Who’s in the headline
Kevin Harvick continues to confirm the belief that Ford is the manufacturer to beat in 2018 in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. For the fifth time in 12 races, Harvick was in Victory Lane. He started the year with three wins in a row after the Daytona 500 and has now knocked off two more consecutive triumphs. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson scored the wins in stages one and two, respectively, while Darrell Wallace Jr. was awarded Rookie of the Race.
The race started quite ordinarily, with a the majority of the field moving slightly forward or slightly backward, but Larson and Clint Bowyer, who had to start at the back of the field due to unapproved adjustments or failure to pass pre-qualifying tech, made a feverish charge to the front of the pack. A competition caution gave teams a chance for early adjustments, because most teams were struggling with handling. The remainder of the the first stage was uneventful, and Blaney held onto the top spot to score a stage win.
The second stage was very uneventful thanks to no cautions and little passing, although tire strategy added some excitement. When the green-and-white-checkered flag flew over stage two, it was Larson at the point.
The race looked like it might go caution-free until Alex Bowman and Daniel Suarez made contact on the backstraight to bring out the first caution for contact. Shortly after, a second flew for contact between Blaney and Larson on the frontstretch as they raced toward the point. Blaney’s night was ended while Larson had to battle back from the rear with less than 20 laps to go.
The final caution, which immediately turned to a red flag, happened when William Byron got loose under Bowyer in Turn 4 and triggered a melee that involved seven different cars. It ended the night for Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Chris Buescher, Ty Dillon and Blaney.
After that caution/red flag period, Martin Truex Jr. jumped out to a big lead while Harvick worked his way through traffic. It appeared Truex was far enough out front, but Harvick chased him down rapidly over the final five laps, taking the lead as they came to the white flag.
Why you should care
Fords continue to dominate, and Stewart Haas Racing continues to be the flagship for that effort. That said, Larson continues to show that Chevrolets aren’t as far out to lunch as they appear. Toyotas are already winners this year, and Truex and Kyle Busch were near the front for much of the night. The young drivers are learning and getting better while the old guard continues to win, provided their name is Jimmie Johnson, who was worse off this weekend than he’s been all year.
What your friends are talking about
The rumor that we hear on and off about NASCAR actually appears to have some legs. It has been reported that NASCAR has hired Goldman Sachs to evaluate the sanctioning body and determine a value. There is quite a bit to valuate, but part of the process will not include the tracks owned by ISC. ISC is a publicly traded company that is majority-owned by members of the France family but has no ownership by NASCAR. The only speedway that will be involved is Iowa Speedway, which was purchased by NASCAR, not ISC.
As the word began to circulate about the potential of NASCAR being up for sale, the rumored possible suitors went from the sublime to the absurd. Everyone has their idea of who will be the new head of the snake, and you never say never, but Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart were three very popular guesses. Stewart is always rumored whenever any racing entity is potentially up for sale. In the end, Stewart is a dirt racing guy, and the idea of him buying NASCAR just seems like it wouldn’t be a good marriage. Earnhardt has changed his priorities over time and, with the birth of Isla, really doesn’t seem to be a logical choice to take the reins. Gordon has a lot of interests in the world, but running racing organizations never seems to be something he pursues.
In the end, the best choice for a new owner and a new head of NASCAR really needs to be a person with a whole different vision of the sport. Sadly, the schedule will probably be shortened unless someone from World Racing Group gets in there and comes up with a schedule like they run. Ultimately, the series needs to get back to short tracks, because that it what promotes paint trading, rubbing and wrecking. Like it or not, that is what brings eyeballs to the sport. A road course or two will probably be added. Double races at facilities will most likely go away. Expect to see someone like Mark Cuban or Daniel Snyder come in and change the sport.
Larson’s car had a collapsed rear window, which allows more air to the rear spoiler. It happened with Harvick early in the year and Chase Elliott later. The end results were penalties from NASCAR. Darrell Waltrip suggested that body damage to Larson’s car may have been the fault but the R&D center, where the car was taken.
Contrary to popular belief, Matt Kenseth is not the almighty savior for Roush Fenway Racing. It has been terrible for a while and hasn’t made many changes over the last few years. On the plus side for Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., their complaints will no longer fall on deaf ears, because Kenseth is complaining about the same issues. Hopefully fans will relax now and let Kenseth help his old team as it tries to get better.
The All-Star Race will have restrictor plates at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That could be amazing, but it could suck. The race is an event that has long made part of its name by the various different formats over the years. Sadly, the format this year is no different from a normal race. Hopefully the plates will make up for some of that.
Who is mad
Blaney started on the front row, won a stage and was looking to snag his first win of the season. Unfortunately, that all went away on lap 248. Blaney and Larson were dueling at the front of the pack and made light contact on the frontstraight. That contact led to more contact, which ultimately cut Blaney’s tire, ending his night and severely hampering Larson’s opportunity to win.
Another young driver, Byron, might need to have a talk with his crew chief. There is something to be said for learning to swim by being thrown into the deep end, but there is also something to be said for learning by completing laps and getting seat time. Alan Gustafson has a reputation for taking chances in an effort to win races, but Byron has had some rough learning experienced thanks to some roll-of-the-dice strategy calls.
Who is happy
Paul Menard started the season off strong with two top 10s in the first three races, but the last three races had been terrible. Menard had two finishes in the 30s and a 24th over the last three races. Coming home Saturday night with a sixth-place finish was a boost for the Wood Brothers Racing team that it could certainly use.
David Ragan started 20th, avoided the late race chaos and came home with a 13th-place finish. Front Row Motorsports is one of the smaller teams that occasionally catches lightning in a bottle and knocks out a good finish, and Saturday night was one of those races. For the first time since early 2015, Ragan had a finish of 13th on a mile-and-a-half racetrack.
When the checkered flag flew….
- Kevin Harvick wins his fifth race of the 2018 season in his 622nd start.
- This is Harvick’s third triumph at Kansas Speedway.
- Harvick has 42 victories in his career.
- The 42 wins puts Harvick in 18th on the all-time wins list, two behind Bill Elliott
- Martin Truex Jr. came home second after winning both of the races at Kansas last season.
- Truex has finished in the top two spots five times at Kansas in his career.
- For the second time this year, Truex finished the race in the top two.
- In Truex’s career, he has finished in the top two 13 times, which ranks him tied with Donnie Allison, Curtis Turner and Morgan Shepherd for 56th all-time.
- Rounding out the podium was Joey Logano, who grabbed his second top three of 2018.
- Logano has four career top three finishes at Kansas.
- For his career Logano has 50 career podium runs. That ranks him 49th on the all-time list with Dick Hutcherson.
- Darrell Wallace Jr. won the Rookie of the Race for the sixth time this season. William Byron has also won Rookie of the Race six times.
Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are the six race winners in 12 races of 2018. Assuming there are 16 or fewer unique winners in the regular season, they will be locked into the playoffs based on winning a race. Harvick and Busch are locked into the playoffs thanks to two victories, assuming they attempt the remaining races in the regular season. The drivers who would qualify for the playoffs and their associated playoff points:
1) Kyle Busch – 17
2) Joey Logano – 7
3) Kevin Harvick – 24
4) Brad Keselowski – 4
5) Kurt Busch – 2
6) Clint Bowyer – 5
7) Denny Hamlin – 1
8) Martin Truex Jr. – 7
9) Ryan Blaney. – 3
10) Kyle Larson – 1
11) Aric Almirola – 0
12) Jimmie Johnson – 0
13) Erik Jones – 0
14) Alex Bowman – 0
15) Chase Elliott – 0
17) Austin Dillon – 5
What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)
There are some intermediate races that are great and some that are terrible. The race in Kansas was somewhere in between. It was basically a race with lots of cars racing on multiple grooves with tires that fell off. Unfortunately that didn’t translate into much excitement at the top spot in the race. As a result, we’ll give this one an average rating with four lukewarm Paver’s Porters from Cinder Block Brewery.[poll id=”25″]
Where do you point your DVR for next week?
The Cup Series reaches its annual break for its All-Star event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Coverage of the All-Star Race and the Open begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 19 on FS1. The race can also be streamed on the Fox Sports Go app. If you’d like to listen to the race you can switch on your local MRN affiliate, www.motorracingnetwork.com or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
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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