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Race Rewind: Looking back at Sunday's Quaker State 400

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013

Observations

• It was difficult to find a consensus among the participants as to why, but Sunday's rain-delayed race at Kentucky Speedway certainly was more entertaining than the track's first two Sprint Cup Series races. Was it related to running the race on Sunday afternoon rather than Saturday night as was done the previous two seasons? Was it related to the weather and the enormous amount of moisture and humidity this weekend? In any case, Kentucky Speedway may want to take a long look as to whether it should make the day race permanent.

• Could Matt Kenseth just the second driver to win a Sprint Cup Series championship under both the old points system and the Chase format? He certainly seems on track to do so. So far, Tony Stewart is the only driver to accomplish that feat. Kenseth may be fifth in the series standings but his season-high four wins puts him in prime position to be the No. 1 seed when the 10-race Chase begins in September.

• The Cup series returns to Daytona International Speedway next weekend and there will likely be a lot of focus on Danica Patrick, who won the pole and finished eighth at the Daytona 500 - still her best finish of the year. There may be one drawback, however. She wrecked her Daytona 500 car at Talladega earlier this season and the team will be using a new car this weekend.

Notebook

Johnson comes up short again: Jimmie Johnson once again had a dominant car but failed to come away with the win. He led a race-high 182 laps Sunday but spun while running second on a restart with 20 laps remaining.

Johnson pit for four new tires and restarted in 25th. He made to ninth at the finish.

"We were kind of in an awkward situation in that restart there. And then we were like three- and four-wide going in the corner, then something happened with the air and just kind of turned me around," he said. "Unfortunate, but at least we rallied back for a good finish."

Earnhardt can't catch a break: Dale Earnahardt Jr. really never got the chance to test his pole-winning car as a tire casing from Denny Hamlin's car slammed into Earnhardt's front grille on Lap 38 leaving with him with significant damage.

"I'm not sure we got everything back where it is supposed to be, but we did well-enough to get a decent finish out it. Just proud of how hard the team worked," said Earnhardt, who finished 12th.

"We did a good job for qualifying, and put a good car out there for the race. Can't do anything about what happened out there on the race track with that casing."

Hamlin takes a hit: A hard wreck on Lap 148 sent Denny Hamlin to the infield care center complaining of a bad headache but he was eventually treated and released.

Hamlin's team owner, Joe Gibbs, said Hamlin would see a doctor in Indianapolis on Monday before taking part in a test at the track there.

"Just like anything else, anytime you hit flat up against the wall, you deal with issues and headaches and stuff like that, but it's gone away and everything seems to be good now," Hamlin said after the race.

Logano enters Top 10: After falling to 19th in points after an engine failure at Talladega, Joey Logano has now finished 11th or better in his last six races.

Logano's fourth place finish on Sunday pushed him to 10th in points - just the second time this season he's been in the Top 10.

"I felt like we were good enough to win for a little bit. I thought we were as good as (Matt Kenseth) or even better," he said. "It is all about getting the clean air. It was hard to pass out there."

5 key moments

1 . Rain on Saturday turned what was supposed to be a night race into a day race run mostly in the sunlight - vastly different circumstances that greatly altered teams' approach to the race.

2 . Dale Earnhardt Jr., who started from the pole, was leading on Lap 48 when a tire casing off Denny Hamlin's car smashed into his front grille doing significant damage. His car was never the same after that.

3 . Matt Kenseth took the lead for the first time on Lap 95 passing Jimmie Johnson on a restart after a caution.

4. All of the lead-lap cars pit on Lap 244 but Kenseth was first off pit road and the only team not to take any new tires.

5. On the restart on Lap 247, Johnson spun to bring out a caution and sent him out of contention. Kenseth held off Jamie McMurray for the win.

Next race

Coke Zero 400

Where: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.

When: 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

TV: TNT

Radio: Motor Racing Network

Last year's winner: Tony Stewart



Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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