendrick Motorsports to sub for the absent Dale Earnhardt Jr. for two races. With Earnhardt due to return to action next weekend, it's unclear who will be behind the wheel of the Phoenix car at Martinsville - Allmendinger, or Smith?

"I love this sport, and I hope I'm back next week," said Allmendinger. "These guys work so hard. This small group of guys, they've been through so much this year. They work their butts off. I really enjoyed it. I hope I'm in the car next week."




Related Pictures

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Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, and Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron`s Dream Machine Toyota, lead the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 21, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Halloween Toyota, spins out after an incident in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 21, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
Aric Almirola looks over the wrecked #43 Farmland Ford on track after an incident in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 21, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
Crew members look over the wrecked #18 M&M`s Halloween Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on October 21, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo Credit: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose for a photo prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet, wins the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 19, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

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