Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kansas Race Recap

Key Moment – The caution flag flew on lap 219 when Brad Keselowski’s rear bumper cover flew off his car in Turn 4. When the pit stops on that final caution of the race were completed, Matt Kenseth was the first car off pit lane and the rest of the day was all but academic.

In a Nutshell – From Friday morning, Matt Kenseth had the car to beat at Kansas this weekend. Everyone tried. No one could.

Matt Kenseth let loose a little Sunday after a dominating performance left him breathing easy in Kansas Victory Lane.

Dramatic Moment – As the final laps were winding down, Kasey Kahne was chipping away at Kenseth’s lead, ever so slightly to take a shot at passing the leader for the win. The duo came up on Regan Smith, with the interval about half-a-second and passed him with what seemed to be little trouble. However, by the time the leaders were coming out of Turn 4 to take the white flag, Kahne was on the back bumper of Kenseth and looked like he might make a real race out of it. The No. 20 car pulled away through Turns 1 and 2, though and Kahne was unable to make a serious challenge before the checkered flag flew.

What They’ll Be Talking About Around The Water Cooler

Kyle Busch is an outstanding talent but the question has always been his head. This weekend, he blew up two motors in his Truck and wrecked his Cup car three times. The only response? “This is Kansas.” When a place can get into a driver’s head like that, there are other things that will find their way in there, too. Busch may be more “mature” than he used to be but that mental strength still needs further improvement to win a championship.

Denny Hamlin is trying hard to make it back into the No. 11 for Richmond, two weeks earlier than doctors predicted. He says that if he doesn’t make it Saturday night, based on MRI results and medical clearance he’ll at least start Talladega and ride in the back. He says such a strategy is “safe.” Umm, what? Did you see the 25-car crash that was the last lap of this race in the Fall? If his back isn’t ready for Richmond, let’s hope he isn’t the first caution at Talladega so he can get out of the car and not re-injure it in the Big One.

Elliott Sadler seemed like the logical choice to fill in for Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 when Hamlin was forced to the sidelines. J.D. Gibbs went with Mark Martin and Brian Vickers instead, choosing not to disrupt Sadler’s run in the No. 81 at Kansas. Well, Sadler made the least of that opportunity, qualifying 24th, fading back in the field and eventually backing it into the wall after just 85 laps. The whole weekend, with Sadler’s invisibility was in sharp contrast to the runs achieved by both Vickers and Martin in the No. 11. Yes, there is a level of difficulty to debuting a brand new car for any team, even the best of them. But weekends like these make me think it’s time for Elliott to realize that his days in the Cup Series are over; time to just focus on the Nationwide Series instead.

Goodyear came to Fontana with a tire that wore out and ended up having an outstanding race on a track that normally produces snoozers. Everyone thought that the Official Tire Supplier of NASCAR had finally figured out what it would take to help make racing better on intermediate tracks. Remarkably, they have brought the Flintstone tires back for both Texas and Kansas. The result was people spinning out unexpectedly and Matt Kenseth running 267 laps on four left-side tires. Not sure what it will take to get this company to understand that tires wearing out and giving up grip is a good thing.

It had no bearing on the race, but it was very cool to see the STP colors on the No. 43 this week for Aric Almirola. Anyone who has been a fan for a long time or seen the grainy movies of Richard Petty’s domination of the sport had to love seeing the Petty blue and STP orange circling the track.

With the bombing on the minds of so many people, it was cool to see the Michael Waltrip Racing cars sporting numbers that mimicked the number bibs for the Boston Marathon. But it would have been nice to see some of the teams do something special for the people of West Texas, all of whom were impacted by the devastating explosion at the fertilizer plant, too.

The Hindenburg Award For Foul Fortune

Joey Logano has been up and down this season on the luck meter, hoping to ride the momentum of a top 5 at Texas to another strong finish at Kansas. Unfortunately for Logano, Kyle Busch couldn’t lock up his brakes and keep his car up on the banking after he put it in the fence a second time during the race on lap 102. Logano tried to make it by on the apron, but Busch slid down and made hard contact with his right front and totaled the No. 22. Logano wound up 39th.

The Orange Cone, a fan favorite on Twitter, met an untimely demise early in the race when Mike Bliss tried to come to the pits and missed the entry. The cone ended up in the garage area before his carcass was able to extricate itself from the nose of Bliss’ car.

JJ Yeley and his team tried their damndest to run the entire race at Kansas. They even changed out a transmission in the middle of the event. Unfortunately, with four laps to go Yeley pulled into the garage to prematurely end his day after scraping the wall. He was 35th, his seventh straight run outside the top 25 since Daytona.

Juan Pablo Montoya has assumed the Denny Hamlin Eeyore monicker in the Cup garage this season. He seems to be constantly waiting for something bad to happen and, once again on Sunday, it did when he had a flat right front on lap 163 just after pitting for tires and fuel during a green flag stop. After having the best car in Saturday practice, then driving into the top 10 on Sunday the ending (27th) was a tough pill to swallow.

The “Seven Come for Eleven” Award for Fine Fortune

Matt Kenseth started from the pole and, unlike so many of the other challengers he faced all day, never got caught on pit road by a caution. Most of the other drivers who had a shot at the win were on pit lane or just off it at some point when a caution flew; that meant they had to take a wave around to get back on the lead lap. Kenseth never had that happen all day and spent the entire race, except for a minor moment around lap 180, inside the top four.

Mark Martin is only running a partial schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing and after Sunday, he might be about ready to cut back some more. Martin almost wrecked at least three times during the race and had to display some very finely tuned driving skills to keep from putting his No. 55 in the fence or causing a massive wreck on one of the restarts. But when all was said and done, Martin notched a top-10 finish in the Aaron’s Dream Machine for the third time in seven races this season.

Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski somehow received damage to his left rear at the start of the race and ended up spending most of the day trying to recover from it. He went a lap down shortly after the first caution of the event due to spending too much time on pit lane trying to fuel the car. The caution after they went a lap behind, the Blue Deuce team rolled the dice on the next one, took the wave around and were rewarded when Elliott Sadler brought out the caution just a handful of laps later. The No. 2 team spent the entire day trying to overcome the damage to the quarterpanel but somehow, when the checkered flag flew, settled into sixth place.

Worth Noting

  • This is Matt Kenseth’s second win of the season, the 26th of his career. He is tied with Kyle Busch and Fred Lorenzen for 23rd all-time in wins in the Cup Series. Seven more wins will put him in the top 20.
  • Sunday was also Kenseth’s second career victory at Kansas — and his second straight.
  • Unbelievably, considering all his success there are still ten tracks on the Cup schedule where Kenseth has not won a race.
  • Kasey Kahne notched his fourth top 5 and fifth top 10 of the season with his runner-up finish.
  • Jimmie Johnson logged his fourth top 5 and sixth top-10 result of the season with his podium finish at Kansas.
  • Brad Keselowski is third in points by virtue of the most top 10s in the series so far this year with seven.
  • Kyle Busch has the most top 5s for the year with five.
  • Top 10 by manufacturer at Kansas:

Toyota – 4
Chevrolet – 4
Ford – 2

  • The Rookie of the Race was Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. with an 11th-place finish.
  • This event marked the first time since August / September 1985 that the pole winner has won the race three times in a row. That streak ended with Bill Elliott’s Winston Million victory at Darlington. (Elliott won at Michigan, in August followed by Dale Earnhardt at Bristol and then the Southern 500).

What’s the Points?

We’ve seen this story before. Jimmie Johnson didn’t have the best car, although he did lead for a short stint in the middle of the race, but he brought the No. 48 home to a third-place finish and continues to lead the series standings by 37 over Kasey Kahne, the new second place man in points after another runner-up finish this season. Brad Keselowski may not have a win yet this year but he’s knocking out top 5s and 10s and that has him sitting third, 38 behind Johnson. Greg Biffle was 19th on Sunday but is still holding down fourth place in points, trailing the leader by 47. Rounding out the top five is Dale Earnhardt, Jr. now 48 points in arrears to Johnson after running 16th.

The second half of the top 10 find themselves all at least one full race behind Johnson, which doesn’t mean a hill of beans because the points reset after Richmond. Carl Edwards looked to have a pretty sporty package for them this weekend but came home in 17th which has him sixth in points, 49 back from the leader. Kyle Busch had a horrible weekend in Kansas but he does still have two wins. Busch is 54 in back of Johnson. After taking the win this weekend, Matt Kenseth has jumped up to eighth in the points, 59 behind the top spot. Clint Bowyer is 64 out of the lead while Paul Menard is hanging on to the tail end of the top 10, 71 points back from Johnson.

No one outside of the top 10 has won a race, so the Wild Card is a moot point right now. The Denny Hamlin watch finds him 26th in points, 42 outside the top 20. He’ll still have to win a couple of races for it to even matter.

Overall Rating (On a scale of one to six beer cans, with one being a stinker and a six pack an instant classic) – Thanks to tires that didn’t wear out, teams were able to take two and not lose track position all day long. As a result, the cars out front stayed there the entire race, with some passing in the pack but none at the front. There was a grand total of one on-track pass for the lead. The “battle” for the point over the last handful of laps did nothing to restore the luster to this snoozer again in Kansas. One hot can of PBR is all that we’re going to crack open for this one.

Next Up – The series heads to the favorite track of most of the drivers in the garage next week as Richmond International Raceway will host Cup, Nationwide, K&N and the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown. Unfortunately for short track fans, the showdown is not going to be on TV this year so look to Race22.com, Speed51.com and MRN Radio for coverage. The Cup race will be on Fox and MRN on Saturday at 7:30 PM.

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