It’s time to put a nice little bow on everything that went down in America’s heartland.
Under clear blue Kansas skies, Brad Keselowski led the field to the green flag at 2:34 p.m. Drama hit the No. 4 car of Kevin Harvick early when he cued up his radio to say that there was a vibration in the car and, “it’s going to blow up.” The vibration turned out to be a loose right-rear wheel weight. It certainly didn’t stop Harvick from driving to the lead on lap 29. The first caution of the race flew the next lap after J.J. Yeley suffered a right-front tire blowout and slammed the wall in Turn 2. He would go on to finish 42nd.
The race restarted on lap 40. Joey Logano drove past Harvick on the outside in Turn 4 to take the lead on lap 51. Exiting Turn 2, Tony Stewart got loose, spun out and brought out the second caution of the race on lap 64. Carl Edwards exited pit road with the lead after taking just right-side tires.
Three laps after the lap 70 restart, Matt Kenseth took the lead from his teammate. Kyle Larson spun out exiting Turn 2 and brought out the third caution on lap 109. Kenseth and Logano swapped the lead on pit road with the former being pitted behind the start/finish line, but Kenseth left with it.
After the restart on lap 115, the race went green for 40 laps before Austin Dillon slammed the wall in Turn 1 and brought out the fourth caution.
Ten laps later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. made an unscheduled stop for a loose wheel and would only rally to a 21st-place finish.
Speaking on the incident, he said that he felt, “pretty sure we had an issue. We had a lot of wheels shaking, tires shaking because of the wheels spinning inside the tire. Every set we had today except for one didn’t shake. Every set shook, but it’s a completely different kind of thing when the wheel is not tight. We don’t know which one it was. We came in so quick it didn’t beat up the wheel enough to give us a real indication of which one it was. I knew we needed to come down pit road. We had a fast car, just never really had good track position and got behind. We didn’t come here to run second or top five; we don’t need that we need a win. We had to try to go out there and win and we just got behind.”
Hometown favorite Clint Bowyer got loose in turn 2, overcorrected and slammed the wall in turn 2. Talking about the incident, he said that he was “”following Gordon there and I started to catch him back. I went in and he kind of took my line away and I tried to pull down and as soon as my headlight got out and got some air in it, man it turned me.”
After the restart with 89 laps to go, Kenseth and Joey Logano duked it out swapping the lead four times over the ensuing 18 laps. Championship and race favorite Kevin Harvick (9/2 race and 7/2 title according to Vegas Insider) was handed a stop and go penalty for removing equipment from his pit box. The cause of this was the fuel can getting stuck in the fuel receptor of the No. 4 car and it slid out of the box.
“That’s the first time that’s happened for us,” said Rodney Childers about the mishap. “You don’t want that kind of thing to happen, but I felt like we had a third or fourth–place car and our fuel mileage wasn’t very good and we had to pit a couple laps before those guys were, and then we were going to have to stretch it on the next one. Basically, you had to tell the gasman to try to stay with the car as long as you can and get absolutely as many drops of fuel in there as you can, and it just got hung up as we were leaving. Even what he did following the car out, it still wasn’t full, so that’s part of it.”
Martin Truex Jr. was hit with a pass-through penalty for an uncontrolled tire. During the stop, the right-rear tire that came off the car rolled out of the pit box.
Kenseth had a scary moment with 24 laps to go when Justin Allgaier slammed the wall in Turn 2 right in front of him. Jimmie Johnson made an unusual call to stay out when the rest of the lead-lap cars pitted. This prevented drivers like Harvick from getting back on the lead lap. I think Johnson was banking on a few other cars staying out so he’d have a cushion to hold off the guys on fresh tires.
To the surprise of nobody, Johnson was no match for Kenseth on used tires and lost the lead with 20 laps to go. Logano was hot on his trail in the closing laps. Kenseth blocked his advance on the backstretch with six to go. Coming to the tri-oval with five laps remaining, Kenseth ran into lapped traffic and had to move up the track to block Logano a second time. Logano scraped the wall going into Turn 1, got to the bumper of Kenseth and sent him spinning.
There’s an old saying in the racing world, “one block is fine, but any more and you’re at risk of being sent for a ride.” Hell, it was something the late Dale Earnhardt would’ve done. After the race, Logano said that the move was, “good hard racing. He raced me hard, so I raced him hard back.”
This led to an anti-climactic green-white-checker finish as Logano drove on to score his 13th career victory.
“It was a fun race,” said Logano after winning back to back races for the first time in his career. “What a great Shell/Pennzoil Ford. I couldn’t be prouder of what this team is doing now. That was good, hard racing. We race each other really hard. I feel like I got fenced twice down the straightaways. He raced me hard so I raced him hard back. It’s just hard racing. That’s the way I race. If I get raced like that I’ll race the same way. I just couldn’t be more proud of this team. To be sitting in such a good position going into Talladega makes us feel real, real good. The fact that we’re the only team that can relax right now is gonna pay big dividends once we get to Martinsville. Everyone is a little bit nervous. Our goal is to still win the race. Even though we’ve moved on to the next round, our goal is still to win that race and try to get some guys nervous for next week. That’s the kind of strategy of this Chase.”
“Not a bad run for us,” said Ryan Blaney after his seventh-place finish. “We started off pretty good We were running up front toward the start of the day and we kind of lost the track position a little bit towards the middle of that race. Our car kind of went away; some of that was traffic and the other part was kind of handling. But (the team) did a good job of getting us back where we needed to be, at the end of the race, where it mattered.”
After posting his 14th top-10 finish in his 20th and final start at Kansas Speedway, Jeff Gordon said that his car was, “absolutely horrible. We were absolutely as far off as you could be. I don’t know. The thing qualified amazing and ever since we put it in race trim it just is not comfortable, hasn’t felt good, and we’ve struggled with it. That was one of the hardest top-10s I’ve ever had to go through. I’m proud of the team. They fought hard and that’s why we’re where we’re at. But gosh, that was ugly.”
After finishing 14th, Kenseth said that Logano “was a little bit tighter on that short run than I was and I couldn’t get away from him. All day we had him pretty good. I still thought I was going to be able to stay in front of him. I saw those lapped cars coming and tried getting a couple of runs off the top there and I was plenty clear, got up in front of him and he just decided to take us out.”
Kenseth added that he (Logano) “pulled up in front of him and he lifted my tires off the ground and wrecked me. I won’t talk to Joey. I don’t have anything to talk to him about really. I mean, you make decisions every minute behind the wheel. To me, strategically, that doesn’t seem like such a great decision for him. But that’s how they wanted to win. I’m one of the only guys that hasn’t been into it yet with Joey. I always raced him with a ton of respect. I actually have been one of his biggest fans. I’m not anymore.”
There were 21 lead changes among nine different drivers, as well as seven caution flag periods for 39 laps. The race lasted two hours, 58 minutes and 22 seconds at an average speed of 135.732 mph. Kenseth led the most laps at 153. He also ran the fastest lap of the race on lap 116 at 29.037 and 185.967 mph and was the Mobil 1 Driver of the Race with a driver rating of 134.1. Matt DiBenedetto was the Sunoco Rookie of the Race.
Well, I think that about sums up the events at Kansas. Next up for the Sprint Cup Series is the 2.66 mile Alabama roulette wheel that is Talladega.
Until next time, I’ll leave you with this fact. In the Arctic, the sun sometimes appears to be square.