NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kevin Harvick Eliminates Deficit to Secure Invite to Round of Eight With Kansas Win

Who’s in the headline – Kevin Harvick knew that his misfortune at Charlotte was just a blip on the radar. Many other people were writing him off, but there is a reason he has not been eliminated before Homestead since this elimination format was implemented. Harvick has figured out what he wants to feel in a car and Rodney Childers has learned how to give it to him. As a result, the team is always in the hunt for race wins. They step it up when they need to and that makes them a championship threat every year.

What happened – Matt Kenseth started the race from the pole and dominated the first half of the race. Leading 116 of the first 125 laps before some minor body damage dropped him back into the pack. Harvick took over the lead when Kenseth grazed the wall and damaged his car. Harvick led for 43 laps before Carl Edwards grabbed the point after some green flag stops. Edwards led for 61 laps during the 65-lap stretch from Lap 173 through 237. Harvick stayed out on old tires with a handful of other drivers during the final caution of the race that ended on Lap 237. Harvick grabbed the lead on the restart and held off any challenges over the final 30 laps to score the win.

Why you should care – Harvick was in trouble after the failure at Charlotte. If he had not won at Kansas, the danger of being eliminated at Talladega would have been very real. Now that he has notched a win, he looks like a strong threat to make Homestead thanks to Phoenix being in the next round.

Chase Elliott looked like he was poised to overcome the disappointment of Charlotte when he took the lead of the race on Lap 169. Unfortunately, he almost immediately had a tire go down and wound up multiple laps down and basically in a win or go home scenario for Talladega. Kenseth, Edwards and Kyle Busch seem comfortably ahead of the cut line heading to Talladega, but as Kyle Busch has demonstrated in the past, you are never safe in northern Alabama.

What your friends are talking about – Word came out this week that Martinsville Speedway is installing lights. The logic is it will merely be insurance against races that run late for various reasons. The hard part of that pill to swallow is that very few companies spend millions of capital dollars and only use the purchased asset once every few years. Hopefully, it is truly an insurance deal, but it is hard to imagine a night race in Southern Virginia isn’t on a schedule within five years.

Greg Biffle has one top 5 in 2016. He has rarely appeared competitive since he extended his relationship with Roush Fenway Racing in 2014. Biffle hinted at Kansas that, after this season he may be considering making a move. The new aero package and a new crew chief had the former Truck Series and XFINITY Series champion feeling optimistic for this racing season. Unfortunately it didn’t work out.

Rumors have been around that Biffle might switch to Front Row, but that would seem like a long shot. Biffle also owns the race shop where HScott Motorsports is headquartered in North Carolina, but there do not seem to be any real discussions about Biffle climbing into the seat being vacated by Clint Bowyer at the end of the season.

In a rare moment of candor that may certainly ruffled some feathers on Friday, Jimmie Johnson insinuated that Stewart-Haas Racing took information from Hendrick Motorsports, but did not share their own data. While Doug Duchart, General Manager for Hendrick Motorsports, quickly attempted to diffuse the situation and claimed that, prior to the Ford switch announcement by SHR, the HMS satellite did indeed share information. Johnson made it sound like SHR took the best Hendrick had to offer and then tweaked it without sending information back. It is interesting when the partner is jumping ship, how quickly the primary organization will change their tune.

Word came out this week that Martinsville Speedway is installing lights. The logic is it will merely be insurance against races that run late for various reasons. The hard part of that pill to swallow is that very few companies spend millions of capital dollars and only use the purchased asset once every few years. Hopefully it is truly an insurance deal but it is hard to imagine a night race in southern Virginia isn’t on a schedule within five years.

Greg Biffle has one top 5 in 2016. He has rarely appeared competitive since he extended his relationship with Roush Fenway Racing in 2014. Biffle hinted at Kansas that, after this season he may be considering making a move. The new aero package and a new crew chief had the former Truck and XFINITY champion feeling optimistic for this racing season. Unfortunately it didn’t work out. Rumors have been around that Biffle might switch to Front Row, but that would seem like a long shot. Biffle also owns the race shop where HScott Motorsports is headquartered in North Carolina, but there do not seem to be any real discussions about Biffle climbing into the seat being vacated by Clint Bowyer at the end of the season.

In a rare moment of candor that may certainly ruffled some feathers on Friday, Jimmie Johnson insinuated that Stewart Haas Racing took information from Hendrick Motorsports but did not share their own data. While Doug Duchart, General Manager for Hendrick Motorsports quickly attempted to diffuse the situation and claimed that, prior to the Ford switch announcement by SHR, the HMS satellite did indeed share information. Johnson made it sound like SHR took the best Hendrick had to offer and then tweaked it without sending information back. It is interesting when the partner is jumping ship, how quickly the primary organization will change their tune.

Teams received an update to the rules package for 2017. There are more changes coming to try and reduce downforce. The changes include a reduced spoiler, a tapered rear deck fin, a reduced size for the splitter and adjustments to the chassis to limit movement of the rear axle during the races. The overall downforce number is expected to be reduced by 500 pounds.

Additional improvements to the cars are designed to reduce the potential for leg injuries. Extra padding and strengthening of the drivers leg and feet areas will be implemented to attempt to reduce leg damage. The leg area changes will be mandatory on Superspeedway tracks for 2017 and all tracks for 2018. Any new certified chassis presented to NASCAR will be required to have the strengthened leg area in place.

Who is mad – Elliott climbed from his 13th place starting position to the top 10 quickly on Sunday. He continued to claw his way forward and, shortly after halfway, he took over the lead. Unfortunately for Elliott he quickly had a flat tire and that wiped out his chance of a strong finish. Coupled with his poor fortune at Charlotte Elliott is in 12th place out of 12 drivers in this Chase round. Without a win at Talladega, Elliott is all but assured of not advancing.

Kenseth looked like he had a car to beat early. He admitted post race that the track got away from them but his displeasure with himself for hitting the wall was palpable during his interviews. Kenseth has looked championship caliber the last few races, with no finish worse than ninth. The frustration for Kenseth is he felt like the vehicle was capable of winning the race and a mistake on his part cost them all the race.

Denny Hamlin ran in the top 10 for most of the first 2/3 of the race before he was caught up in an incident with Brad Keselowski on lap 191. The damage and time spent on pit road dropped Hamlin to 17th. While he clawed his way back to a 15th place finish, he felt like he should have had more. Include the poor finish at Charlotte and Eeyore has reared his ugly head again.

Who is happy – Alex Bowman ended up in the infield care center Sunday after the race. He was suffering from a stomach bug that he’d battled all day. Before he made the trip for an IV he came home seventh at Kansas. For a team that has struggled with Jeff Gordon and Bowman both behind the wheel, it was a strong effort that is most certainly a shot in the arm full of confidence.

AJ Allmendinger bounced around the back end of the top 15 for much of the race. However, he stayed out on older tires near the end of the race and made it work. The result was an eighth place finish for the small team.

Like Elliott, Austin Dillon had a disastrous Charlotte. Fortunately his gamble paid off this weekend, with a sixth place finish. Dillon took at gamble on tires last weekend and it resulted in a wrecked racecar and a big point deficit. This weekend, a gamble on tires did pay off with the No. 3 driver staying out front ahead of drivers who stopped and milking it for a sixth place run. He is tied with Joey Logano for the eighth and final transfer slot.

When the checkered flag flew:

 

Kevin Harvick took the win for the 35th time in his career in his 569th career start.

Harvick has won four times in 2016.

This was Harvick’s second career triumph at Kansas.

The victory keeps Harvick in 22nd on the all-time victory list.

Carl Edwards runner-up finish was the second of his career at Kansas.

Edwards has finished in the top 2 five times in 2016.

On the all-time list of first losers Edwards is tied with Marvin Panch for 33rd,

Joey Logano came home third at Kansas for his third top 3 finish of his career at the speedway.

This was Logano’s eighth podium finish of 2016.

The top 3 for Logano this weekend was enough to separate him from Davey Allison and give him 55th alone on the all-time list.

Ryan Blaney came home in 14th on Sunday which was enough to earn him Rookie of the Race honors.

After Kansas, Jimmie Johnson and Harvick are locked into the round of eight of the Chase. The rest of the Chase drivers and their point position:

  1. Matt Kenseth
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Carl Edwards
  4. Kurt Busch
  5. Martin Truex Jr.
  1. Joey Logano
  2. Austin Dillon
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Brad Keselowski
  5. Chase Elliott

What is in the cooler – One of the biggest items fans look for to decide if a race is a winner is on track passes for the lead. There was exactly one pass for the lead that happened on track. That is far from a barn burner. There was some movement in the pack but it would seem the teams have figured out more about making this aero package close to what they used to have. The result was a middle of the road three cold Delta 88 IPAs from Big Rip Brewing Company.

Where do you point your DVR for next week – The big crap shoot from Talladega will be shown on NBCSN next weekend. The race coverage begins at 2:00 PM Sunday October 23rd. It can also be followed on NBCSports LiveExtra. The race can be heard on your local MRN affiliate and SiriusXM Nascar Channel 90.

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DoninAjax

Looks like Harvick won’t have to start a big wreck at Talladega to make it to the next round.

It must have been quite a different interview with Kyle compared to Saturday. Why can’t he just admit that he burns up his tires early in the run and then fades and blames the car. Maybe Sam should tell him that it’s a poor workman who blames his tool.

Bill B

I thought the same thing about Harvick’s win and Talladega next week.

janice

shall we start pool now that is be a bush brother or brad and cousin carl?

Kevin

In what your friends are talking about you duplicated a few paragraphs. Love this column every week, my first go to.

Bill B

I like Keselowski’s interview where he said “But I don’t want to race like that. I want to race for wins. I don’t want to points-race, I don’t care what the damn format is.”

What’s funny is that last week I read an article where he was quoted saying that chase contenders have to remember where they are in the point and race accordingly. Then he went on to use his contact with Gordon in 2014 at Phoenix (or was it Martinsville) as an example. He said that he couldn’t believe Gordon went for the win and was willing to mix it up with him (keselowski). Now he does the same thing.

Sometimes I think Brad is pretty smart in his interviews but then he goes and does the opposite making me think is full of shit.

Two interesting NASCAR announcements on Jayski this morning. The first is that the new series sponsor could be split into a regular season sponsor and a chase sponsor. As I said in a comment a few weeks ago when they announced there may be some recognition to the regular season leader, this explains why all of the sudden they are open to that idea. If someone is going to sponsor only the regular season, they want it to mean something more than seeding for the chase. They also mentioned that they might go a year without a series sponsor it they can’t find the right fit. It seems the low ratings and attendance have finally caught up to their bottom line and NASCAR is finally starting to reap what they have sewn with all of Brian’s constant changes, most notably the chase.

The other interesting announcement is that NASCAR is considering further limiting Cup drivers in the lower series. About f-ing time. I am guessing that they are starting to figure out that it kind of undermines the chase format in those lower series (making it more of a joke that it already is).

janice

bill- i find it interesting that na$car is now saying there’s issues in finding new sponsor, when a few weeks ago they all but signed someone. i don’t think any company, in today’s economy, will pony up the $$$ that na$car wants. na$car milked the fans and all the cash cows til there’s nothing left. the product isn’t that great, and what on earth will na$car do if jr can’t come back to race? he’s their huge cash cow. i find it interesting he’s now showing up at tracks as part of his therapy. next week ‘dega has him scheduled as a meet and greet driver. is his future like richard petty, be at track for sponsors and being a team owner? i can’t imagine we’ll be seeing too much of tony stewart at na$car events once he retires.

keeping cuppers out of lower level series…heck kyle bush has made a mockery of the xfinity chase. what 2 series regular drivers have won in their playoff that are chase contenders?

and another news tidbit was that princess sparkle pony will have a new sponsor next year too. her current one will be primary sponsor, but they won’t be primary on the car for as many races. i think code 3, that has been a sponsor on stewart’s ride is going to her ride. wonder how much longer her amazing performance will keep her in a ride?

Bill B

Hi Janice,
I agree, if Jr can’t be a driver, NASCAR loses about 20% of it’s clout. Even if he maintains a presence in the garage, no driver equals no fans. Folks don’t tune in or go to the track in numbers because of who owns the team.

LOL @ PSP. I think by the time her current contract runs out, her career will be over as well. You just never know anymore because sponsorship dollars matter more than talent or results (that should never be the case in a serious sport).

DoninAjax

So I guess Harvick is now the favorite for the title.

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