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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After The 2017 Quaker State 400

Who… gets the shoutout of the race?

Kyle Larson was held up in pre-qualifying inspection on Friday at Kansas Speedway and never made a qualifying lap, resulting in the Cup Series point leader starting the race shotgun on the field.

Proving that it’s not about where you start, but where you finish, Larson ended up finishing third in Stage 1 and second overall. The No. 42 car would have had a shot at winning, but ended up getting stuck behind Kyle Busch in Turn 2 of the overtime restart. Even if the race had gone green, it didn’t look likely Larson would have had the time to get around Martin Truex Jr., even with fresh tires.

“I lost quite a bit of track position, had to restart, I think, four or five rows behind Truex and Kyle Busch,” Larson said, as he leaves Kentucky with a one-point lead over Truex in the regular season standings. “So if I could have restarted a row or two behind them, maybe I could have been aggressive on the restart and made some things happen to get in front of him and kind of try and set the pace, but just judging off of lap times and stuff, I don’t think it would have been easy to hold him off.”

What… is my takeaway from this race?

2016 Las Vegas CUP Brad Keselowski burnout Matthew T Thacker NKP
This car has won Brad Keselowski some races, but the driver says it could be a lot better. (Photo: Matthew T Thacker / NKP)

Brad Keselowski, after wrecking on lap 88 in an accident, also involving Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, spoke the truth that I think a lot of drivers have wanted to say for a while now, but haven’t in fear of being penalized by NASCAR. Here’s what the 2012 series champion said about the Gen 6 car that wasn’t in the interview he gave to NBCSN, as quoted by Ford PR:

“It is a poorly designed racecar and it makes racing on tracks like this very difficult to put on the show we want to put on for our fans. You do what you can to gauge and claw on the restarts and get everything you can get. You have to put yourself in bad situations to do that and that is where we were. If you don’t make those moves on the restarts, then you run in the back. Or you have a bad day… It is time for the sport to design a new car that is worthy of where this sport deserves to be and the show it deserves to put on for its fans.”

This news comes off the heels of an interview NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell gave on the NBC NASCAR podcast this week, discussing the changes that will be coming to the Gen 7, which will come out in the next “two-to-four years.” Most drivers, even those as outspoken as Keselowski, don’t typically criticize something as big to the sport as the Gen 6 in fear of being fined by NASCAR; Denny Hamlin was fined for calling the Gen 6 bad just a few races into the first season of it. Now that NASCAR itself has basically came out and called the Gen 6 obsolete, we’re going to see more criticism in the months to come.

The Gen 6 really isn’t that terrible of a car. The racing is great behind the leader most weeks. But because the TV broadcast focuses so much on the battle for the lead, we at home don’t see all the great battles happening around the race track. All NASCAR needs to do is make it easier to pass the leader by making the cars less aero dependent. Getting rid of the splitter and giving the teams back the horsepower NASCAR took away from them a couple of years ago would be a good first step in the Gen 7’s design.

Where… did the pole-sitter and defending race winner end up?

Kyle Busch led most of the first two stages, but was passed by Truex fairly late in both stages and finished second in both. Busch was running third when the final caution came out and went pitted for two left side, but couldn’t make the car stick on the ensuring restart. Busch finished fifth after restarting second.

Brad Keselowski finished out of the top 10 in Stage 1, then in the opening laps of Stage 2, was involved in the aforementioned multi-car accident that ruined his day. Keselowski finished 39th after winning three of the last five at Kentucky.

Why… did Martin Truex Jr. win?

If Busch and Erik Jones hadn’t held up Larson and Chase Elliott on that last restart, it’s very likely Truex would have been blown away by one of the two. And honestly, the right car won the race; Truex was fast and dominant all night long, and will be the favorite heading into the playoffs. Truex already has 28 playoff points that he’ll carry all the way to Phoenix, presuming he makes it through the first two rounds of the playoffs. At the rate he’s winning stages and races, it’s very possible he crosses the full race barrier (40 points), especially if he gets the bonus 15 points for leading the points after Richmond.

Where… will “Bubba” end up?

One driver that’s looking for a ride for this season and beyond is Darrell Wallace Jr. The former Roush Fenway Racing XFINITY Series driver got his first taste of Cup Series racing over the past month, and has performed admirably well in the No. 43 Ford. But now, with regular driver Aric Almirola testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week and coming back to the car at any moment now, it’s looking like Wallace will have to go back on the free agent market.

Wallace finished 11th at Kentucky, his best finish in four starts for Richard Petty Motorsports. The young driver was well on his way to making the XFINITY Series playoffs before the No. 6 team shut down due to a lack of sponsorship, which seems to be Wallace’s biggest problem right now.

When… does silly season start?

Right now.

Matt Kenseth confirmed on Friday that he would probably not be returning to the No. 20 Toyota next season for Joe Gibbs Racing, making an already interesting silly season even crazier with the addition of a former Cup champion on the market. Kenseth finished 17th in the race and currently sits 11th in point standings, seven points above Joey Logano for the final playoff position. Jones, who many presume will replace Kenseth in the No. 20 car, finished sixth and is currently 52 points behind the playoff bubble.

Meanwhile, Kasey Kahne continues to struggle, getting in a wreck early in Stage 2, finishing 38th overall. A season Kahne was supposed to come back and improve after two down seasons has instead seen the opposite occur. Kahne’s average finish of 20.3 is his worst in a season since 2007, and unless he wins, he isn’t anywhere close to making the playoffs. It’s starting to look like Hendrick Motorsports might have two rides open next season, unless Kahne dramatically improves in the second half of the season.

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8 thoughts on “The Big 6: Questions Answered After The 2017 Quaker State 400”

  1. “And honestly, the right car won the race.”

    What if he didn’t? What if the driver who dominated an event lost again at the end because of a GWC?

    What if Larson had won. He didn’t even have a qualifying time! How many drivers get to race when they don’t set a time?

    What if Elliott had won? Imagine the perspective of a Hendrick car winning AGAIN like that like the other driver!

    What if Busch had won and got to do his bow again?

  2. Brad love him or hate him, or just have love spewing from ROSE COLORED GLASSES regarding NASCAR…IS CORRECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    What is so bad about that, fans see it, drivers know it, crew chiefs know it…CASTLE DAYTONA knows it. SO what is the flucking problem with his truth, the truth, and why they hell would they hesitate to change and why so long if they do? Who can watch this crap with any severe interest or whatever?

  3. BK’s ire should be focused at the cookie cutters. The na$car spec cars, as not-stock-car as they are, don’t have as many issues at short tracks or road courses. Anything greater than a mile is a waste of asphalt. The sole exception being New Hampshire –which only serves to show what a gem North Wilkesboro was.

    When does football start?

  4. At this point, they should go back to last years specs. The racing last year was far superior to this. Seems they swung too far the other and made the aero dependence greater. will be interesting to see if Kasey has a ride at a top team next year. I agree with jr. Matt will have a ride, whether it’s in the 77, the 10, the 88, or the 5, he should be set. Would be cool to see Wallace get in a good car next year, hell, he did better than Danica and also Kasey (I think?) in his short audition.

    • Kes is right. Just like Jr. said, get rid of the front air dam. Make the cars conform to the manufacturer’s body specs. Put Kasey in the 77, Jones to the 20, Bowman in the 88, Byron in the 5, Kenseth in the 10, and Danica in the SHR Xfinity ride.

  5. Alex Bowman to the 88. Wm. Byron to the 5. Kasey to the 77. Kenseth to the 10. Danica to SHR Xfinity car. Eliminate the front air dam. Car bodies must be the same specs as production cars. Allow wrecked cars to return from the garage to the race if they can pass inspection again. Don’t throw out the caution every time a car spins out if it can continue before the leader catches him. Sure would like or see heat races and a B and an A feature.

  6. For a 1.5 mile race on new pavement, that wasn’t that bad of a race. Busch and Truex had a fairly close battle through the 1st two stages. Then Truex went nuts. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a car dominate like that in terms of the size of the lead. The 78 was lapping in the top-10 and had 10+ seconds on 2nd place. The old school fans should love it because that’s what happened a ton in the “good ol’ days”. Areo had nothing to do with that domination because shouldn’t dirty air have hampered the 78 when passing lapped cars, especially in the top-10? For it being so tough to pass the 78 managed to pass a bunch of cars to start segment three the whupped the field. The 42 also passed a ton too. Whatever setup they had in the 78 it was turning so much better than any other car in the field. Real remarkable performance. You just don’t see that often anymore.

    • I did love it Upstate. I’m all for having lots of cars on the lead lap right up the point of keeping cars on the lead lap artificially. If it takes lots of cautions, lucky dogs and wave arounds to keep more than 5 cars on the lead lap then the cost to credibility (as a true sport) is too high.

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