Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2015 Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas

Who’s in the headlineJoey Logano and Matt Kenseth are going to dominate the headlines this week. Kenseth led the most laps in the race but, heading into turn 1 with five laps to go, Logano made a move to the bottom of the track and tapped the left-rear corner of Kenseth’s car. Kenseth spun and lost the chance to advance to the next round of the Chase with a win. Depending on your allegiance, your view of the incident is that it was Logano’s fault, or maybe it was Kenseth’s fault. One thing is for sure, the debate will rage all week.

What happened – Coming off a race where there was not a single on-track pass for the lead, the action was better throughout the field in Kansas. Kevin Harvick, Logano and Kenseth all made passes for the lead by running down the leader and making the pass. Kenseth did it twice. Harvick, however, had a pit issue where his fuel can was carried out of the box and the subsequent penalty put him down a lap and brought him home 16th. Denny Hamlin didn’t lead all day but finished second, a bumper ahead of Jimmie Johnson. The racing in general was better, with seven cautions and not a single one for bogus debris.

Why you should care – First of all, Kenseth’s failure to win drops him from locked into the next round of the Chase to 12th among the contenders. Martin Truex Jr.’s 15th-place finish dropped him to eighth, just six points ahead of Kyle Busch. Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon are just one point ahead of Truex. Kurt Busch, who is third in points, is only seven points ahead of his brother in ninth. The end result is, Hamlin is only 18 points ahead of ninth, and he is second in the points standings. Barring drivers in the Chase being caught up in a big one, the seven remaining drivers to advance to the third round of the Chase will not be decided until the final couple hundred yards of the last lap.

What your friends are talking about – Logano and Kenseth getting together is going to be the primary discussion around the water cooler this week. Kenseth blocked, Logano could have backed off. In the end it seems to be one of those racing deals. Kenseth’s block crossing the start-finish line pushed Logano into the wall so he put his car below Kenseth’s and didn’t budge when the 2003 champion moved down. We’ll see if Kenseth’s retaliates when the series gets to Martinsville in two weeks; that will most likely depend on how the No. 20 finishes at Talladega.

Passing, passing, passing!!! After a race at Charlotte that had a grand total of ZERO on track passes for the lead, there were a plethora of passes for the front spot under green-flag conditions after restarts. There were also numerous passes behind the leaders as drivers were able to advance their lot in the race. After hearing how hard passing was going to be throughout practice and qualifying it was refreshing to see it actually happening.

Tires, tires, tires!!! How often do we harp on this in Thinkin’ Out Loud? With the low downforce package coming in 2016, Goodyear is talking about what they are going to have to do with tires to compliment the new rules. In 2015 they ran 30 different compounds across the three national series. Greg Strucker from Goodyear told the media at Kansas that they will probably make even more in 2016. Once again, these are tires, not nuclear reactors. Stop making this so difficult. Make a handful of tires that can be used across all of the similar racetracks and let the teams adjust to them. It will save teams money because they can use them at multiple tracks, and it will give crew chiefs some options for strategy.

Downforce, downforce, downforce!!! While the sanctioning body looks to be ready to completely kill the sport with franchising, they have at least pulled their heads out long enough to realize low downforce is the way to start fixing the racing product. The 2016 rules package was announced this week and, for the most part, it is the package that was utilized at Kentucky and Darlington. The exception is the radiator pan, which is going to be a little wider than those packages used, trying to more equally balance the car front to rear. The tapered spacer, which is robbing the cars of straightaway speed and resulting in more on throttle time is not going to go away. Provided the tires work and wear out appropriately the racing will be heading in the right direction. The nose still needs to get off of the ground but we have to get them to take baby steps.

Who is mad – Kenseth is unquestionably the maddest of anyone. He led 153 of 269 laps and looked to be headed to the next round until he spun in turns 1 and 2. He’s now 12th in the standings and is going to have to scratch and claw his way toward the front and hope that four drivers most likely get caught up in a big wreck or he can win to move to the final eight.

Harvick was runner-up at Charlotte and had a car that could win at Kansas until the fuel can did not disengage as he was leaving his pit during a green-flag stop with 50 laps to go. As a result, while he’s fifth in points, he is perilously close to the cut-off line. Talladega won’t be a must win for Harvick, but he would have felt much better with a win and no stress heading to northern Alabama.

Austin Dillon started the race 25th and methodically marched his way to the top five by the midway point of the race. While his car felt a little tight, it didn’t feel like he was abusing the right front. Unfortunately for Dillon, the right front failed, and his car pounded the outside wall on lap 155 and was forced to the garage thanks to the damage. Dillon has always been strong on mile-and-a-half tracks and was hoping to build some momentum toward the 2016 season. Instead, he ended with a 41st-place finish.

Who is happyKasey Kahne has had very little to be excited about this season. Charlotte was another disappointment last week but things were decidedly better at Kansas. After starting 24th he was quickly in the top 15 and broke into the top 10 before halfway. Through the remainder of the race he made slow progress en route to a fourth place run.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. might have felt like things were looking up for this weekend after qualifying 18th ahead of half of the Hendrick Motorsports contingent. He bounced around the teens and 20s for much of the race before getting his car right and moving forward over the final 100 laps of the event on his way to a 13th-place finish. When there is all sorts of conjecture swirling around the silly season rumor mill, it has to feel good to put in a finish that is best among the Roush Fenway Racing contingent.

Ryan Blaney has been bitten by rain multiple times this season when he had fast racecars. This weekend he qualified in the eighth position, slipped a little before rebounding over the last 90 laps to come home with a seventh-place finish. It was Blaney’s best career finish on a non-plate track. The young driver has to feel like, if he can get the opportunity to run a full season next year, he can make some noise in the Cup series.

When the checkered flag flew

Logano’s back-to-back wins gives him 13 for his career in 250 career starts.

Dale Earnhardt and Joe Nemechek are the only other drivers in NASCAR history to win in their 250th career start.

This is Logano’s fifth victory of 2015. Logano has two career triumphs at Kansas. Logano is now tied with Dick Rathman and Tim Richmond for 55th on the all-time wins list.

Hamlin finished second for the second top-two run of his career at Kansas. Hamlin has finished in the top-two four times in 2015. This is Hamlin’s 20th career runner-up finish. That puts him in a tie with Fonty Flock for 40th on the all-time second-place list.

Johnson crossed the line third on Sunday for his eighth career top-three at Kansas. Johnson’s podium was his 10th of the season, his first since Daytona in July. The finish is Johnson’s 158th top-three run of his career, which puts him 11 behind Mark Martin for eighth on the list.

Matt DiBenedetto won the Rookie of the Race.

Round two of the Chase is two races old. Logano is locked into round three thanks to his victories at Charlotte and Kansas. The other 11 drivers have one chance left to lock their spot in round three with a win at Talladega. The remaining drivers and their points position:

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Kurt Busch
  3. Carl Edwards
  4. Kevin Harvick
  5. Jeff Gordon
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. Martin Truex Jr.
  8. Kyle Busch
  9. Ryan Newman
  10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  11. Matt Kenseth

Takin’ it to the Bank

Cup winners this year have pocketed $10,392,364 in 31 races, while the last-place finisher has taken home $2,413,563.

In the Xfinity Series it has been $2,142,274 for the winners and $391,115 for last place in 30 races.

After 18 Truck races the winner has $868,151 in his coffers and the last loser has banked $166,555.

What is in the cooler – The race at Charlotte had everyone geared up for another horrible race at Kansas considering how hard the tires are that they bring to the heartland. There were four on-track passes for the lead and drivers in the pack with better cars were able to move forward rather than being trapped by air. Throw in the racin’ deal between Kenseth and Logano with five to go and this was an interesting mile-and-a-half race. We’ll give it three cold Prime Extra Pale Ales from Cinder Block Brewery.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – It is the final race of the second round and the biggest wild card in the Chase. The longest track on the Cup schedule, Talladega, will most likely break the hearts of one or two Chase drivers and flip the outlook of others. To see the madness unfold tune into NBC Sports Network at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time. If you would rather just listen or have alternate audio, tune your radio to your local MRN affiliate or lock your SiriusXM radio to NASCAR channel 90. It is also an option to watch the live stream on NBCSports LiveExtra.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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The biggest upset of the weekend was no mysterious caution while the 88 was in the Lucky Dog position.


I thought it rather interesting the timing of Allgaiers hitting the wall and especially since he spun so easily.

Bill B

Well now the stage is set for the crapshoot to end all crapshoots. A crapshoot race at a crapshoot track in a crapshoot championship format. Step right up and spin the wheel to see who is still eligible for the championship. That’s how championships should be determined,,, blind, *#$%-house, luck.

Been around long enough to see the Kenseth/Logano deal happen many times with many different driver combinations, all I can say is that I’m glad my driver wasn’t involved. The s**t-storm that will take place in the media this week will make it sound like the crime of the century but, in reality, it’s just what happens when two guys both want to win. Neither driver is without blame. I’m not a big fan of blocking and when someone does that I don’t blame the guy being blocked for not lifting. On the other hand, I’ve seen someone in that position do a much better job of moving someone out of the way without wrecking them. Since I don’t have love for either driver you can flip a coin if you insist on placing blame on one or the other. I’ll say 51% Logano’s fault, 49% Kenseth’s fault.

If there was one thing that I was happy about in this race it was that wave-arounds were at a minimum due to cautions falling about 30-40 laps (over halfway) into a run forcing everyone to have to pit. I loved it when Johnson stayed out on that next to last caution. I really enjoy the races where what happens in the early part of the race counts at the end. The fewer entitlements the better.

Carl D.

I too have seen the Kenseth/Logano deal happen many times before. It’s funny how every driver complains about blocking until they’re up front at the end of the race with a faster car right on their rear bumper. I admit that Joey Logano hasn’t made a lot of friends over the last couple of seasons; but really… would you want Kevin Harvick to be on your best buds list? I remember one time when Jimmy Spencer was asked about the enemies he’d made on the track, and his response was “Hey… there’s not a damned one I’d invite over for dinner anyway”. Owners and sponsers are paying drivers to win races, not friends. Of course, Logano may have to regret his agressiveness after Martinsville, but that’s racing.


Carl D. regarding your comment about “Logano not making any friends over the last couple of seasons”. I have seen that statement over the years a lot, and from my perspective Logano MOST times was taken advantage of due to his age and the age of his competitors and dumped mercifully and they fully admitted it. The “kid” this and that..most of whom his antagonists are still big bullies today. Logano did not take it and from some people’s perspective and the media, he is the bad guy for not asking “please sir may I have another”. Just another morbid spin the media wants to put on things, basically for sticking up for himself. And I took an interest in this from very early on because I could not believe what I was hearing when my eyes saw a different story. It actually fascinated me the outright lies that were being spun from the media and other drivers. The innocence they protested and the acceptance of those statements despite evidence to the contrary was amazing. Still happens today.

Carl D.

Agreed. And when Logano made the infamous “firesuit” comment, the media seemed outraged that a young whipper-snapper like Joey would dare make such a comment about the esteemed Mr. Harvick. It’s too early to engrave the trophy with anyone’s name, but should Logano win the championship, it will be in part because he stopped letting others take advantage of him.


Hehehehe. He got a lot of crap for the comment..people thought he was talking about the Mrs. he was not, it was a dig on the Mr. It was never more evident that he was correct when Jimmie a few weeks ago went to his MOHO and he started nonsense with Jimmie. Delana was waving her finger at him, yelling at him to get into the car and he complied like a small child. Too funny. Logano was correct all along. Lol.


watched about 30 min of beginning and flipped to end to see logano in v/l. weather was too nice here in ga.

i did find it interesting how rick hendrick was standing next to tony stewart during “opening ceremonies”.

i’ll be bold and say the fork should be stuck into jr…without winning at ‘dega next week, he’s done. if this is the case, then nas$car will have less people watching the remaining races. i say jr doesn’t have that killer instinct his father did when it comes to racing.

was really surprised to see that johnson wasn’t in v/l just to pacify hendrick organization, but then again old brain fart can’t have someone who is eliminated from the chase win and stink up the chase game.


Fear not! Its special plate week in the Cup series so Jr should have plenty of speed. The question is, can he stay out of someone else’s mess or not screw up.


yes, the special plate will be given to the savior of NASCAR, I’m quite sure. Having Jr out of the chase after Dega would lose his fan base from the viewing audience.


if na$car really want to “fix” things, they’d give the special plate to gordon or stewart. be interesting to see how these last remaining races shake out for gordon. this abg fan wants to see jeff win a race and the championship and ride off into the sunset at homestead.


well, I wouldn’t mind if Gordon winds up as winner takes all this year. It would make me very happy! They can give it to Stewart next year.

It would be as fair as anything else is with the crapshoot format.


Gordon may get one too. Who knows. Stewart isn’t even in the Chase and can barely crack the top 10, so why waste one on him…..and I’m a Smoke fan.


Not a fan of either #20 or #22. Best part of this deal may be yet to come. Hope “Bully” Harvick took notice that Joey will use the bumper if needed. Then Kenseth could use Harvick ‘s justice (from last year at Martinsville) when the #4 was spun out by Matt. Matt was told “you won’t win the championship”. So now the #20 could become a pain in the ass for Joey the remainder of the year. NASCAR has become so boring you have to look for drama somehow.


While I’ll admit that 4 passes for the lead are better than the zero we saw at Charlotte, somehow I can’t jump and down for joy saying how wonderful the race was at Kansas.

Like rg72, I was completely surprise that Jacque debris didn’t make an appearance to put Jr back on the lead lap. Even more interesting was the 48 stayed out which prevented the 88 from taking the wavearound.

Like Bill, I think the media will make a lot of noise about the incident with the 20 and the 22, since my driver wasn’t involved, I can sit back and enjoy it as a neutral bystander.

If the weather is nice, I plan to skip the Talladega crapshoot since I find RP races very stressful and not much fun to watch at all. Hopefully my guy will not be caught up in the madness there which is all I really care about at this point.


I wonder what Jeff thought when Kenseth was punted? Karma sucks sometimes.


I think he was too far back to see it. I seem to recall he asked what happened to cause the caution.


I heard an interview on the radio Saturday with Stewart. I don’t know when it was taped. He said one of the things he always wanted to do was race a big-block at Syracuse. Too bad he won’t get to do that. He also said he wants to race sprints and late models. Maybe he just wants to race real race cars.


I guess the standards for NASCAR 2015 are so low that one green flag pass for every 100 miles of racing serves as something that is average or above-average.
I will say that it is something that yesterday was the 48 team’s first finish in the Top 3 in over three months.


they are finally in chase mode.

Kevin in SoCal

Its crazy how a regular race at Kansas gets put on NBC network TV, while the anything-goes race at Talladega gets put back on cable.

As a Kenseth fan, I’m bummed about what happened, but Logano was faster and Matt was unable to hold him off any longer. Its part of racing.


nbc must have professional paint drying watching scheduled next sunday. i was surprised to find the race on nbc yesterday. throught it was on nbcs.


I didn’t know it was on NBC either. Funny thing, years ago I’d have known EXACTLY what channel it was on and what time. This year, I had to remind myself that I should come in if I wanted to see the race and then hunt for it.

that’s how far down the list of must see NASCAR has fallen.


Best race of the Chase so far. No one except Logano is safe going into Talladega. I expect it to be a crazier affair than last year. I bet a bunch of Chasers get wiped out in a “big one”. I just hope it’s not the 24.


I on the other hand hope it is. He hasn’t done anything all year so doesn’t belong in the chase!


well, I’m voting with upstate24fan for obvious reasons and hoping Gordon misses any of the mess at Dega & moves on. There are several other drivers still in the “chase” who have stats no better than Gordon this year and were far worse last year, so the “hasn’t done anything this year” criteria doesn’t hold in NASCAR’s crapshoot system.

Bill B

What’s really sad is that the championship comes down to hoping someone does or doesn’t get caught up in the big one. Back before the chase getting caught up in the big one at Talladega would still hurt someone in the championship but the effects of one bad race were diminished by the fact that it was just 1 of 36 races. Now this one race will define someone’s entire year when big ones are somewhat out of anyone’s hand and as so much else, a crapshoot.


I agree with you, Bill B. The RP tracks have always had spin of the roulette wheel type results but to have it be in this crapshoot chase format is ridiculous but then again, look at the idiot running the show.


It was interesting to see how good a clean race Busch and Kennseth had in the Xfinity race and then there was Logano’s lack of skill move … rubbin is racin but so is — You’re getting dumped come Martinsville. Logano won’t be going beyond that race. Payback.


Oh please. I know, I know..you just like it when another driver does it. And to compare the circumstances of the Xfinity race as an exact mirror that could have ben duplicated with yesterdays race is absurd. Been hearing payback for years. The audio archives are filled with threats. Lol. Racing deal.


Payback can be (an adult female dog). But, be careful what you wish for! You might think that it would serve Joey right to have Kenseth, or one of his teammates go out and deliberately wreck Joey to kill his championship chances, just remember what happened back at a track in Shelby, North Carolina in late 1956! The rumour is that Carl Kiekhaefer told his number 2 driver, Speedy Thompson, to go out and wreck Herb Thomas, as Thomas was the primary threat to Buck Baker, Kiekhaefer’s number 1 driver, winning the championship. Thompson did as he was ordered to do. Unfortunately, Thompson did more than just “wreck” Thomas. The crash nearly claimed Thomas’s life! No, it wasn’t payback, but, it was one driver deliberately wrecking another driver to put him out of the championship running. As for payback, it can be a you-know-what. But, wishing it on someone might be satisfying, but, how would you feel if Kenseth, or one of his teammates, did do something to Logano to ruin his championship hopes, and Logano was severely injured. Would anyone really want that? I hope not!


Chase still sucks

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