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Kenseth survives to win crash-prone Kansas

With no further interruptions, Kenseth was able to cruise home. He pointed out that he did have his own near-miss along the way, and the #17 was certainly carrying substantial damage from an earlier incident in the race.

"I thought it was over when I got in the fence when Aric wrecked under Mark," he admitted. "I was watching them and trying to make sure I didn't hit them and I flat sided it pretty bad.

"It ended up working in our favour. They fixed the body as good as it was when we started and we had to take less gas in that last pit stop and this pit crew put me out front," he said. His crew chief Jimmy Fennig had been reassuring over the team radio: "He didn't say it but he was probably thinking I should stop whining about it. He said it was fine. I knew I hit it really hard but thought it was centred up in the door real good."

Good enough to find victory lane with ease, that's for sure. Martin Truex had to settle for second place, over a second ahead of Menard who just managed to hold off Kasey Kahne to the finish, followed by Tony Stewart (despite that spin and a start from 33rd place), Clint Bowyer and Regan Smith. Keselowski's miracle avoidance of that multi-car wreck on lap 182 meant he brought the #2 home in a solid if unspectacular eighth place ahead of Johnson, who had transformed a near-disaster into a perfectly decent ninth place ahead of team mate Jeff Gordon who rounded out the top ten.

"I'm ready to go home and have a couple beers," admitted Keselowski afterwards. "It's just been a long day. Everybody has been asking all season long where the cautions have been. Well, they flew to Kansas and they've been hanging out here, because there was caution after caution, and it seemed like every wreck that happened today happened right in front of me.

"I'm glad to survive the carnage and brought back a decent car, the Miller Lite Dodge, in okay shape and dodged a bullet. That's the only way that I can describe it. Whew! Just a tough day."

That means that despite all the mayhem in the race, Kansas' impact on the Chase standings is relatively minor. Keselowski still holds a 7pt lead over the Johnson after that great escape for the #48, with Denny Hamlin in third 20pts off the lead followed by Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne. After that, it's looking increasingly unlikely that the rest of the field could possibly recover more than 40pts to have any realistic shot at the lead.

The biggest loser in the Chase standings this week. His 27th place finish in the classification sees him tumble five spots from sixth to 11th place: mid-fielders Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth all shuffle up a spot as a result, with Kenseth's win adding another spot as he leapfrogs Kevin Harvick but remains in ninth place, 55pts off Keselowski.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is at the bottom of the Chase after missing two races with a diagnosis of concussion. His team owner Rick Hendrick said at Kansas on Sunday that he fully expected Earnhardt to be back in the #88 car for next weekend's event at Martinsville, subject to some time in the car at the start of the week and further tests and checks to be conducted by neurologist Dr Jerry Petty. If all's well, Earnhardt should be signed off to return to work by mid-week.

Full race results, Saturday practice times and Sprint Cup Championship standings are available.




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