Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Sunday’s race? Summer Bedgood has you covered with the answers to six race-day questions, covering all five Ws and even the H… the Big Six.
Who… gets my shoutout of the race?
Though rookie Kyle Larson was incredibly impressive, nearly earning his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in the Hollywood Casino 400, my shout-out has to go to Martin Truex Jr. Truex very quietly earned his first top five of the season, finishing fourth behind Joey Logano, Larson and Kyle Busch.
Truex has had a rather lackluster season, with the description of “mediocre” possibly being kind. Never a real threat to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Truex had only four top-10 finishes in 29 races before Sunday’s race at Kansas and an average finish of 21st. Though Truex didn’t lead any laps in Sunday’s race, the finish still had to have felt like a victory, especially considering all the attrition many of the Chase drivers faced.
Truex’s story over the last year or so has been a rather disappointing one. While driving for Michael Waltrip Racing in the 2013 season, Truex was involved in the middle of a controversy in which it was deemed by NASCAR that at least one of his teammates was involved in influencing the outcome of the race in order to get Truex into the Chase. The entire organization was heavily penalized, and Truex lost his sponsor in NAPA and his spot in the Chase. Truex decided to leave the organization at the end of the 2013 season and wound up at Furniture Row Racing. FRR was never a strong organization to begin with, though they had shown occasional signs of strength with Kurt Busch in 2013.
No one expected Truex to be competitive at Kansas, but a solid top-five finish when so many others had issues is worth a nod.
What… does the championship picture look like with six races to go?
Kansas Speedway was not kind to many Chase drivers. No less than seven of the Chase contenders faced issues on Sunday, with several going to the garage area.
Though this race was only the first of the Contender Round, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson are the current bottom four of the Chase grid. The bottom four of the standings will be sliced off of the Chase grid in two weeks after Talladega, making their situations rather dire if they aren’t able to get a win in the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, Logano is in a position of great strength. With two mores races left in the Contender Round, Logano need not worry about next weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway or more importantly the chaotic Talladega Superspeedway the week after. He currently holds a six-point lead over Kyle Busch, though the points will be reset again after Talladega.
Where… did the polesitter and the defending race winner wind up?
Kevin Harvick started from the pole position and wound up finishing 12th. Though Harvick had a very strong car, leading 61 laps before the checkered flag, he wound up having to give up track position on lap 218 because he thought he had a flat right front. It turned out he didn’t have a flat tire at all. Though he had no further issues the rest of the day, Harvick was unable to recover his track position and had to settle for a finish outside the top 10.
Harvick also happens to be the defending race winner of this race. Last year he led 138 laps en route to the victory.
When… did it all go sideways?
Kahne wound up getting loose running on the high side on lap 237, spun out, and would have to settle for a 22nd–place finish.
Johnson was the first Chase driver to face issues, wrecking on the backstretch after contact with Greg Biffle sent both of them spinning down the racing surface. Johnson spent a number of laps in the garage area before returning to the track. He was able to finish the race in the 40th position, 87 laps down.
Later, while leading the race, one of Earnhardt’s tires went down (likely as a result of contact from Clint Bowyer). He slid up the track in turn 4, smacked the wall, and joined teammate Johnson in the garage. Earnhardt was able to return to the race, finishing in the 39th position, 63 laps off the pace.
Gordon had a strong car early on in the race, but contact with Jamie McMurray while the two were racing for position caused Gordon to hit the wall and lose some track position. Gordon wasn’t ever able to fully recover the speed he had earlier and wound up having to settle for a 14th-place finish.
Kenseth pitted with a tire issue and lost valuable track position, though he wasn’t a contender during the course of the event.
Keselowski was also a victim of tire problems, smacking the turn 2 wall. Like Gordon and Earnhardt, Keselowski would also have to head to the garage area but would later return to the track. He finished 45 laps down, in 36th.
Why… did Logano win the race?
… Process of elimination?
In all seriousness, Logano earned his victory. Though Harvick was one of the strongest cars of the day, Logano was able to swap paint with him when Harvick was still up front. Once Harvick made his unscheduled pit stop, the competition found it more and more difficult to keep up with the No. 22 car.
However, that wasn’t without its challengers. In the waning laps of the race, rookie Larson ran within a few car lengths but partially blamed lapped traffic for not being able to get around Logano. Logano obviously had more to gain than Larson – who isn’t in the Chase – but, given a few more laps, there might have been a different winner in victory lane.
How… did the little guys do?
JTG Daugherty Racing: AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Clorox Chevrolet): Allmendinger spent the early portions of the race around the 20th position. Throughout the course of the event, he was searching for some extra grip and had difficulty choosing the right line. Around lap 126, during a pit stop, he inquired about damage on the right-rear quarterpanel, but it turned out to be a non-issue. The No. 47 car fluctuated between 10th and 18th throughout the rest of the event before settling in the 11th position.
HScott Motorsports: Justin Allgaier (No. 51 Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet): Allgaier got caught up in someone else’s mess. When Biffle and Johnson made contact on lap 86, Allgaier and Josh Wise wrecked behind them and suffered heavy damage. Allgaier would retire from the race shortly after the wreck and was credited with a 41st-place finish.
Germain Racing: Casey Mears (No. 13 Geico Chevrolet) Mears fought a tight condition for much of the race, constantly radioing to crew chief Bootie Barker about the handling of the car. When Earnhardt brought out the caution on lap 123, Barker elected to stay out and take the wave-around in order to get back on the lead lap. The team was hoping for a quick caution so that they could get back on pit road for fuel, but that caution never happened, and Mears was forced to pit during the green. He was three laps down after that stop. Later on in the race, the team again decided to take the wave-around and never got a quick caution for that sequence either. Mears wound up finishing in the 28th position.
Circle Sport: Landon Cassill & Timmy Hill (No. 40 Snap Fitness Chevrolet & No. 33 retroinfinity.com Chevrolet): Cassill started in the 35th position and steadily worked his way through the field thanks in part to the decision to take some wave-arounds on a few of the many cautions. He ran as high as 18th before settling for a lead lap 21st-place finish. Meanwhile, Hill started in the 40th position but benefitted from the many drivers who wrecked and was able to finish 33rd.
Front Row Motorsports: David Ragan & David Gilliland (No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford & No. 38 MDS Transport Ford): Gilliland fought a loose condition, opted to take the wave-around on several cautions, and wound up improving his starting position by one spot, finishing 30th. Meanwhile, Ragan, improved his position by 10 spots, finishing 27th.
BK Racing: Alex Bowman & Cole Whitt & JJ Yeley (No. 23 Dr. Pepper Toyota & No. 26 Moen Toyota & No. 83 Burger King Toyota): Bowman started at the rear of the field for going to a backup car after wrecking in one of the practice sessions. He never got any higher than 32nd and that’s where he finished. Meanwhile, Whitt started 39th and finished 23rd. Yeley started 38th and finished 29th on a day that was rather uneventful aside from an early brush with the wall.
Tommy Baldwin Racing: Michael Annett & Reed Sorenson & Mike Bliss (No. 7 Accell Construction Chevrolet & No. 36 Chevrolet & No. 43 Chevrolet): Annett lost a lap early after starting in the 36th position. He was able to work his way into the 20s and would eventually finish 24th, three laps down. Sorenson also lost a lap early after starting 30th, and finished four laps down in the 26th position. Bliss retired from the race early with a vibration and finished 43rd.
Phil Parsons Racing: Wise (No. 98 Westside Vapor/Vapor Station Chevrolet): Wise was involved in the incident with Allgaier, Biffle and Johnson. Unlike Allgaier, he was able to return to racing, and finished 38th, 60 laps down.
Jay Robinson Racing: Mike Wallace (No. 66 435 Overland Park Place Hotel Toyota): Wallace started the race at the back of the pack and steadily increased his position as other drivers fell out. He finished 34th.
GoFAS Racing: Joey Gase (No. 32 Donate Life Ford): Gase spun on his own in turn 3 on lap 191, bringing out the caution. He made no contact with the wall or any other cars and finished 37th, 54 laps down. Gase was ineligible for driver points.