Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; Hollywood Casino 400
TRACK: Kansas Superspeedway
DRIVER: Matt Kenseth
CAR: No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Toyota Camry
POINTS POSITION: 3,005 total points for the season: 11th in the Playoffs driver point standings following the race
NASCAR ‘s 2017 Playoffs traveled to Kansas Speedway for the third and final race in the Round of 12 competition where four drivers would be eliminated from the title hunt on Sunday night. Kenseth showed great speed in his DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry and earned the third starting position for Sunday’s race during Friday’s qualifying session. Teams started to vary pit strategies starting with the first caution of the race, but Kenseth and his team fought hard on track and on pit road to keep the No. 20 in contention. Unfortunately, Kenseth was caught up in a late-race caution on lap 198 that ended the team’s afternoon despite such a promising run up until that point.
Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 took the green at 2:18 p.m. CST as the No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry started from third. Due to rain showers in the area overnight, NASCAR called for a competition caution following lap 30 in order to allow teams to check the tire wear. Kenseth settled in to running fourth on the opening run until the competition caution came. Kenseth’s only feedback early in the race was that the DEWALT Camry was a “little bit loose,” so crew chief Jason Ratcliff made the call for four tires and fuel on the team’s first stop of the day.
Kenseth restarted back in fourth, but shortly after the restart, a caution came at lap 47. This time under the yellow flag, Kenseth reported that the DEWALT Camry “started off tight and dragged the splitter a bit” as well at the start. Once again, Ratcliff called for four tires and fuel while several teams opted to try varying pit strategies since they knew that the Stage 1 caution would be coming following lap 80. Six cars lined up ahead of Kenseth who all opted to stay out under the caution while a few chose to take two tires.
The DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry lined up in 10th for the restart, but Kenseth was stuck in a four-wide situation that found him shuffled back into 15th shortly after the restart. As the race approached the end of Stage 1, a caution came out on lap 77 due to the No. 42 car and it ended the stage under yellow. Kenseth told his team that the No. 20 machine continued to be a little tight in the center and off the corners but it wasn’t anything that he was overly concerned about at the time. Under the caution, the No. 20 pit crew had a lightning-fast four-tire stop that gained Kenseth five spots exiting pit road.
Kenseth lined up in fourth for the start of Stage 2 as the race returned to green to begin lap 87. Over the following run, Kenseth told the team that the DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry was starting to lose grip and got a little looser off as the run went on. Ratcliff called his driver down pit road on lap 127 for a four-tire stop as the team started a round of green-flag pit stops. Stage 2 came to an end following lap 160 with Kenseth running in fourth at the time.
Stage 3 began with Kenseth in second as the No. 20 fought to maintain positioning within the top three at the time. A caution on lap 188 once again found teams shuffling pit strategies, but Ratcliff stuck with the team’s plan to pit for four tires and fuel. Kenseth lined up in 15th for the restart to begin lap 193, but on lap 198, the No. 77 spun and set off a multi-car wreck on the backstretch that collected Kenseth.
Kenseth immediately hit pit road for fresh tires and to allow his team the chance to assess the damage before the red flag was displayed. Unfortunately, Kenseth was docked with a penalty from NASCAR officials who said that the team had too many crew members over the wall for repairs since they were under the damage repair clock. The penalty resulted in an automatic DNF for the team forcing them to end their day on track prematurely.