Boogity, boggity, boggity. It was Saturday night racing at Kansas, boys. Yes, sir, it was the Might As Well Watch Paint Dry 400. Kansas, where excitement goes to die. Kevin Harvick started at the pole and led through to the competition caution. Ryan Blaney led at the re-start and continued to do so right to the end of the opening segment. Okay, Harvick did make it close at the end, but close does not even count in horseshoes when the other guy wraps his around the peg. Maybe we would be hanging on the edge of our seats in the middle frame. Lord, I hoped so.
I forgot that this was Kansas, where such hopes also go to die. Harvick led the segment for 50 laps, then gave it up to Kyle Larson for the final 30. There. That was our excitement. Okay, Jimmie Johnson came into the second stanza down a lap. Daniel Suarez and Brad Keselowski joined him after coming in for tire issues under green. At this point, the smart money was on either Larson, Harvick, or Blaney. Did an entirely new crop of fans take this in, and were now sitting there in front of the television sets saying that from now on they just have to watch this sport? Damn near made myself laugh just now.
Matt Kenseth was racing. He spent most of the time off the lead lap, but he was out there replacing Trevor Bayne for this one. Being in a Ford is good this year unless you are in a Roush Fenway Ford. Kenseth is a great driver. He is a former champion. However, he can not turn water into wine, and he needed that kind of miracle power.
Mind you, his chances were better than this race becoming a ratings juggernaut. When we opened the final segment already half the field found themselves a lap or more down. Larson led when they went green and stayed there until caution finally came out with 30 to go. Suarez wobbled, and William Byron sideswiped him just enough to cut down a tire. Oh, and Blaney had gotten by Harvick to sit a distant second. Harvick remained in third. Would anyone else even matter on this night?
Why yes. After they got going again, Harvick emerged up front, but Joey Logano slipped into the runner-up spot. With 20 to go, the pair of Larson and Blaney were fighting it out for third when they came together. After hitting the wall, it was goodbye to Mr. Blaney. Larson’s team ended their own hopes, we thought, when they messed up in the pits. They went after a fender repair, but the tire was never tightened before the jack dropped. Yet in the end, Larson claimed fourth. Okay, that was a bit of a miracle.
After 240 laps of dry as dust action, they did their best to create some measure of excitement. Harvick pitted under caution, but Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, and Byron did not. They were leading Harvick when they dropped the green, but within seconds a wreck beside Harvick missed him by a hair. Byron clipped Clint Bowyer and slammed face first into the wall. Ryan Newman and Kenseth were among those collected.
With eight to run, it took Harvick no time at all to use his four fresh friends to charge up into second, and when it came down to the final two trips around he got around Truex and that was the race. It was Harvick’s fifth victory on the season and 42nd of his career. Good point nights were recorded by Larson and Logano, while it was single digits for Byron, Newman, and Suarez.
Next week, they head to Charlotte where the stars will shine for the annual exhibition classic. Johnson has won four of them, though it would be tough to jump on his bandwagon at the moment. Chevrolet has won more than half of them over the years, but that is another musical conveyance that might be shy a few believers. For example, on Saturday night there were five Fords in the Top Ten, Toyota had four, and Larson the lone bowtie representative. That is how this season has gone for them.
It will be another Saturday night, but at least we won’t be in Kansas anymore, Toto.