Race Weekend Central

Couch Potato Tuesday: Kansas Provides a Bunch of Action for Viewers

Kansas Speedway put on a very interesting couple of races last weekend. We got a first-time winner Friday night in Ross Chastain and a very interesting Cup race that looked unlike any race seen so far this year.

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Saturday night’s 400-mile race was somewhat unexpected. It was a competitive race… whenever Kevin Harvick wasn’t leading. It also produced several unusual moments.

Likely the biggest moment to come out of the race was Erik Jones’ swooping block on Clint Bowyer just after the white flag that curtailed Bowyer’s progress. Am I surprised at his move? Heck no. Am I surprised that Bowyer was angry about it? Also no.

FS1 covered both sides of the issue, getting both drivers to comment. All in all, it was quite cordial. I almost feel like NASCAR would have wanted Bowyer to be angrier — or to actually do what he said he should have done and actually taken Jones out. Had that happened, it would have collected a bunch of innocents in the process.

The other was the caution that came out with 50 laps to go when Ryan Newman’s crew let one of his tires get away. It rolled across the pit lane and into the grass, where it stopped. Generally speaking, NASCAR doesn’t want to throw a yellow during a round of green flag stops unless it absolutely has to. Anyone who watched the race Saturday night probably knows why: It causes chaos.

My hope here would have been that NASCAR waited until the end of the round of stops, then threw the yellow. They chose otherwise, creating a mess and ruining the races of a number of drivers. I have no idea why NASCAR made that decision, but I think back to Atlanta in 2009 when a tire got away from JTG Daugherty Racing’s No. 47 team.

That day, NASCAR threw the caution because Marcos Ambrose’s crew member ran halfway between pit road and the track to retrieve the tire. Nothing even approaching that occurred. I feel like NASCAR shouldn’t have thrown the yellow.  The booth thought at first that NASCAR might choose to wait. If this were ARCA, they would have waited.

Then, you have the scoring mess that resulted from the caution call. Larry McReynolds is always prepared for shenanigans to break out, and this is one occasion that he was ready and raring to go. He explained the proper order that the field should line up by long before the teams could.

At first, the issue was who would get the Lucky Dog. It seemed like Brad Keselowski should have gotten it based on positioning on-track. However, the Dog is apparently decided at the moment of caution. This confuses me. What happened to the whole scoring loop thing? I thought video evidence was only used if the race were to end under yellow (which this event did not). There was a stunning lack of clarity here. If NASCAR were using video evidence to determine it here, why not visually share their findings with the TV audience instead of just having Mike Joy tell the viewers what’s up? This scenario was a mess, but it wasn’t necessarily FS1’s fault that it was a mess.

The overall racing product was fast and furious. There was a lot of side-by-side racing Saturday night, and FS1 did a pretty good job bringing that to the viewers. The only time in which it really wasn’t close up front was when Harvick was leading early. At that time, Harvick was clearly good enough to pull away from everyone. Pretty much no one else could do that all night.

Aside from McReynolds, the studio back in Charlotte really doesn’t get a lot of use during the race, but Jamie McMurray did chime in at one point late in the race when Harvick had to make an unscheduled stop. McMurray noted that you can get a harmonic vibration at Kansas with certain tires since the track was repaved/reconfigured in 2012. It appears that McMurray thought that could have been the cause of Harvick thinking he had a tire issue. It also sounds like McMurray said that because that may have happened to him recently at Kansas.

The broadcast booth thought that Harvick thought something was wrong with his tire since he had picked up a windshield tear-off on his grille. While yes, that will obviously change the air flow into the front of the car, I’m somewhat unclear on whether that would affect tires. Never really seen an obstruction block any of the aero ducts to know what the specific effect on the car could be, though.

The Cleveland Indians-Oakland Athletics game ran long by 22 minutes, killing off most of FS1’s pre-race coverage. That said, in lieu of a grid walk, there was a piece where Michael Waltrip spent some time in the garage with Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen (in town to play a series with the Kansas City Royals). Here, McCutchen asked some offbeat questions to various drivers. While it appeared that he had fun with it, it appeared that McCutchen was not the most well-informed. Regardless, it was good to see an athlete from another sport come on out to see what NASCAR is about. Just hope that loud noises didn’t play a role in McCutchen going hitless Friday night.

Overall, it definitely seemed like the booth was really selling the package again and again on Saturday night. Dudes, we’re three months into the season. It’s really starting to get old. Yes, there was good racing, but we don’t need this package shoved down our throats. Just don’t even talk about the rules package and present the race for what it is.

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Friday night brought the Gander Outdoors Truck Series to Kansas Speedway for its longest race of the season. Like the Cup race on Saturday night, this was a very competitive event. Didn’t even realize until I went to write this column that there were 22 lead changes Friday night, just one less than the Cup race. That is a record for the Trucks at Kansas, more than any Xfinity race run there and above average for Cup races.

Prior to the race, the main feature of NASCAR RaceDay – NGOTS Edition saw Kaitlyn Vincie travel to the shop of Young’s Motorsports to talk with the team’s three full-time drivers (Tyler Dippel, Spencer Boyd and Gus Dean). Topics here included their general thoughts on the competition to this point and the team atmosphere.

Dean claims that he’s winning both the on and off-track competitions within the team. Truth is, Dippel’s outrunning both Dean and Boyd (despite Boyd having the team’s best finish this year to date).

The main takeaway here is there is a fun-loving atmosphere with the team. Boyd said it best. His crew chief apparently came up to him after he got out of the truck and asked him, “Are you having fun out there?” You don’t hear that a lot in the upper levels of motorsport. Racing is supposed to be fun, and I think a lot of people involved in motorsport forget that.

I’ve been covering Dippel’s racing since before he met Pubertis (a monster as depicted in this Harry Potter parody on Robot Chicken). Still seems so weird to see a former Sportsman champion at Lebanon Valley full-time in the series. He’s doing well, but he’s the best driver in the second class of competitors at the moment.

Also, this piece might have been shot relatively early in the day. It seemed like Dippel was a bit sleepy.

As noted above, there was plenty of action to go around on Friday night. Stewart Friesen may have won the first two stages, but until the team screwed up its final stop, he never had that big of a lead. Given his strength on Friday night, he probably should have stopped when Brett Moffitt spun, taken his fresh left side tires and gotten fuel.  They decided to chance it and lost.

Aside from Friesen screwing up yet again, the big story of the night was Johnny Sauter’s transmission issue. FS1 did a great job showing the viewers just what broke and what needed to be done to the truck so that Sauter could continue. Honestly, I’m surprised that ThorSport Racing allowed FS1 to show the stricken transmission with the broken input shaft.

Finally, Natalie Decker didn’t have a great night. Again. This time, she spun while racing underneath Dippel and junked her splitter. Afterwards, we heard audio that indicated that she was very confused about what went on there. Great audio, but that is not a good place for Decker to be in. She’s in a position to doubt her own abilities as a driver. Not good going forward. Maybe her ARCA races later in the season will help her regain her confidence.

The race ultimately ran up against the end of FS1’s time slot. As a result, post-race coverage was pretty short. Viewers got to hear from a couple of the top finishers (Chastain and Todd Gilliland), along with winning crew chief Phil Gould and the sulking Friesen. Like Dippel, I’ve covered Friesen’s racing for years, dating back to at least 2011. I’ve never seen him that angry before. That was about it before FS1 left Kansas for MLB Whiparound.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed Friday night’s 250-mile race. There was plenty of action to keep me occupied, and you didn’t have stupid stuff get in the way of enjoying the race. Friesen really needed some good times at Fonda Speedway Saturday night in order to unwind after that.

That’s all for this week. Next weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returns to Charlotte for All-Star Weekend. The Gander Outdoors Truck Series will serve as primary support. The NTT IndyCar Series will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway all week, preparing for Indianapolis 500 qualifying, while SRO America will be at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park with the Pinty’s Series. TV Listings can be found in the Television tab.

We will provide critiques of the Monster Energy All-Star Race and the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 in next week’s edition of Couch Potato Tuesday here at Frontstretch. The Critic’s Annex is currently undecided, but we’ll cook something up for you.

If you have a gripe with me, or just want to say something about my critique, feel free to post in the comments below.  Even though I can’t always respond, I do read your comments. Also, if you want to “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, please click on the appropriate icons. If you would like to contact either of NASCAR’s media partners, click on either of the links below.

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About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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I’ve got a feeling that if Baby Busch was leading it would have been CLOSEUPS of the 18 forever.

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