Our Top 10 of 2013: No. 3 - Bold Late Pit Call Fuels Kenseth's NSCS Quaker State 400 Victory
Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver Matt Kenseth and his No. 20 Crew Chief Jason Ratcliff generated the third-best moment of our 2013 season when they teamed to score a June 30 victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 300 presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Ratcliff called for a fuel-only pit stop with 24 of 267 laps remaining in the 400-mile event that advanced Kenseth's car from fourth to the front of the field. The first-year JGR and 14-year series veteran wheelman converted the track position to a 0.699 of a second victory over Earnhardt Ganassi driver Jamie McMurray.
Kenseth registered his first top-five Kentucky Speedway NSCS finish and is one of four drivers to own three top-10 finishes through three series starts at the track. His previous best Kentucky Speedway NSCS finish was sixth on July 9, 2011. He placed seventh in the June 30, 2012 event.
"I didn't roll the dice, (crew chief) Jason (Ratcliff) did. I thought he was a slightly crazy when it happened.
"This is such a great team and a great opportunity for me. It's been just an unbelievable season and year of my life, honestly. Jason did a great job. I didn't think there was any way we were going to hold on for that win. He made the right call at the right time and these guys got it done on pit road," Kenseth said.
Kenseth's victorious cause was aided when Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson, who led a race-best and series track-record 182 laps, saw his hopes for his first Kentucky Speedway victory dashed when his No. 48 car spun in Turn 1 off the final restart.
The eventual NSCS champion battled back to place ninth and chart his third straight top-10 series finish in Kentucky.
"We were kind of in an awkward situation in that restart. We were three- or four-wide going into the corner. Something happened with the air and just kind turned me around. It was unfortunate, but at least we brought it back for a good finish," Johnson said.
At age 41, Kenseth became the oldest NSCS race winner in track history and his winning margin was the second-closest in series track history.
He qualified 16th and posted the greatest improvement from a starting position by a series winner at the track. He raced second on Lap 60, led for the first time from Laps 95-108, held point for the closing 23 race circuits and paced 38 laps on the day.
- Kentucky Speedway -