The Final Word – Kansas proves that driving fast does not have to look exciting to be hazardous

by Ron Thornton On Mon, May. 15, 2017

Photo Credit: Simon Scoggins

Kansas was a scheduled 400-mile contest but, truth be told, the highlight of this one arrived with 50 to go. It came in the form of a busted brake rotor, three destroyed cars, and a driver being airlifted to a local hospital. The event itself was just another 1.5-mile track, cars spread out hither and yon, and a generic sponsor non-iconic name attached. However, as they reached the 200th lap, we witnessed what could happen on this track, any track, to jerk us back to reality.

Danica Patrick was having a decent day, just outside the Top Ten. Joey Logano spent much of his day just inside it. How does a brake rotor come apart with such force that it blasts through the hood of a car? That is what happened to Logano, which caused the car to cut left on the only side that then had brakes applied to clip the rear quarter panel of Patrick. Going about 200 mph, she immediately got turned hard right into the wall, Logano turned back up to join her. That is when Aric Almirola hit the brakes but found himself helplessly sliding toward mayhem. He tore into the exposed front fender of Logano, which lifted the rear of Almirola’s car high into the air. It was all smoke and fire and carnage.

Patrick’s car was a smoking heap. Logano’s not much better. At least we saw them walking together toward the ambulance, he trying to explain, she not wanting to listen just yet. About a quarter-mile down the track, the Petty blue 43 was resting up against the outside wall. The window net was down, the driver was moving, but he was not leaving. We watched as they ripped back the roof of his car. We saw them lift Almirola out on a stretcher. Later, we saw the helicopter taking him for medical aid. Thankfully, we had seen him moving in the car, speaking to his rescuers. Those were good signs. Later, we heard Almirola had a compression fracture in his back but was headed back home the next day.

Patrick, who just had the stuffing knocked out of her in a crash at Talladega the week before, was once again roughed up like a Trump supporter trying to speak on a college campus. She was frustrated, she was at a loss as to how a brake rotor would let go like that, why she had to get collected again in something not of her own doing. She was concerned that her luck, or someone else’s, might run out. “One of these times, one of these really big accidents, someone is not going to be okay, Aric is not okay and his car looked the best of everybody.” It is hard to blame her for thinking that way. Two huge hits in as many races has to bring the topic front and center in her mind. Anyone’s mind. A race might not be terribly exciting to watch at times, but 200 mph is still damned fast if you happen to be in the driver’s seat and not in your favorite chair at home.

Martin Truex Jr. brought it home for his second win of the season. Ryan Blaney gave him some competition in the late going, but it was Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick moving ahead at the end in the battle of the bridesmaids. Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson both managed great points days themselves. Along with the likes of Logano, Almirola, and Patrick, Ryan Newman had a brutal Saturday night when he lost an engine late in the second stage. One big point for him. Having a win already in his quiver probably helps ease the pain somewhat.

Having two is even better, though it was an interesting day for Jimmie Johnson. He cruised through too many pit boxes at the end of the first stage to get penalized. He battled back, then cut a tire in the second while battling Kurt Busch. Back he came again, yet over the final laps, Denny Hamlin tagged the same Mr. Busch who clipped Johnson, who went for a spin to finish 24th. You rarely spin to win, but if you could Erik Jones would have taken the checkered flag. Three times he did the loop-de-loop over the course of the event to wind up 22nd. On the positive side, three times he spun, three times he missed hitting the wall. As they say, the lad is talented.

The brightest amongst the sports constellation will be out, as the all-star race is next on the schedule this Saturday in Charlotte. Almirola had not qualified, and I think it a safe bet to say he will not be available to seek one of the berths through the Showdown qualifier or the fan vote. Most of the top drivers for this season have already qualified, along with last year winner Chris Buescher and 2000 all-star race champ Dale Earnhardt Jr. Having to win one of the Showdown segments or the fan vote prior to the classic itself include Patrick, Jones, Blaney, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer and Trevor Bayne. That is some decent talent currently sitting on the outside.

Which brings us back to the man on the mend. Wishing you a speedy recovery, Aric.

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