KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A lot of things have changed for Matt Kenseth since his win in last fall’s race at Kansas Speedway, but his dominance at the track stayed the same.
After winning the fall race for Roush Fenway Racing in a Ford, Kenseth switched over to Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota over the off-season.
The on-track performance in Sunday’s STP 400 looked a lot like October, however.
Kenseth started on the pole and led 163 laps of 267 to win for the second time in eight starts for his new team.
“This is a dream come true to drive this stuff,’’ said Kenseth, who notched his 26th career victory. “Our cars have been so incredibly fast all year and we don’t have all the finishes to show for it, but I’m so thankful to have another win and hopefully that will get us up there a little bit in the points.
“I knew the first time I talked to these guys (JGR) I really started to feel it – these guys really are contenders. They’re an awesome race team and I’m glad to be with them.’’
Kenseth had the dominant car most of the day, leading 117 laps more than any other driver.
Kenseth held off a charging Kasey Kahne at the end of the race, winning by five car lengths.
“Man, I really thought he had me and our car started getting loose into (Turn) 3 and I got really loose getting into three with about five (laps) to go,’’ Kenseth said. “I actually did it twice in a row and thought we were going to get beat.
“I was afraid he was going to get me. One more lap and he probably would have.’’
Kahne also finished second to Kenseth at Las Vegas earlier in the year.
“It was a good race for us,’’ Kahne said. “We were very close at the end battling with Matt. (It) felt like Vegas all over again, just felt like really similar to that in how I could catch him but couldn’t really do anything once I got close.”
Jimmie Johnson finished in third place, with Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer rounding out the top five.
Johnson boosted its points lead to 37 points over Kahne, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.
Well, it’s hard to believe we’ve got a huge gap like that in the points already,’’ Johnson said. “(I’m) just very proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. “We’ve been off to a great year and even had some trouble at Bristol (22nd-place finish). Thirty-seven points up on everybody is pretty awesome.’’
Defending series champion Brad Keselowski drove a wrecked car to a solid sixth-place finish while Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola, Mark Martin and Paul Menard rounded out the top 10.
Kenseth moved up to eighth in points and Johnson said he hasn’t been surprised with the veteran’s early success with his new team.
“Matt is good and he always has been,’’ Johnson said. “He’s an awesome race car driver. He impresses me in his ability to lead the team and make adjustments on the car and his knowledge of the car.’’
Carl Edwards started second on his home track and led twice for 19 laps but got caught on pit road when a yellow flag came out and never recovered. He finished 17th, one spot behind Dale Earnhardt Jr.