RICHMOND, Va. — It was a long and stressful wait for Matt Kenseth Saturday night at Richmond Raceway, but after an overtime-extended finish to the Federated Auto Parts 400, the 2003 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion found himself with a spot on the playoff grid and a chance to contend for his second title.
However, it was a playoff berth that nearly evaporated thanks to a bizarre accident entering pit road on lap 258 of the event.
Kenseth was inside the top 10 at the time, when the field ducked to pit road following a spin by Danica Patrick that drew the yellow flag. As the field came towards the commitment line, they suddenly had to check up and swing out of line to avoid an ambulance that was parked on the inside lane of the pit entrance.
Unfortunately for Kenseth, he couldn’t get slowed down fast enough and slammed into the back of Clint Bowyer’s car, sustaining heavy damage to his front bodywork and ultimately having to retire from the race due to radiator damage.
From there, it was a nervous wait to see whether a driver below the playoff cut line would win the race and potentially bump Kenseth out of the postseason field.
Ultimately that scenario didn’t play out, with Kyle Larson winning for the fourth time on the year and Kenseth making it into the playoffs as the No. 15 seed, with 2,005 points after the official reset.
However, the 2003 champion was less than impressed by the incident ever happening in the first place.
“We were all just coming to pit road and I saw an ambulance sitting there … so I looked left of the ambulance at the same time (Jason) Hedlesky (spotter) yelled at everyone to stop because there was an ambulance just sitting there,” Kenseth explained. “It was an accordion effect and I just couldn’t get stopped. I’m not really sure why pit road was open with an ambulance parked there, but everybody stopped and I didn’t see it in time and ran into the car in front of me.”
The incident was the third time in the past three years — as well as the second-straight race at Richmond — that an incident or near-incident occurred between a driver and a safety vehicle at the three-quarter-mile oval, something Kenseth was critical of after the race.
“I don’t think they should open pit road if there’s an ambulance parked there,” he stressed. “It’s a very narrow entry. Pit road speed is pretty fast – 45 miles an hour or something – and I still shouldn’t have hit the car in front of me, but I can’t say I was expecting to see an ambulance blocking me either. By the time I looked up and saw him parked there and they were stopping in front of me, I tried the best I could to stop and couldn’t.”
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