By AMANDA VINCENT
Matt Kenseth put on a dominating performance Saturday night, leading all but 48 laps in the 400-lap Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway en route to his fourth win of the season.
“I was disappointed to see that last caution (that came with 25 laps to go). I knew it was going to be tough, but we were able to get the jump and get out front,” Kenseth said. “Thanks to all the guys behind me. They had the pit stops we needed. They held serve everyt ime and kept us out front.”
The Richmond race was the ninth-straight won by either Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske, with JGR contributing seven of those wins.
“Certainly, right now as a company, we’re on a roll,” Kenseth said. “They’ve given me some fast cars here the last couple of months.”
Kyle Busch made it a Joe Gibbs Racing one-two finish by taking runner-up honors. Joey Logano finished third, Aric Almirola was fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five.
For Almirola, the top-five finish was too little, too late. As he fell shy of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup that begins Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
“It is tough,” Almirola said. “This is what we race for. We race to win races. We race to run for a championship. This race team, we got to do it last year and we had an engine failure at Chicago and feel like we had a lot more to show in the Chase last year. We wanted another shot at it really bad. We have a really, really good race team and am disappointed we didn’t get Smithfield and Ford into the Chase again.”
Claiming the five remaining Chase spots behind the 11 race winners were Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard.
All McMurray had to do to make the Chase was start the race, which he did from the 31st spot. After racing inside the top-five for several laps around the halfway point of the race, McMurray wound up 13th at the finish.
Gordon and Bowyer both finished inside the top-10, with Gordon finishing sixth and Bowyer 10th. Newman finished 20th, and Menard was 26th.
Logano was the only non-Joe Gibbs Racing driver to lead laps Saturday night, running up front for 25 laps.
“It was a really great run for us tonight,” Logano said. “I though we were decent in practice, but didn’t think we would be that good. We weren’t in the beginning part of the race, but then as we kept going, I felt like we got our Shell Pennzoil Ford faster and Todd (Gordon, crew chief) made great adjustments.”
Kenseth’s JGR teammates Busch and Denny Hamlin, racing with an injured right knee, also led laps. Busch ran up front for nine laps, while Hamlin contributed 14 laps led to the JGR cause.
Hamlin wound up finishing sixth, while fellow Chasers Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson finished eighth and ninth.
The yellow flag waved six times, with four of those cautions being debris cautions. The only two yellow flags for on-track incidents came on lap 38 for Reed Sorenson and Martin Truex Jr. and on lap 111 for Michael Annett.
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