KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- On a track that was repaved to glassy smoothness and reconfigured to add five degrees of banking in the corners, a lot of people expected a record-breaking Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway on Sunday.
And while speeds were much higher than in years past, it was a different record set Sunday that left people gasping after a race that ended with Matt Kenseth getting his third victory of the season.
It was the record number of wreck-caused cautions - 14 cautions in all - that left drivers shaking their heads. That was the most ever at Kansas and the most this season in the series.
"Lot of wild stuff," said Kenseth, who moved from 11th to ninth in the points standings with his victory.
"Crazy," said second-place Martin Truex Jr. of Michael Waltrip Racing, who crossed the finish line .495 seconds behind Roush Fenway Racing's Kenseth.
"I don't even know how to explain it," said Penke Racing driver Brad Keselowski, who finished eighth but kept his seven-point lead over Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings. "I'm ready to go home and have a couple of beers. It's just been a long day and, you know, everybody has been asking all season long where the cautions have been. Well, they flew to Kansas and they've been hanging out here because there was caution after caution, and it seemed like every wreck that happened today happened right in front of me."
For Johnson, a potentially disastrous wreck didn't happen in front of him; it happened to him. On lap 135 of the 267-lap race, Johnson spun. His car slammed backward into the wall in Turn 4, and the impact compacted the rear of Johnson's Chevrolet.
The wreck looked severe enough to jeopardize Johnson's chances of continuing and, perhaps, jeopardize his chance of remaining in championship contention.
But when the car was pitted after the incident, Johnson's crew went to work, hammering out the damaged sheet metal and covering the car with BearBond adhesive tape.
Johnson got some more breaks with timely cautions and finished in ninth place and is still very much in the hunt for a sixth series championship.
"Definitely proud of this team and the fact that we never give up and continue to fight and try to get every point we can," Johnson said. "All that said, I'm very proud, but I was disappointed. I crashed the car. I spun out trying to get inside the No. 56 (Truex Jr.). He bobbled a little in front of me and I thought that was an opportunity to jump in the gas real hard, and when I did, my car took off and I couldn't catch it."
It was too bad, too, he said, because, "I think we could have been in victory lane and stretched some points on these guys."
Non-Chase driver Paul Menard of Richard Childress Racing finished third in the race.
He was followed by Chasers Kasey Kahne of Hendrick Motorsports and defending series champion Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing, who also was involved in the wrecking but hung in for a good finish.
Kahne is fifth in points and only 30 behind the leader, and Stewart is seventh in points but 47 out of first. And they probably needed to do better Sunday to stay in contention as the season now has just four races left.
Clint Bowyer of Michael Waltrip Racing finished sixth to move three points closer to the leader. He will head to Martinsville Speedway's short track next week fourth in points, 25 points back.
"Got to keep digging," Bowyer said of his plan for the final four races.
That digging, he said, should be easier once he's away from the craziness that occurred at the Kansas track, which is located about 90 miles away from his hometown of Emporia, Kan.
"It just wasn't much fun," Bowyer, one of the few who finished with a relatively clean car, said. "But it is what it is. I don't know what was going on behind us. They kept wrecking. It seemed like every 20 laps we would have a caution. That wasn't much fun."
While most of the wrecks Sunday were of the "just hard racing" variety, there was one that was premeditated. It involved Danica Patrick.
Patrick and Landon Cassill were running in close quarters near the midpoint of the race. But suddenly, Patrick moved in on Cassill's rear bumper and sent him sideways. Patrick suffered worse damage, though, as she slid to the bottom of the track and hooked around on the apron. That sent her car slamming head-on into the wall.
"I have just been really frustrated with the No. 83 (Cassill)," she said. "He slammed into me on the front straight for no other reason than his radio communication, 'She was in the way.' I've always played fair. If it's one time, I can imagine frustration. But it's been pretty consistent with him getting into me. So at some point in time, I have to stand up for myself, or everybody's going to do it. So, the bummer is that this is my Texas car. We were having a good run, we were making the car better. And, I'm out of the race and he's not."
She had lots of company in the garages Sunday in Kansas.