Race Weekend Central

Who’s Hot & Who’s Not In NASCAR: Darkness On The Edge Edition

NASCAR had rain, sunshine and wild racing while flirting with the darkness at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. It also had wrecks, a lot of wrecks. Which brings the question of if there are a lot of wrecks, does that make it good racing? That’s sure to be a hot topic this week.


I had been reasonably sure for most of the season that Kasey Kahne’s days as a winning racing driver were done. Kahne had not competed at all for a victory this season and was well out of the points picture to have a chance to make the playoffs this year. But as is often the case in sports, you can never say never. Kahne broke a 102-race winless streak with his restart in the dark Sunday night giving him a coveted playoff spot.

The win was not only important for him this year, it also could play a role in helping him gain sponsorship and full-time Cup series ride for next year. It didn’t hurt Tony Stewart tweeted after the race that Kahne has a lot more wins left in him. That’s a pretty big endorsement, and for those of us who like to speculate about a driver’s future landing place, those kind of words from an owner like Stewart can only help Kahne’s future. As for the here and now, Kahne is playoff bound and no one can take that away from him.


There were a lot of wrecks in Indy, especially late in the race. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

Just because there are wrecks doesn’t mean it was a good race, even if there are a lot of those wrecks late in the race like we saw on Sunday. I would much rather see passes for the lead on every other lap then caution after caution just because of accidents. Fortunately, with all the in-car safety improvements in the last decade and the SAFER barriers being in at tracks, the injuries have not been as serious in recent years. You wonder too if that gives drivers a bit more security, whether it be a false sense of security or not, so they will make more daring moves. Yes, accidents happen for any number of reasons. But remember a lot of accidents doesn’t guarantee good racing.


Then there are times though that accidents happen as a result of good racing. There were two primary examples of this on Sunday. First, when Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. were on the front row for a restart with 50 laps to go, they decided to forego the gentleman’s agreement they had of letting the leader have the inside lane in Turn 1. Of course, it’s because they both wanted to win and that is especially the case for Busch who hasn’t won yet this year. But Truex got a little loose and slipped up into Busch causing the accident that eliminated both of them.

While Truex took the blame, it was a case where no one was to blame. It was just a matter of two drivers racing for the same spot. Then, late in the race, Jimmie Johnson, with smoke coming from under his car, still had plenty of power and took the low route into the turn, making it a three-wide situation with Kahne and Brad Keselowski. That doesn’t work at Indy, and Johnson ended up in the wall and out of the race this time. But it was clear he was going for the lead and the win unless the engine blew. An accident causer, for sure, but a pure racing move as well, too.


It was almost a great day for two real underdogs in the Cup Series, but it turned out to be heartbreaking. As you may well know, racing is no respecter of potential sentimental stories. Trevor Bayne was going to go for the win on fuel mileage at first, only to have that hope dashed by the first of what seemed like 206 late-race cautions. Still, Bayne was sitting in third on a late restart, only to have an accident and see a possible second career Cup win expire. Just behind Bayne on a late restart was Michael McDowell. He was running fifth when pushing Bayne on the restart before he got caught up in the resulting crash. Either McDowell or Bayne winning would’ve been a real Cinderella story, but midnight came in the form of a DNF for both of them.


While the on-the-track result was not good for Dale Earnhardt Jr. again on Sunday (he finished 36th after a mid-race crash), there was some good news for him and NASCAR fans on Monday. NBC signed Junior to join its television broadcast, and that’s good news for everyone. During his guest announcing appearances, Earnhardt has shown the ability to communicate with intelligence, yet also be relatable to the everyday viewer who just might not be a NASCAR expert. Junior has handled tough media situations with class throughout his career and also understands the business due to his experience in commercials. He’s just a natural fit and the signing to NBC is great news for TV viewers.


While it looked like Clint Bowyer was going to be in position to make the playoffs this year, he was in fact the biggest loser in the standings after Sunday. With Kahne, who sits 20th in points, winning, he and Austin Dillon, who is 21st in points, will knock out the first two winless drivers in the top 16. Those would be Bowyer and the encumbered Joey Logano. Bowyer is now one spot out of the playoffs and sits 33 points behind Matt Kenseth, the next winless driver, with six races left in the regular season. With that kind of gap, Bowyer now joins Logano in the win or miss the playoffs scenario.


The Cup Series heads to Pocono for the second time this season. While it would be easy to pick the driver who won the first time there this year, in Ryan Blaney, I’m going with Kyle Larson this time around. The deep sleeper underdog who you might not think about pick is Danica Patrick, who has potential to fare well on these big 2.5-mile ovals. And before you laugh, my deep sleeper underdog pick at Indy was… Kasey Kahne.

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Tom McPherson

KK do the math 18 wins in 14 years, little E 24 in 19 years.
E in superior equipment, went a 3 year stretch without winning
Kasey had a 2 year stretch. Don’t hear any groaning about
Underperformance from that camp. I don’t get it.

Elliott Kahne

Well said. Dale Jr was never under the pressure to perform because sponsorship was always a lock for him. I feel like no one has noticed that HMS has fallen behind the pack and Kasey’s struggles actually make perfect sense when you consider he is the odd man out on a declining team. I feel like he proved Sunday that he still can get it done if things would go his way for once. I remember how ecstatic I was when Kasey signed with HMS and then shortly after found out that Chase Elliott would be a teammate. Now though, I am not happy as I don’t feel they have supported Kasey and his career could be left in ruin if there are no opportunities elsewhere. Also, HMS seems to be siting on their hands when it comes to catching back up to the pack speed-wise. No talk of crew chief changes or moving people around in the organization. Then they turn around an give a ride to Bowman who has exactly ZERO wins or top 5’s in all 3 top series in over 150 starts. I don’t want to hear whining about equipment either. Kasey won 11 races in EMS/GEM/RPM equipment which is more than all other drivers in that equipment combined and then even won for Red Bull.


As I feared the one lucky win hype will galvanize the “KASEY IS GREAT” folks, his record while different from Junior, is a record in recent years that has sucked, it just has! The majority of the time nobody knew Kahne was on the freaking race track he did even really place anywhere. His sponsors obviously feel differently about his value vs. Junior. Fair? Of course not, but that is the world we live in, and he did himself no favors. If and when he was interviewed it was anemic and odd, like he was living in Colorado or something…(meaning lost I am sure). This win yeah gets him in “The Playoffs”, but is a wasted spot, he will bomb out quickly, very quickly just like all the other Lucky Dogs who got in the past. IMO I am sure his competitors who are in are thrilled, no real competition!


…And Dales overall win average is better…just sayin! And I am no fan of BOOGER.

Elliott Kahne

I really don’t see where anyone is saying Kasey is great. I am saying the potential is there – as with a lot of drivers – if he gets in the right situation. Also, yes – Dale Jr has a slightly better win percentage but a lot of those (9 I think) came on restrictor plate tracks which have far less to do with driver or team performance. If you take those out, Kasey’s percentage is better. Also, The point is that everyone is making a big deal that Kasey has now only won 2 races over the past 3+ seasons (so far) but Jr only won 2 races over 7 seasons at one point from 2007 to 2013 and this was times when HMS was THE dominant team and his teammates even finished 1-3 in the points. No one was calling for his head though like they have for Kasey.

Kahne is Able

Your comments clearly suggest that you pay little attention to history. If I were a competetor I would be thinking Kasey COULD be very dangerous in the playoffs. Historically he has always been streaky and his wins tend to come in bunches with long winless streaks in between. To call it a “wasted spot” for a guy that have shown he can win in any make, at any track and even in not great equipment has to be the most iggnorant statement I have ever read. “Wasted” spots are the onces going to guys that got fluke wins not related to actual performance. Chirs Buesher last season, Aric Almiolra the season before. This year the “wasted” spots wiull be for Stenhouse, Dillon and borderline to Ryan Newman. I like Newman and think he is doing a very respectable job but no threat for a title. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not making some bold prediction that Kasey will be – just saying that he has a history of getting hot and ratlling off a few wins. The timing might be perfect. I will be very interested to see if they unload with better speed at Pocono.

Bruce Cints

how is this not a fluke, at least 6-8 of the better cars where wrecked out or had problems. Junior is a fluke too. HMS should have never signed Kasey to an extension in 2015 he didn’t deserve it then and will be lucky to return next year to finish out at best case. If he has an out and possibly another ride this take it because he will be unemployed next year. Byron will be in that car either this year or something will move around for 2019 being as Nationwide signed for three years, but only for one with Bowman, I believe bowman will be unemployed at the end of next year and then Junior can find him another ride and jr nation can scream like teenaged girls for another ride for him, You can bet if this were Byrons 2nd year in Xfinity, Bowman would be still sitting in his computer chair.


One lucky win? He drove the wheels off of that car to win that race. He had to hold of Kes and Johnson for multiple restarts. Call the pit stop lucky but the crew chief made the right call. Go back to complaining about the favoritism against the Fords. You are much better at that.


Sorry Jeff, your deep sleeper and her team have given up in case you haven’t noticed. They will of course deny it, but they have and it’s obvious to most old timers.I think it’s an exciting time in ,Nascar, lots of really good young drivers in NASCAR now, and some really good ones coming up in the next year or two. Maybe these young ones can generate more interest through their use of social media if NASCAR does their part and gets rid of all the downforce and that goofy splitter. Somebody better wake up and get Christopher Bell signed and moved up. He would sure look good in a JRM xfinity car next year and possibly the replacement for when Jimmie decided to retire. ButJimmie won’t retire until number 8 is on his mantle. Bell is going to be one of the exceptional ones. I think my sleeper this week will be Erik Jones and as for my other choice im just going to say it will be a first time winner this year.


RCR ? Is Richard going to end up as a two car team next year or the following year with his grandsons, the Dillon brothers as his two drivers ! If so then Richard better have real deep pockets because I think sponsors are going to be very hard to find for those two. Grandpa can get you to the party but you have to be better than a mediocre dancer to attract sponsors. Paul Menard can see where his and his father’s money is being spent and they are taking their money and moving on next year. Not for sure where yet, but that much money gone is really going to hurt RCR’s 2018 budget and hurt it bad. It’s tough to find sponsors for the really good drivers in today’s NASCAR and in this economy. Richard must have ulcers by now because he has big problems stating him in the face and he has known it for awhile now and reckoning day is drawing closer every day. Big story in what I’ve thrown out there Jeff, big story for sure and so far nobody has seen the writing. Not sure what options he has, merger, sell a percentage, take a partner, etc. Look at a picture of Richard from 2 years ago and then look at one taken recently. Stress does that to you. This will be a major story for sure.


RCR , first shoe drops, as I said yesterday, Menard took his money and ran. On a recent show Paul insinuated that he knew menard money was being spent on Ty Dillon, well no more. Richard said today he will have 3 teams next year, ha, where are the sponsors coming from. Think Kenseth can bring full sponsorship, I don’t think so. Think Ty can, I don’t. $ 20 Million sponsors just left RCR, tough getting that money back with the Dillon boys and possibly Newman. Drink milk for that ulcer Richard or get real drivers.

Elliott Kahne

To Bruce Cints…..Where does all this amazing knowledge come from? Both Kasey and Bowman unemployed? Kasey may well be done at HMS but unemployed is a stretch. I am no fan of Bowman but at least give the kid a race before writing him off. Kasey did not deserve an extension? He won 4 races in 2 seasons and had 2 chase appearances with one top 5 points finish. Apparently a championship was needed to get an extension. LMAO. Here is the real problem. Kasey has 18 cup wins for 5 different teams across 4 manufacturers at 12 different tracks and no matter what he does he gets flack. He seems to be the only driver out there held to championship or nothing standard.

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