Fresh off the announcement of the rules package for next year, here is what was surprising and not surprising from this year’s second race of the Contender round from the 15th annual Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Surprising: While there were some familiar on-track challenges, from complaints about restarts to concerns about oil in the upper groove, problems on pit road played a pivotal role, particularly for several Chase drivers.
Team 24 of Jeff Gordon had a loose lug nut and had to pit, one of Carl Edwards’ pit crew members fell down costing him spots, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., as well as others, had loose wheels.
But the biggest pit road issues were faced by Chase contenders Kevin Harvick, who was penalized for taking equipment out of the box, and Martin Truex, Jr. who was penalized for an uncontrolled tire.
“We’re lucky to come out of it as good as we did,” Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet, said. “We didn’t have a great weekend. A lot of things falling on and off. All and all, it could have been a lot worse.”
“It was tough day,” Truex said, echoing Harvick. “We were in good shape before the penalty (pass-through penalty for a tire going outside the line following green flag pit stop on Lap 213). We fought hard on the car all day got much better right when we got the penalty. We were fast at the end, but not enough time to get back up there.”
Harvick finished 16th in the race, which put him in the fifth position in the point standings. Truex finished 15th in the race and is now eighth in the points.
Not Surprising: From the land of the yellow brick road, the golden rule was being practiced mightily in Victory Lane.
“It was good, hard racing,” Joey Logano after tangling with Matt Kenseth to win the race. “We were racing each other really hard and I got in the fence twice on the straightaways. He raced me hard and I raced him hard back. That’s hard racing. That’s the way I race.”
“If I get raced like that, I’ll race the same way. That’s how I’ve always been and it will always be that way.”
Surprising: There was a surprising runner-up and no, it was not Kevin Harvick. It was actually Denny Hamlin, behind the wheel of the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota, who captured the second spot in Kansas, putting himself in the runner-up spot in the point standings as well.
“It was an interesting day for sure,” Hamlin said. “We definitely fought our car early in the day. We made it better, we had some good restarts and the pit crew got us some spots. The next thing we knew we were trying to battle for a race win.”
Not Surprising: In a season of strange happenings at the track, from squirrels to foxes to ducks on track, Kansas featured a weird occurrence as well. Smoke was reported wafting over the racing surface, causing some concern. But it all turned out to be a bus on fire just outside the track.
Surprising: Ryan Blaney had a surprisingly good run, finishing seventh in his No. 21 Woods Brothers Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford. Yet the young driver admitted to being still in the learning mode as he faces the final few races of the season.
“I feel pretty good about the rest of the year,” Blaney said. “We’ve learned some things. We still have to get a lot better, but we’re getting there. Being on the race track more is part of it. Things come with time for both me and Jeremy (Bullins, crew chief) and we’re finally getting some time under our belt.”
Not Surprising: There were at least three drivers who no doubt want to put Kansas City in their rear view mirrors. Tony Stewart was one, spinning early to bring out the second caution of the day.
And the other two were Austin Dillon and Clint Bowyer, both of whom hit the wall, and hit it hard.
“I was catching everyone in front of us and then blew a right front,” Dillon said. “We were carrying a lot of speed and just blew a tire.”
“I thought I could save it, but guess what, I didn’t save it,” Bowyer said. “It was a hard hit. “Very, I hit a wall. Pretty damn hard.”
“I couldn’t believe how fast it snapped. You usually can ride it along, but that thing came out from underneath of me so fast. As soon as that headlight got some air in it, boy that baby bit and turned me around pretty quick.”
“I hate that happened especially at home.”
Surprising: Jimmie Johnson may not be in the championship hunt, but he may have played a role in how the race at Kansas played out. He stayed out late in the race, preventing many drivers who had had trouble from taking the wave around.
The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet finished third, posting his 16th top-10 finish in nineteen races at Kansas Speedway.
“The silver lining of not being in the Chase is having fast cars,” Johnson said. “It was fun racing. We did have speed in our cars and we are running really well. We did it again this weekend.”
Not Surprising: There was some ‘dad’ flavor at the race, with new dad Kasey Kahne having a good run in fourth and dad Kyle Busch finishing fifth.
“We just kept fighting and persevering through everything that was thrown at us,” Busch said after the race. “And in case everyone wasn’t sure, Halloween is coming up so grab all those M&Ms for all the kiddies. I know I’m looking forward to my first Halloween with my son Brexton.”
Surprising: Kurt Busch went from celebrating his sixth place win, as well as his third place in the point standings, to being decidedly bummed about how close the Chase continued to be.
“We’re going to Talladega third in Chase Only plus 13?” Busch asked a reporter after the race. “I would have hoped we would have been 25. Plus 13 is not very exciting.”
“Wow, you kind of deflated my bubble there. I thought a fifth or a sixth was pretty good in this battle but it’s not.”
Not Surprising: No one is looking more forward to racing next weekend than Dale Earnhardt Jr., particularly since the upcoming battle will be on his favorite restrictor plate track.
The driver of the No. 88 Halo 5: Master Chief Chevrolet, who finished the last of the Chasers in 21st at Kansas tweeted this after the race, “Tough day at the track. Gonna have those. Bring on @TalladegaSuperS! Taking that same hot rod that won there earlier this season. #ShesFast.”