Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud at Kansas: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

What Happened?

With Daniel Suarez on no tires, Erik Jones, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano on two tires and Denny Hamlin leading the rest of the field with four, Sunday’s (Sept. 10) Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway was decided by a two-lap shootout in overtime after Chris Buescher blew a tire in turn 3.

Jones and Logano made quick work of Suarez on the restart while Hamlin failed to launch on the outside line. Through the slicing and dicing of the first two turns, it was Tyler Reddick who emerged as the highest-running car on four fresh tires.

With Logano and Jones still locked in a side-by-side battle for the lead out of turn 4, it was Reddick who got the run and took it three-wide on the apron as the lead trio took the white flag. Two tires were no match for the No. 45 car’s four, and Reddick took the checkered flag over team owner Hamlin by 0.327 seconds.

See also
Tyler Reddick Wins Overtime Shootout at Kansas

But What Really Happened?

Christopher Bell started on pole with Kyle Larson in second and Martin Truex Jr. in third. Truex would be an early exit from the race after a punctured tire on lap 4, and Larson took the lead from Bell on the ensuing restart.

The No. 5 team was on a Sunday drive in the first half of the race, as Larson won the first stage and led 98 of the first 114 laps. Chase Elliott wrestled the lead away from Larson on a lap 115 restart, but another caution shuffled pit strategy out front. As Elliott and Larson stayed out with 10-lap older tires, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and others opted to put on fresh rubber.

Elliott maintained the lead and held off a challenge from Harvick until Keselowski powered by on lap 163. It was the No. 6 car that scored the stage win, and as the field re-racked for the start of the final stage, it was Keselowski, Hamlin and Reddick as the lead trio off pit road.

Keselowski put up a commendable fight for the lead, but Hamlin quickly zipped by on lap 187 with a No. 11 car that had come to life; Reddick followed in tow to grab second.

The field spread out as the drivers worked an 82-lap green-flag run, and if the race ran green to the end, it looked like Hamlin was going to run away with the win as Reddick was more than three seconds behind. But Buescher brought out the caution with six to go, and Reddick parted the seas in overtime to score the victory.

Who Stood Out?

23XI’s No. 45 car has been money in the Heartland since its debut last season. Three different drivers (Kurt Busch, Bubba Wallace and Reddick) have driven the car to victory lane in Kansas, and the one race the team hasn’t won since 2022 was instead won by the boss. It seems that no matter the changes, the No. 45 will find always find a way to take the checkers in the Sunflower State. Reddick was one of the fastest cars all day, and he was the fastest car in the final two laps.

As for Hamlin, the all-time win leader at Kansas looked just the part, and without the last caution, he would’ve cruised to Kansas win no. 5 and joined Truex in 2017 as the only drivers to sweep both Kansas races. It wasn’t meant to be, but between this week and Darlington, the No. 11 team has one of the hottest hands at the beginning of the playoffs.

Outside of Reddick, the biggest winner of the weekend was Jones. Legacy Motor Club’s season began with high hopes and anticipation, but those quickly went astray as the team’s cars struggled for speed.

That was not the case at Kansas though, as Jones started 19th and quickly worked his way into the top 10. That’s roughly where he ran the entire race, and the No. 43 team was able to capitalize on the late two-tire call to score its first top five of the season in third.

See also
The Underdog House: Erik Jones Nearly Spoils the Party in Kansas

It wasn’t a win, but Sunday was a much-needed boost for Elliott and the No. 9 team. They were set to finish third prior to the final caution, and Elliott led more laps at Kansas (47) than the rest of his 2023 season combined (41). They lost out on the final restart, but still managed to cross the line in sixth.

Larson picked up right where he left off from his Southern 500 victory at Darlington Raceway one week ago, and he looked untouchable in the first half until a near-wreck at halfway caused him to parachute down the running order. Larson managed to drive from 26th to fifth in the final stage, but the comeback was too little, too late, as he was saddled with a fourth-place finish and a not-so-happy teammate.

Who Fell Flat?

Truex’s day was over before it even began.

He started the day in third and immediately sunk like a stone as nearly a dozen cars passed him in the first three laps. Something was clearly amiss on the No. 19, and Truex slammed the turn 3 wall with a puncture shortly after.

Could the No. 19 team have contended for the win? We’ll never know, but the disastrous day put Truex seven points below the cut as one race remains in the Round of 16.

In terms of other teams that showed potential but were left with disappointing results, Wallace had shown that last September was no fluke by running second behind Larson in the first 100 laps. But it was yet another tire issue that undid the No. 23 team’s day, and Wallace finished four laps down after the team was forced to repair a bent toe link.

While Bell certainly had a solid day by winning the pole and finishing eighth, the same can’t be said for his pit crew, as Bell lost five spots on his first pit stop and saw the jack drop during a later pit stop. Maybe the team needs more chemistry, but those mistakes won’t take a team very far in a cutthroat final 10 races.

William Byron had an impressive comeback from two laps down to finish third at Kansas in May, but that speed wasn’t in store this time around. Byron had worked his way up to fifth, but an unassisted spin on lap 63 took him out of contention. The No. 24 car battled a loose condition for the remainder of the race, and Byron was only able to muster a 15th-place result.

Of the four drivers to enter Kansas below the playoff cut, only Harvick was able to exit the red. Wallace finished 32nd after the damage, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael McDowell were nonfactors all day with 23rd and 26th-place finishes, respectively. McDowell is in must-win territory for next week, and it may take a win for Wallace or Stenhouse to advance as well.

Better Than Last Time?

With a Kansas-record 37 lead changes, it was all but impossible for this race to top the show the field put on in May.

That said, there were fun battles for the lead between Elliott and Larson, Keselowski and Elliott plus Keselowski and Hamlin to go along with the wild overtime restart. The Next Gen has excelled at 1.5-mile tracks, and while Sunday may not have been a barnburner like Kansas in May or the Coca-Cola 600, it was certainly didn’t disappoint either.

Paint Scheme of the Race

Plenty of contenders this week, but I had to go with Harvick’s SunnyD car that had a beautiful blend of orange, yellow and blue. In a time of race-by-race sponsors and similarly colored cars, this one stands out on the track in a big way.

What’s Next?

The Cup Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway and Thunder Valley for its annual race under the Saturday night lights.

Four drivers will be eliminated from the playoffs after 500 laps at the Last Great Coliseum, and the entire field will be chasing one of the most coveted victories on the schedule.

The Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol will take place on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET with TV coverage provided by USA Network.

About the author

Stephen Stumpf is the NASCAR Content Director for Frontstretch, and his weekly columns include “Stat Sheet” and “4 Burning Questions.” Stephen also writes commentary, contributes weekly to the “Bringing the Heat” podcast and is frequently at the track for on-site coverage. A native of Texas, Stephen began following NASCAR at age 9 after attending his first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow on Twitter @stephen_stumpf.

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Bill B

As much as I hate late cautions and GWC finishes, yesterday it was worth it just to take a win away from whiner boy. Or is it wiener boy? Actually, they both work.

As is always the case with this crapshoot format, the regular season leader may be eliminated due to a random tire issue. Of course, had he been more competitive at Darlington, he’d still be alright.

DoninAjax

How about British term Wanker Boy? I think it applies to a lot of Reverend Joe drivers.

wildcats2016

ha that’s awesome

wildcats2016

I was happy that Whiner Boy didn’t win too. I’m sure ppl are tired of hearing me say that I really don’t like this championship format. I realize NASCAR doesn’t care and that’s their option. It’s still MY option to not like it and not spend my $ on NASCAR related things.

Kevin in SoCal

Sheesh, what a hater, hahaha

Bill B

Hamlin Hater? Damn right. LOL

I root against Hamlin more than I root for anyone else.
I don’t care who wins as long as it isn’t Hamlin.

Kevin in SoCal

I can understand that, I liked to root against Dale Jr because of how overzealous his fans are. And now the same with Chase Elliott.
I do agree Hamlin is a hypocrite but I don’t hate him.

Dan

Remember back in the day? ABE …….Anybody But Earnhardt. LOL

Kathleen Kulesza

I’m a Jeff Gordon fan I remember signs in the stands saying Fans against Gordon, Is there a driver that hasn’t annoyed Chase Elliott? Kyle Busch Denny Hamlin Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson. I doubt he’s the most popular driver with his peers.

Ronald Thornton

One of the few times that I thanked Goodyear for being the worst tire manufacturer in professional motorsports. I don’t keep up with the others as much anymore, but no one has tire failures like Nascar. (Let me know if I am wrong). Thanks this time for screwing Hamlin, but please quit taking out the nice guys. If you are gonna take someone out, make it Hamlin or Logano or Brad K etc… LOL.
And, by the way, I will bet you that it is the crewchiefs fault by 1 pound of pressure or less because Goodyear doesn’t make bad tires. (Indy?)2010 or 12 or 14 or whenever it was that 10 laps was the longest green flag run. Only time goodyear ever admitted fault. Please do something Nascar. Fire Goodyear.

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