Who… gets the shoutout of the race?
It seemed like it could be Ryan Blaney’s race. The 23-year-old Team Penske driver, contracted out to the venerable Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 machine, started on the pole and won the second stage of the race. Blaney led for a good amount of Stage 3, but lost the lead for the final time with 19 laps to go by eventual race-winner Martin Truex Jr.
“I felt like we were the best car from maybe 15, 20 laps, especially if we were out front,” Blaney said. “We got that caution at the end and beat [Truex] off pit road.
“I thought we were in a pretty good spot, and he made a really good move on that restart and was able to pass us, and then we had a couple more opportunities towards the end of that race, and he got a couple really good restarts and I didn’t, and that was kind of the deciding factor.”
What… is my takeaway from this race?
NASCAR is in a bit of a tough spot right now. On one hand, it should be fairly obvious after Aric Almirola’s wreck that they need to slow these cars down. There is no reason these cars should be going nearly 200 mph in the turns. Speed didn’t really directly cause the wreck, but it most definitely made it much more severe. There will always be bad wrecks at any speed, but slowing the cars down would definitely make them less devastating. Very few fans would even notice the difference between 200 mph and 150 mph, for example.
On the other hand, making the cars slower isn’t as easy to implement as it is to read. NASCAR could restrict the engines, but that would make the racing pretty bad. No driver would have the horsepower to pass. That’s just about the last thing NASCAR should be doing right now as the sport continues to hemorrhage fans away.
The other option would be to radically change the car template, making the engine smaller and the car harder to handle, but that would cost teams a fortune after years of constant changes to the cars. It would be a very realistic possibility that NASCAR would be left holding at least one charter from a team that can’t continue on, and not being able to find a 36th car to sell it to.
Of course, there’s a third option of NASCAR simply viewing this as a freak accident and continuing on like it didn’t happen. This is probably going to be the response, to be honest. But let’s just hope if there is another bad wreck at these speeds that it isn’t too late, or worse NASCAR does nothing until somebody either dies or gets permanently injured.
Where… did the pole-sitter and defending race winner end up?
Ryan Blaney finished fourth after a particularly strong day at Kansas.
Here’s a fun fact: if Blaney had won the race, it would have been the first time since 1978 the Wood Brother’s Ford won a race from the pole. NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson won at Michigan International Speedway from the pole after lapping all but four drivers, the final time Pearson tasted victory with the Woods. It was the end of a partnership that dominated the 1970s.
Kyle Busch finished right behind Blaney in fifth after winning stage one. Busch led 59 laps and was in contention to win with 40 to go before the car went “wrecking loose” on the 2015 Cup Series champion. Busch faded back but recovered to walk out of Kansas with his fourth top-five finish of the season.
When… did it all get sideways?
On Lap 199, what will probably go down as the worst wreck in the history of the Kansas Speedway occurred when Joey Logano reportedly lost his brake rotor and got into Danica Patrick heading into Turn 1. Almirola was coming in hot on the outside and had nowhere to go, slamming into the two hard enough to get some time in the air.
The cars were engulfed in flames for a terrifying few seconds before coming to a rest in Turn 2. Both Logano and Patrick were cleared by the infield medical center, although Patrick mentioned off-handily to FOX Sports that she had a sprained ankle, due to a previous injury while filming a commercial a few weeks back. Almirola was cut from the racecar but was conscious and talking to the safety crew as they were cutting him out. He was sent to the University of Kansas Medical Center for overnight observation.
Almirola was announced as suffering a fractured vertebra as a result of the wreck. It’s unknown as of press time how much time Almirola will miss, if any.
Why… did Martin Truex Jr. win?
Martin Truex Jr. won because he was excellent on restarts. Nobody could touch him on any of the late-race restarts. It was like watching an NHRA funny car out there on the frontstretch.
Truex also had a lot of drive to finally win this race. Kansas has alluded him multiple times, specifically the spring race, and finally winning here definitely took a monkey off his back. The Denver, Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing team considers Kansas to be their home track, so it was a big day for the small team.
“It feels great,” Truex said. “It’s definitely been a thorn in our side… You know for years and years even before I was with this team, for whatever reason we always ran good here and never could close the deal. Proud to get these guys back in victory lane. This is our home race track — the guys from Colorado.”
Has… Clint Bowyer gone back to feeling like an elite driver?
Clint Bowyer, the local driver from Kansas, has struggled at his home track for the past few years. Before Saturday, Bowyer hadn’t had a top ten at the 1.5-mile track since finishing fifth in 2013 with Michael Waltrip Racing.
Finally, Bowyer was able to give his hometown fans something to cheer about. Bowyer finished ninth after racing in the top 15 virtually the entire race.
After suffering through a horrible season last year, he seemed to be thankful to finally get in quality equipment this year. Already, however, he seems to be getting a bit disappointed with just a top ten finish.
“That just wasn’t very good tonight,” Bowyer said. “We were kind of off all weekend. Definitely off in the race. I started off good and we were just down on rear grip.
“I fought loose the whole time I was out there and it seemed like everything we were doing – we were doing some fundamentally different things to try to tighten the car up.”