“Whenever your team puts you in front for that last run and you’re out there leading, you get beat, you’re always a little bit disappointed,” Kenseth said. “I just got beat by honestly experience and a better driver of this track. I was hesitant to change my line and do the things he was doing because what I was doing got me there. Just got too tight at the end. Wish I could do it over.”
When it was time to leave, though, Kenseth had found the silver lining.
“I mean, gosh, for how Martinsville has been for me, how could you not be pleased?” he said. “The only guy happier is Jeff. I feel like when my team is at its best and we do everything right, I feel like we can race anybody at these next three tracks. Anything can happen, but man, we’re in it.”
Clint Bowyer finished third, his best finish of the Chase, and moved two spots in the standings to sixth.
Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, who is not part of the Chase, was fourth.
Johnson finished fifth and braced for an epic fight for his sixth championship.
“It’s been a great battle with (Kenseth) and (Gordon) has really shown that he wants to be part of this deal as well,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a dogfight to the end — the way I would like to race for a championship, and I know that’s what the fans want to see, so we’ll be digging hard.”
Harvick was sixth, followed by pole-sitter Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray.
Biffle angrily confronted Johnson on pit road after the race, accusing the five-time champion of running into him and tearing off his rear bumper.