The Frontstretch: The Big Six: Questions Answered Following The Hollywood Casino 400 by Phil Allaway -- Monday October 7, 2013

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Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Sunday’s race? Subbing for Amy Henderson this week, Phil Allaway has you covered with each week with the answers to six race day questions, covering all five W’s and even the H…the Big Six.

Who…gets my shoutout of the race?

These days, everything seems to be about the Chase. Chase this, Chase that. Even the ridiculous idea of giving Brad Daugherty a cartoonishly large fork and telling him to have at it is all about the Chase. Makes you want to barf.

Of course, you’re not here to read about ESPN’s pre-race coverage. That’s Tuesday’s article.

The Chase has created an atmosphere in which drivers outside of the Chase don’t really matter much to NASCAR, or to the TV partners. A non-Chaser could truly excel in a race and not get the recognition that they deserve.

That driver this week was Paul Menard in the No. 27 Menards Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing (RCR. While Menard has had a couple of great runs recently (Richmond, Bristol, Michigan), he hasn’t really put up anything special since the Chase started. Sunday, Menard spent nearly the entire race inside of the top-10 and really looked like he could have threatened Kevin Harvick for the win at one point. Menard ended up finishing a strong seventh.

While that did not gain him any places in the points, Menard is just one point behind Martin Truex, Jr. for 16th. Since moving to RCR at the beginning of 2011, Menard has shown himself to be quite the consistent performer. He may never be a Chase contender, but he will eventually get his share of wins (he already has one, and I don’t think it was a fluke).

What…was THAT?

Kyle Busch gets the award for brain fade this week for his ultra-aggressive block of Juan Pablo Montoya that did nothing more than get himself wrecked, not once, but twice.

ESPN showed footage via replay that indicated that the two drivers had had contact a little earlier and that Busch may have been exerting a form of payback here. Dale Jarrett even mentioned that Montoya is the last person on track that he would block. Montoya didn’t back off and Busch ended up spun out in front of half the field.

That maneuver put him way back in the pack and got him in the position that led to the crash that took him out of the race and gave him a 34th-place finish. Busch may hate Kansas Speedway, but he’s not helping his case in any way, whatsoever.

Where…did the defending race winner wind up?

Matt Kenseth had a pretty strange day on Sunday. He led some laps, but through the flow of the race, ended up on an alternate pit strategy created by yellows flying during pit stops. He didn’t have the best handling car, either.

Despite his issues, Kenseth was able to bring his car home in 11th. He lost almost all of his remaining points lead, but still holds a three-point advantage over Jimmie Johnson with six races to go.

However, it should be noted that Sunday was pretty bad in general for all of the Toyotas. Kenseth’s 11th-place finish was the best finish by a Toyota. Both of Kenseth’s teammates had issues. Denny Hamlin ran in the top-5 at one point, but eventually faded to a 23rd-place finish. Kyle Busch’s issues are listed above. It’s not good.

When…will I be loved?

Oh, Goodyear, sometimes, you can do no right. After a pretty good debut at Atlanta last month, Goodyear brought their new dual zone tire to Kansas Speedway for its second go-around. Everyone had high hopes for the new tire. What did we get? Issues.

There were three major problems with the tires on Sunday. Firstly, they did not have enough grip for the track, which is quite interesting knowing that Kansas Speedway was just reconfigured last year. Environmental factors outside of Goodyear’s control may have been to blame here. Had the whole weekend run in conditions similar to Friday, when it was in the upper 80’s, we might not be having this conversation right now. However, the cold front that moved through Friday night dropped temperatures 30+ degrees. With that, all bets were off. Both Busch brothers crashed in Saturday practice within minutes of each other, multiple other drivers spun out, and it was on from there.

The second issue was that the tires were not durable enough. Teams feared being unable to run a full fuel run on tires before getting the inside shoulder down to the cords. It’s one thing for a tire to wear, but it’s quite another when it wears to the cords, then the cords separate in strings.

The third involved the laying down of rubber. Namely, that the tires weren’t really doing it. Instead, the rubber would turn to powder. As you may recall, this was similar to the issues that the COT’s had early on. It wasn’t as noticeable as back in 2007 when you would see black stripes on the rear bumpers from rubber, but it was an issue. It just shows that Goodyear has a long way to go with their new technology.

Why… should Chase fans be happy now?

Sunday’s race has created two potential scenarios for how the rest of the Chase can play out. One is that Kyle Busch’s implosion has taken him clean out of the championship hunt, leaving Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson to fight it out amongst themselves for the remaining six weeks. If Kenseth and Johnson regain their form from the first three weeks of the Chase, that’s possible, but not a guarantee.

The other scenario comes from the fact that Kevin Harvick is now only 25 points back, while Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch are still somewhat within striking distance. While this scenario is dependant on Johnson and Kenseth not blitzing the field again next week, we could have more than just two or three drivers in play for this championship after all.

Regardless of whichever scenario plays out, it should be a decent race to the title. No one driver is running away with it. They’ll probably be pressured all the way to Homestead.

How… did the little guys do?

Germain Racing (Casey Mears, No. 13 GEICO Ford): Of the smaller operations, Mears probably had the best car on Sunday. This is despite contact with the wall exiting Turn 2 that resulted in the TV Panel flying off of the car on the frontstretch. However, it did not appear that Mears’ car was affected all that much by losing the panel. Mears ran as high as 15th before dropping to a 21st-place finish.

Front Row Motorsports (David Ragan, No. 34 Taco Bell Ford, Josh Wise, No. 35 MDS Transport Ford and David Gilliland, No. 38 Long John Silvers Ford): For Front Row Motorsports, Sunday was mediocre. The team didn’t have the funding to allow Wise to run all day, so Wise pulled out after 108 laps with a “vibration.”

Ragan ran decently on Sunday, requiring minimal adjustments on his No. 34. Unfortunately, his day ended in one of the many wrecks exiting Turn 2. He was credited with a 36th-place finish. Gilliland ended up with the team’s best finish on the day, a lead lap 24th-place finish. Finishing on the lead lap came courtesy of two Lucky Dogs.

JTG-Daugherty Racing (AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Scott Toyota): Allmendinger had a very quiet day on Sunday, but avoided all the trouble. As a result of avoiding the issues, he was able to finish on the lead lap in 20th, best of anyone in this group. The run came despite a car that may not have been that good.

Swan Racing (Cole Whitt, No. 30 Swan Energy Toyota): Whitt essentially walked into trouble as soon as the green came out. In Turn 1 on Lap 1, Whitt was tapped by David Reutimann and ended up in the crash that put Danica Patrick out of the race. The rook was able to continue, multiple laps down with repairs, though.

The rest of the race was spent not really racing anyone. The sheer number of yellows allowed Whitt to get a couple of laps back via the “Lucky Dog,” but he still ended up seven laps down in 31st.

BK Racing (David Reutimann, No. 83 Burger King Toyota; Travis Kvapil, No. 93 Burger King Toyota): Sunday was not the best day for BK Racing. For Reutimann, his day was lost before even reaching Turn 2 through no fault of his own. He just so happened to be to the inside of Patrick when she lost control on the first lap. Reutimann took a hard hit into the Turn 1 wall. The BK Racing crew repaired Reutimann’s car, allowing him to go back out more than 100 laps down. Through the misfortune of others, Reutimann was able to gain five places to finish 37th.

For Kvapil, his day was a lot less painful, physically. While Kvapil did spin out to bring out the seventh caution, he kept his Toyota clean and brought it home in 26th, on the lead lap.

Phoenix Racing (Justin Allgaier, No. 51 BRANDT Chevrolet): Kansas marked Allgaier’s second career start in the Sprint Cup Series. It actually went well when he was on the track. Allgaier took the No. 51 up into the top-15 before getting loose and crashing just after halfway exiting Turn 2. The team was unable to repair the damage, forcing Allgaier to accept a 39th-place finish. Afterwards, he had no real idea what caused the crash.

Tommy Baldwin Racing (Dave Blaney, No. 7 Chevrolet; JJ Yeley, No. 36 Accell Construction Chevrolet): For TBR, it was another weekend of struggles. Blaney’s team was forced to change engines on Sunday morning, resulting in the No. 7 having to start at the rear of the field. Blaney was able to take advantage of the yellow during green-flag stops to get a Lucky Dog. From there, he was able to stay on the lead lap for the rest of the race (despite a spin) and finish 25th.

For Yeley, he had a relatively similar day to Blaney’s. He also earned a Lucky Dog early on in the race and led a lap under caution to get a bonus point. Otherwise, Yeley’s day was not the most productive. However, he did bring the No. 36 home on the lead lap in 27th. Overall, these results aren’t the greatest, but every little bit helps.

FAS Lane Racing (Timmy Hill, No. 32 U.S. Chrome Ford): For the woefully underfunded FAS Lane squad, Kansas once again provided the team with one of their better runs of the year. Hill was able to keep out of trouble and brought the car home 28th, on the lead lap. It is the fourth lead lap finish of the year for the team with three different drivers.

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pepper
10/07/2013 11:35 AM
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I couldn’t agree more with you re the Chase. In an attempt to create excitement, BF created chaos. This year has been the worst beginning at Richmond. Drivers removed, restored, and an added bonus of a 13 driver Chase. It has resulted in angry fans, irritated drivers, a booth devoid of professionalism, and a countdown worthy of a high school food-fight award. Add a network change with many viewers not receiving FS 2, and fans are so infuriated they may not return for 2014.

Add

In the meantime, the “changed” Kyle Busch is showing his true colors. It brings to mind about a leopard never changing it’s spots. When will the real transformation occur?

Add a new tire in the middle of the Chase, and you have a sport in disarray. In the over 40 years I’ve been a fan of this sport, I’ve never been so disheartened and disappointed. I’ve seen leadership, discipline, and integrity disappear.

Maybe I’ve just gotten old and jaded, but in my opinion this sport is on a downward slide. I hope for the sake of the drivers and fans I’m wrong.

Carl D.
10/07/2013 11:54 AM
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Who… gets my shoutout of the race?
Juan Pablo Montoya!

JP
10/07/2013 12:25 PM
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Remember just a fews weeks ago the “exciting” points race going on? Now, only a handful of drivers matter. The rest might as well not be on the track.

What does JPM have to lose? He could destroy SO many teams chances this year if he wanted to. Hell, he might go after Air-Titan before it’s over.

Oh, Goodyear. Whew.

Upstate24fan
10/07/2013 12:46 PM
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I can’t fault Goodyear too much. It’s tough to bring the perfect tire for a fast newly paved track like Kansas. Despite what happened Sunday, I think the dual-zone tire is an important innovation that will improve overtime.

jerseygirl
10/07/2013 01:14 PM
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ugh, the chase, it is a mess, I wish it had never been put into play.

Brad? A cartoon character with a cartoon fork. How stupid can you get? oh wait, this is the coverage of NASCAR. Funny thing, I can watch the Fox NFL pre-game show, their half-time breakdown and post-game wrap up and never get as annoyed as I do by 2 minutes of pre-race coverage. I never watch any of it any more. It simply isn’t worth my time.

The race? What a mess that was, too. I had twitter up and raceview. I only had ESPN on for the pictures. Since they don’t think anyone other than the “chasers” are relevant, I don’t think their coverage is either. Wait until next yr when NASCAR doesn’t let let out of their contract – think it’s bad now? I’ll bet they will seriously phone it in.

Old farmer
10/07/2013 03:23 PM
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Phil: in one paragraph you say that Kyle Busch is out of the Chase, and in the next paragraph you say KB “somewhat” has a chance.

When I taught writing—both at high school and collegiate levels—such a contradiction of oneself earned a big fat “F.” You can’t have it both ways. Make up your mind.

Steve
10/07/2013 03:46 PM
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The media talks all week about how its already only a 3 man race to the championship.

So what happens Sunday? As soon as the 48 and 20 get a lap down, we get a debris caution. Not only does Nascar manipulate the races, they are now trying to manipulate the championship so King Brian can avoid a huge PR nightmare. The Chase is now exciting again for whatever fans are left to watch this train wreck.

Does Nascar actually think its fans are that stupid?

Sully
10/07/2013 03:46 PM
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Good point above about driver irritation. They worked hard to get in the gimmicky Chase, then by King decree Jeff Gordon is allowed to play in the sandbox. Who can take that seriously? The whole thing has finally blown up and King Brian still is clueless. Changing the rules in mid game is always a bad idea. Look what it has done.

Bill B
10/07/2013 07:33 PM
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There is a third possibility for how the chase goes down. Either Kenseth or Johnson has a really bad race while the other doesn’t. Then you will have one guy in front by 20+ points.
Best case scenario for Brian would be for the 48 and 20 to wreck out in Talladega while the rest of the chasers get top 15 finishes. I doubt that will happen but that’s what it will take to make this chase close.
I hate the frickin’ chase but boy did NASCAR miss a good opportunity to make it better. When they changed the points to one point per position they should have also made the chase guys have their own points system (one point per position with the winner getting an extra 3 for the win). It would have rigged the points to stay close. They try to rig everything else to make it close so why not rig the points.

As for people that are still bitching about Gordon being in the chase, that is a done deal. You can keep on complaining but it ain’t changing.

Greg
10/07/2013 08:41 PM
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If you hate the chase…

Then pray that Bowyer or Gordon win it. Somehow…