BROOKLYN, Mich. — Matt Kenseth played “Catch Me If You Can,” and no one could on Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.
Kenseth admitted he may have never had a more dominating performance and such a commanding race car. There was absolutely no argument from the other 42 competitors who spent most of the race competing for second place, eventually captured by Kevin Harvick.
“It’s been a great week, we’ve had a great couple of months, we definitely got some momentum built and the guys gave us a rocket today, but they’ve given us rockets for the last couple of months and we’re just going to work hard to keep it going,” Kenseth explained.
It was the fifth victory in the last six races for Joe Gibbs racing, which also includes drivers Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards.
Kenseth, in gaining his third win at MIS in 33 career starts and his 34th career Sprint Cup triumph, led for 146 of the 200 total laps. The next top lap leader was Austin Dillon with 19.
Harvick crossed the finish line 1.722 seconds behind Kenseth but with Kenseth steadily pulling away following a yellow caution period with 12 laps remaining. Harvick had handling issues and ran out of fuel with 88 laps remaining but fought back and retained his first place points advantage, leading Joey Logano by 48
“The No. 20 (Kenseth) was the class of the field today,” Harvick admitted. “We didn’t lose a lap with all of those problems and were able to have a good enough handling car to drive back up through there and everything was good. I didn’t have anything for the No. 20, but for everything that we overcame, it was still a good day.”
It seemed restarts were Kenseth’s most prolific competition.
The last came because of a spinout by Jimmie Johnson with 16 laps left. When the green flag waved three laps later Kenseth and Harvick started side by side on the front row, but Kenseth quickly gained the advantage and slowly pulled away.
Asked if that was the most tense restart of the eight that were offered following caution periods that didn’t offer any serious contact between drivers, Kenseth said no.
“Denny (Hamlin) did a great job of pushing me from the restart zone on that last restart, but turn two was like a superspeedway race. Those Chevys were really locked up, but Denny gave me a good enough push to get by.
“Honestly, the toughest restart was with the No. 3 (Austin Dillon, who finished fourth). We went back and forth a few times and made some contact up there. It was tough to get away from him. It was just pretty tough.”
That shootout came on lap 141 following a spinout by Brad Keselowski in Turn 4. Kenseth and Dillon were lined up side-by-side on the restart and Dillon gained a quick advantage. He was then passed by Kenseth, regained the lead and then was passed again by Kenseth, who finally pulled away. All of that on the same lap.
“He (Kenseth) was pretty solid,” Dillon said. “I got the lead twice on him. It would have been hard to keep out in front of him. He had a really strong car.”