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Kenseth ended up 24th after a tire issue fsometime over the final two laps of Sunday’s race. But he was third before the two-lap sprint to the finish, and could have affected the outcome of the race in a big way.
As Larson dove to the inside of Martin Truex Jr. he was barely — if at all — clear of Kenseth on the inside. Kenseth backed off early entering the corner and by doing so, ensured there wouldn’t be any contact with Larson and that Larson would be able to drive away from Truex into the corner.
We’re not sure if Kenseth backed off the gas early because of pragmatism for not wrecking the field or because his tire problems struck entering the corner. Kenseth lost a ton of momentum in turns 1 and 2 and, subsequently, a ton of spots. He also hit the wall off turn 2.
[Related: Kyle Larson wins at Michigan]
Kenseth ultimately finished 24th, a far cry from third. But the finish isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Kenseth entered Sunday’s race as the last driver in the playoffs via points. His closest pursuer, Clint Bowyer, sped on pit road and had a tire issue of his own during Sunday’s race. Bowyer finished 23rd, so Kenseth didn’t lose too many positions.
As of now, Kenseth is 31 points ahead of Bowyer. He lost just three points on Sunday, and with three races to go before the playoffs, it’s a rate that’s quite sustainable for a playoff appearance.
While Kenseth held serve for the most part vs. Bowyer, Joey Logano couldn’t gain any ground. A tire problem with 15 laps to go forced a caution and Logano to pit. He finished 28th.
Here’s how the points standings among winless drivers look with three races to go before the playoffs.
Chase Elliott, 685 points
Jamie McMurray, 675 points
Matt Kenseth, 654 points
• Suarez was caught up in the race’s only wreck of the day with Kasey Kahne.
• The pit strategy from Brad Keselowski and his team was a tad confusing.
Keselowski started first and had the best car for the first half of Sunday’s race. Or, he was the guy in clean air. It seemed whoever was out front had a big advantage.
Anyway, after winning the first stage Keselowski lost the second stage to Martin Truex Jr., who got the stage win because he pitted earlier. By doing so, he took advantage of clean laps on fresh tires and was ahead of Keselowski after Keselowski pitted.
Ever since Truex’s strategy play in the second stage, Keselowski and crew were playing catch up. And it didn’t work. The No. 2 team took two tires on the final two pit stops to no avail and ended up finishing 17th.
“We tried a little strategy to kind of get something out of it, but the way it all played out I ended up getting the bottom lane on the restarts and getting absolutely swallowed,” Keselowski said. “We tried. We put in as much effort as we could. We knew we didn’t have as much as those two, but we gave it 100 percent effort and I was really proud of my team for that.”
• Truex’s crew chief Cole Pearn had a fun tweet to respond to Keselowski’s theory that the Toyota teams were holding back because of potential NASCAR engine testing following Sunday night’s race. Truex finished second and teammate Erik Jones was third.
— Cole Pearn (@colepearn) August 13, 2017
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