Joe Gibbs Racing had a very up and down day at Kansas with one car getting sprayed by champagne while the other three sat in the garage torn up. They fielded a fourth car for this race and that was the No.81 driven by NASCAR Nationwide Series championship contender, Elliott Sadler. Here is a rundown of how the day went for all four drivers and for most of them, it wasn’t pretty.
Kyle Busch #18
Kyle rocketed up to 3rd early in the event and he looked fast. What looked like a promising race for last week’s winners quickly took a turn for the worse just five laps into the race. The rear end went around on Busch coming out of turn 2 sending the car skidding sideways down the backstretch. Kyle got away with no damage and restarted at the back of the pack. He fought his way back through the field with a visibly loose car and was looking fast again until lap 105 when things went very, very wrong. The No.18 went spinning for the second time but Kyle was unable to escape this incident unharmed. He slid down the track directly into the path of former teammate, Joey Logano and the two slammed into each other in a savage collision ending both of their days in an instant. The Kansas curse continues for Busch who has never finished better than 7th at this track. This weekend, Kyle wrecked two Sprint Cup cars and a Camping World Series truck and posted DNF’s in both races. He walked away very frustrated finishing 38th in the STP 400 falling to 7th in the standings.
Elliott Sadler #81
Elliott started the race in 24th and dropped back rapidly. For the first 80 laps or so, he struggled with the car falling back into the 30’s. Remember, this is Sadler’s first appearance driving the Gen-6 so I would imagine that it was very difficult for him to get a feel for these wicked fast machines. On lap 85, his day was cut short when he lost control in turn 4 sending his ALERT Energy Gum Toyota Camry into the wall tail first. He brought the car back to the garage with the rear end all crunched and the crew opted not to make repairs considering he wasn’t running for points. With their day over, No.81 posted a disappointing 40th place finish. Sadler will get a chance at redemption in his next shot at driving the #81 when NASCAR visits Talladega.
Brian Vickers #11
Brian was coming off a solid top 10 at Texas and hoped to make some noise at Kansas in a substitution role for Denny Hamlin. He started 16th and like Sadler, Brian struggled with the handling of his race car causing him to drop back into the 20’s. We didn’t hear much about Vickers until lap 175 but it was for all the wrong reasons. The No.11 smacked the wall off of turn 2 sending Brian spinning down the back stretch. He was able to keep it from nosing into the inside wall and continued the race. The suspension was damaged though and his ill handling car became even more uncontrollable. NASCAR warned the team to pick up the speed or they would be parked but the No.11 was able to soldier on and finish the race. Brian Vickers limped the car home 31st, 10 laps behind the leader in what may be his final start in the No.11 pending what doctors tell Hamlin this week.
Matt Kenseth #20
After reading the race summaries from the other three, a fan who didn’t know any better would look at Matt and wonder what happened to ruin his day. On the contrary, Kenseth had what I would call a fairly decent race. He started on pole and led the first 100 laps or so before falling back due to varying race strategies. With 52 to go, Matt reclaimed the top spot and never looked back. Well, I shouldn’t say he never looked back considering Kasey Kahne filled up his rear view mirror harassing Kenseth for the final 20 laps or so. The two battled hard a lot like they did at Las Vegas with Kenseth prevailing in the end winning his 26th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race. He’s now won the last two events at Kansas and finds himself 8th in the standings.
Even with the victory, it was certainly a tough day for Joe Gibbs Racing who lost half their fleet before even half the race was completed. “The Coach” probably didn’t know what to think when he walked back to the garage covered in confetti only to see his other three cars sitting there severely damaged. Everyone looked at Matt to join JGR and become a mentor to the other drivers in the stable and he’s done more than that so far winning two races and out-performing his teammates on a regular basis. The 2003 NSCS champ looks posed to be in contention for the Cup this year and who knows how many more wins he’ll rack up before the season is done.