Fuel mileage. Temper tantrums. Dominant drivers falling short. The Nationwide Series race had a little bit of it all on Saturday afternoon and it all ended with Matt Kenseth in victory lane. For Kenseth, this was his third win in 11 races in the Nationwide Series this season, which he has juggled with his Sprint Cup Series duties this year.
Kenseth led a total of 38 laps over the course of the 200 lap race, though he fell short of the 81 laps led by Nationwide Series regular Regan Smith. Kenseth was able to benefit from a late race tire strategy—tire strategy meaning no tires. Though Kenseth had to stretch his fuel mileage thin, a late race caution involving Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch allowed him to save that fuel under caution and he was able to cross the checkered flag with a comfortable distance to second-place Paul Menard.
Speaking of Keselowski and Busch, however, they largely overshadowed Kenseth’s win. As Keselowski and Busch were racing for second with the laps winding down, Busch made contact with Keselowski’s left rear quarter panel and effectively knocked Keselowski out of the race. Keselowski’s reaction and comments afterwards were priceless, but more on that later.
Meanwhile, Smith was able to salvage a third place finish and get some much needed bonus points. He got one position in the standings, moving into third place. He is 35 points behind the leaders with four races left in the season. Austin Dillon holds a slim eight point margin over Sam Hornish Jr. Elliott Sadler dropped to fourth and is 43 points back.
Austin Dillon and Regan Smith have both proven time and time again why they are in the top three in points. The two led a combined 117 laps over the course of the 200 mile race and may have been sitting in victory lane had the cautions fell their way and with some more timely and risky pit stops. Though hindsight is 20-20, their ability to run with and, oftentimes, beat the Sprint Cup Series drivers is unmatched to their other Nationwide Series counterparts.
Even though Smith and Dillon both decided not to stay out and gamble like Kenseth did, their pit strategy still worked out with Smith finishing third and Dillon finishing sixth. That made Smith the highest finishing Nationwide Series regular and Dillon third behind Justin Allgaier.
Sprint Cup Series drivers or not, these two proved why they are where they are in this series and, if momentum means anything, will be just as strong in Charlotte next weekend.
Kyle Larson was never a factor in Saturday’s race but it wasn’t speed that was the issue. A bad vibration reported by Larson around lap 80 turned out to be a broken splitter bar, an issue that the team had to spend extensive time on pit road during the race to fix.
Almost every single time the race was under caution—a total of 11 to be exactly—the No. 32 car would be lifted into the air and the crew would be hard at work trying to fix the issue.
Unfortunately for the Turner Scott Motorsports team, they were unable to fix the problem. With around 50 to go, Larson pulled the No. 32 car behind the wall to see if there was anything they could do. They made the determination that it was beyond the repair given the length of time left in the race, and officially dropped out of the race. He was official scored in 30th in the final running order.
A rivalry continues, with two Cup Series regulars throwing temper tantrums on one another in the Nationwide Series. A hard fault battle and some varying pit strategy had Keselowski losing sight of the lead and Busch wanting his second place position with the laps very quickly winding down. The battle between second and third lasted for several laps, with Busch almost losing it underneath Keselowski at one point during the fight for the position.
However, the battle for position did not seem to be overly aggressive and neither driver sounded aggravated with the other over the radio. However, as the two drivers headed into the tri-oval with 11 laps to go, Busch hit Keselowski’s left quarter panel and Keselowski smacked the wall. As Keselowski exited his car on the frontstretch and was unable to get it re-fired, it appeared that Keselowski was just assessing the damage to his No. 22 Ford.
He, apparently, had other things in mind. Keselowski began running through the infield grass and onto pit road towards Kyle Busch’s pit crew. He made a gesture towards the crew to indicate his displeasure and then proceeded to run to his pit box to talk to his team. From there, he ran quite a ways to the infield care center for his mandatory evaluation. Though the track usually provides an ambulance ride there, he apparently decided it was a better idea to send a message to the other team.
He was unable to get back out onto the track and would finish 27th. Busch went on to finish fourth.
However, it was the comments from both drivers that stuck out. While Kenseth was finishing his burnout on the frontstretch and headed to victory lane, Keselowski made this comment: “He’s got a lot more to lose than I do. I guess that’s the only good thing about not being in the Chase.”
He expanded on his comment on a little later: “I got wrecked by a dirty driver. There is no other way of putting it. He is cool with that. I have raced him really cool over the last year to be respectful to him and try to repair our relationship. I’ve watched him wreck my trucks and cost him from winning race. He put me in the fence in Chicago in the truck race and the Nationwide races he has been pulling this crap. It is not gonna last I can tell you that. I feel bad for the guys next to me that are going to have to fix his stuff. That is going to be part of racing and they are going to have to deal with it.”
Busch was, obviously, quick to defend himself, saying the car was tight and he couldn’t get turned away from Keselowski far enough to avoid the incident. When asked about potential payback from Keselowski in the race on Sunday, Busch replied by saying that Keselowski wrecked him in Watkins Glen and Busch didn’t wreck him while he was in the throes of a championship.
While the two were none too happy, it remains to be seen if this will carry over anytime soon. Stay tuned.
Underdog Performer of the Race: Parker Kligerman isn’t known for his consistency and isn’t a name you hear thrown around all that often. However, Kligerman was in the top five for much of the race and finished seventh at the checkered flag. Though he only led a total of five laps, he had an average position of eighth and his speed certainly caused many of the Cup and Nationwide Series drivers around him look twice.
Start and parkers occupied six of the 40 starting spots, taking home $120,488 in purse money.
A Sprint Cup Series regular won the race, scored three of the top 10 finishing positions, occupied four of the 40 finishing positions, and took home $180,790 in purse money.
Best Career Finishes: Ryan Sieg
The Final Word
I’ll be honest despite the fact that I know it will probably bother you. I don’t have a problem with drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, despite the fact that they have a tendency to act like divas around the Nationwide Series drivers. Though I think Keselowski overreacted a little bit and Busch knew damn good and well what he did wrong, I think there were better ways both of them could have handled it.
However, they are both running for a championship for their owners and sponsors, which are very important to these series. The race was actually fairly decent compared to what I thought it would be and part of that was attributable to the Cup Series drivers. Plus, drivers like Regan Smith, Austin Dillon, Parker Kligerman, and Justin Allgaier had no issues running with and beating the Cup Series drivers, so don’t tell me development is an issue. They seemed to enjoy it and get along just fine.
All in all, Kansas put on a surprisingly good race and the drivers can still play nice across series. Keselowski and Busch’s problems go way back further than this and is something they need to work out amongst themselves. Today was an example that the two series can work well together, despite the short tempers that NASCAR sometimes generates.
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