Usually, when a sport enters its playoff phase, there is news galore. While the Blue Jays, Indians, Cubs, and either the Nationals or Dodgers, continue in their quest for a World Series crown, the excitement seems a bit, well, subdued in NASCAR.
That is not to say there is no news. Ryan Newman got a contract extension from Richard Childress, so he will continue to drive for them. So, Ty Dillon will either drive a new entry, if they get the sponsorship, or Grandpa leaves him in the minors for another year.
What goes on when the sun goes down? Other than Jeff Gordon trying to finish a race by candlelight last November, not much of anything at Martinsville. In time for its 70th season next year, lights are going up.
So, there is news. With Clint Bowyer set to return to decent equipment as Tony Stewart’s replacement, we seem a bit slim on the silly season news front. The big dogs seem all set to stay in their respective kennels for 2017.
XFINITY driver Daniel Suarez dropped by the White House as NASCAR’s rep for National Hispanic Month. Jamie McMurray talked to some submariners in Connecticut. Yes, nothing but thrilling stuff.
Dorothy and her little mutt might not be there, but the rest of us will be focusing our attention and our ruby reds on Kansas. Jimmie Johnson is locked into the next round, and thanks to Denny Hamlin’s expiring engine last week, all 12 of our contenders are still within hailing distance of advancing.
Here is hoping excitement in the form of some great racing action is coming our way this Sunday. I do not know if it is the bit of snow on the ground, the sub-freezing temps outside my house, our ongoing kitchen renovation, or the crown that popped off my tooth, but I could use some excitement about now of the good kind. I am feeling like a politician in mid-rant. You know a case of the blah, blah, blahs.
I am relying on a few folks from among our Hot 20 to deliver a few thrills this weekend in Kansas.
1. JIMMIE JOHNSON – SEGMENT WIN (3045 Pts)
His search for a seventh Heaven comes down now to Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix, and Miami.
2. MATT KENSETH – 3040 PTS
Being at the back only allows you see exactly where you plan to be going.
3. KYLE BUSCH – 3036 PTS
While some were being splattered with fertilizer, he overcame an early tire issue to finish sixth.
4. BRAD KESELOWSKI – 3034 PTS
With his cushion, he plans “to just go and lay up at Kansas.” Ask Hamlin how that worked out.
5. KURT BUSCH – 3033 PTS
“Charlotte has turned into Talladega.” Well, Talladega-lite, maybe.
6. CARL EDWARDS – 3029 PTS
For a good portion of the race, he thought he was blowing up. Twelfth seemed pretty good after that.
7. MARTIN TRUEX JR. – 3028 PTS
As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly…and my bump would help Austin.
8. DENNY HAMLIN – 3012 PTS
Tried to avoid the drama, but drama found him, to the joy of four of his competitors.
9. CHASE ELLIOTT – 3009 PTS
When Rowdy zigged, Chase got zagged.
10. AUSTIN DILLON – 3009 PTS
Sometimes no help is the best help of all.
11. JOEY LOGANO – 3006 PTS
Just in case you missed his tire going down and him finding the wall, he did it again.
12. KEVIN HARVICK – 3004 PTS
Thanking Hamlin would not be appropriate, but his blown engine deserves a good ole hug.
13. KYLE LARSON – 2109 PTS
Now he gets a Top Five. It would have been nicer had he recorded that a week earlier.
14. TONY STEWART – 2106 PTS
His exit is similar to that of Big Papi. Both made the dance, but the music ended far too soon.
15. JAMIE MCMURRAY – 2084 PTS
A second-straight Chase season no longer enough, as Dimples wants to go deeper in 2017.
16. CHRIS BUESCHER – 2070 PTS
Clint did not win. Danica did not win. Greg did not win. Paul did not win…but Chris did.
17. KASEY KAHNE – 766 PTS
Too late to matter, but finishing third anywhere at any time has to mean something.
18. RYAN NEWMAN – 738 PTS
Is a new sponsor coming for a new entry, or is Ty is going to have to deal with disappointment?
19. RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – 658 PTS
Does having a good points race really matter? Well, you don’t see A.J. on this list, now do you.
20. RYAN BLANEY – 655 PTS
OMG…Ryan just met Sam Elliott. Hey, Chase is cool…but I’m talking about Sam Bloody Elliott!