Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud: Chase Elliott Wins 2nd Round of 12 Race, Round of 8 Set

Who’s in the headline

In the typical, overreaction world of 24/7 social media and sports talking heads, Chase Elliott has gone from early title dropout to championship favorite. Elliott went to Victory Lane for the second time in three races, and Elliott Nation is in a lather over the potential for him to contend for the title. Elliott has momentum for sure, but we’re still talking about a driver who hasn’t made the Championship 4 suddenly poised to dominate two or three former champions. Let’s pump the brakes just a touch.

What happened

The air was cool and crisp and the stands were rather full for the second elimination race of the playoffs for 2018. Joey Logano won the pole and led the first 40 laps before pitting. AJ Allmendinger went long on his first run and led the next nine laps. Darrell Wallace Jr. went even longer and held the point for the next two laps. When he pitted, Logano retook the point and led for 11 laps into the first caution of the day, when William Byron completely detonated his power plant. Ryan Blaney led for eight laps after the restart, but Logano chased him down and passed him to grab the lead and the stage.

Stage two saw Logano continue to lead early, gave up the lead for a pit stop to Blaney, who handed it to their other Penske teammate Brad Keselowski who led for 16 laps. When he pitted, it was Kevin Harvick who took hold of the race and looked headed for a victory. He won the second stage and led the first 53 laps of the third stage before pitting and earning a speeding penalty on pit lane. That gave the lead to Keselowski, but the 2012 champion had to pit for fuel, which put Elliott out front. While Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson tried to chase down Elliott, they simply couldn’t overcome the dirty air behind him and settled for second and third, respectively. The failure of Byron’s engine handed the second consecutive Rookie of the Race award to Wallace.

Why you should care

The elimination round cut the field of potential champions down to eight and put the favorite label squarely on Ford teams with five of the final eight driving for the blue oval. Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. carry the banner for Toyota, while Elliott is the lone warrior for Chevrolet. The second win in three races for Elliott has him riding the most momentum, but he’s still an underdog compared to most of the resumes he’s competing against for the title.

The drivers still alive have to be happy that Keselowski and Larson are eliminated. Keselowski was the hottest driver coming into the playoffs and Larson would have been a huge favorite if he can make it to Homestead. Blaney hit the wall and ended his hopes of advancing while Alex Bowman was in a must-win situation and was not close enough to the front at the end.

What your friends are talking about

The finalists for the Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award announced. The winner of the award will be given a $100,000 donation to their charity. Online voting will determine the recipient which sometimes leads to some stumping for votes, which almost seems disingenuous. Best of luck to all of the finalists and thanks for your efforts.

  • Carl Dakes of Harwood, Maryland, an 18-year volunteer representing the Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, Inc. of Catonsville, Maryland. The foundation provides hospital and respite housing services to critically ill children and their families.
  • Sarah Kersey of Dublin, Ohio, a cancer survivor who represents Flying Horse Farms in Mt. Gilead, Ohio. The facility, where Kersey has served as a volunteer since 2010, provides transformative camp experiences for children with serious illnesses, at no cost.
  • Cliff Preston of Gainesville, Florida, representing UF Health Shands. He has volunteered for more than 25 years as a “cuddler” to soothe hospitalized newborns in the NICU during a parent’s absence.
  • Rex Reynolds of Hazel Green, Alabama, representing the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Alabama. Reynolds grew up participating in club programs and has now served in a volunteer role for 13 years.

Patricia Driscoll is finally going on trial for the counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, two counts of tax evasion one each in two different years, and one count of first-degree fraud. The case could last two months or more as the prosecutors attempt to show that Driscoll lied to donors and the board of directors while embezzling over $500,000 of the charities money for personal expenses, jewelry, alcohol, personal expenses and business expenses. For those who don’t remember, Driscoll is the former girlfriend of Kurt Busch.

Wallace is being honored as a person of influence in the EBONY Power 100. The list is designed to recognize the most inspiring and influential leaders of color who are impacting and shaping the world today. Wallace joins the likes of Antonio Brown, Stephen Curry, Venus Williams and Michelle Obama.

Who is mad

Larson has been calling out his team for the last few weekends and none of them were as deserved as an ass chewing this weekend, which didn’t come from Larson since he finished third. During the broadcast, it was stated that Larson’s backup car, which he had to use because of a practice crash, had been in the hauler all year and not updated with changes the team has implemented since Daytona. If that is a true statement, the crew chief, car chief and anyone else involved in the setup of their cars should be fired. You are running for a title and you go to the track with a backup car that is 31 races out of date? To win a title you have to dot all of your I’s and cross all of your T’s. They didn’t even have I’s or T’s on the freaking sheet of paper.

Harvick’s pit crew has every right to be fired up about this one as he’s never ashamed to call out his pit crew when they screw up. Just once it would be refreshing to hear a tire changer get on the radio and chew his ass for speeding on pit road. Mistakes happen and being a team is what makes a champion. It would just be nice to see the same standards applied to the driver as the pit crew.

Who is happy

Clint Bowyer wanted to put on a show for his “hometown” fans in Kansas, but the reality is that he isn’t good at Kansas Speedway and he really wanted to just make sure he made it to the next round. While he was on the outside looking in for a good portion of Sunday’s race, he managed to get it done. Now he heads to Martinsville where he scored his first victory this season. Ironically, the race was postponed by snow in the spring and just might be postponed by snow again.

Logano might not have won the race, but he was top five in the first two stages, locked himself into the third round after stage two, and looked strong all day long. After his teammates were both eliminated from contention on Sunday he knows that all of the power and resources of Team Penske will land squarely behind him for this title run. Don’t be shocked to see Sliced Bread finally live up to the hype and garner his first title in the Cup series.

When the checkered flag flew

Chase Elliott scored his third career victory in his 109th start in the Cup series.

This is Elliott’s third win in 2018.

Elliott has just one victory in his career at Kansas.

On the all-time list, Elliott is tied for 95th . He’s tied with Robby Gordon, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers and four other drivers.

Kyle Busch finished second at Kansas for his 12th top two of the season.

Busch has two career top two runs at Kansas in 22 starts.

For his career Busch has 45 second-place finishes which rank him 13th on the All-Time list.

Rounding out the podium was Kyle Larson. The finish was Larson’s ninth podium run of the season.

Larson has run in the top three at Kansas twice.

In his career Larson has ended up on the podium 36 times which puts him in 62nd on the All-Time list.

Darrell Wallace Jr. claimed the Rookie of the Race award with a 26th place finish.

For the year, Wallace’s 12 awards are eight behind William Byron’s 20.

Round three of the playoffs is here. Eight drivers are eligible to win the title but only four will advance beyond this round. The playoff contenders are listed below with their associated points. The eight drivers eliminated from title contention are listed because they are still eligible to finish as high as fifth. Race winners are bolded and will automatically advance to the next round.

1) Kyle Busch – 4055

2) Kevin Harvick – 4054

3) Martin Truex Jr. – 4038

4) Chase Elliott – 4018

5) Clint Bowyer – 4015

6) Joey Logano – 4015

7) Kurt Busch – 4015

8) Aric Almirola – 4006

9) Ryan Blaney – 2212

10) Brad Keselowski – 2194

11) Kyle Larson – 2178

12) Denny Hamlin – 2159

13) Austin Dillon – 2150

14) Erik Jones – 2148

15) Jimmie Johnson – 2148

16) Alex Bowman – 2144

What is in the cooler (one to six beers where one is a stinker and six is an instant classic)

Some races are fantastic, some are not so much. For the second week in a row, it was not so much. After the total chaos of the first elimination race at the ROVAL, we had complete and utter boredom and chalk at the second elimination race at Kansas. Nobody was passing nobody for the lead on the track. Anyone with a strong car that got within five car lengths of the leader couldn’t get closer. Pit road penalties and miscues crushed the hopes of other title hopefuls. In the end it was a bad race that earns two lukewarm Back Yard Blondes from Border Brewing Company.

Where do you point your DVR for next week

The series heads back to the only track still on the schedule from the original NASCAR Cup schedule. Coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. It can also be seen on the NBC Sports app. If you’d like to listen to the race rather than watch it, you can tune to your local MRN affiliate, go to www.motorracingnetwork.com or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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sall

Trying to watch the race on TV became unbearable. It was all points, all the tie. I am so sick of announcers behaving as if the points on lap 25 matter. Until the checkered flag, points are irrelevant. I’m still wondering if there were any other cars on the track, because I never hear a thing about them, Unfortunately, keeping track of points with this new system seems more important than ever. Ridiculous.

Bill B

Is there any reason that the guys in the booth have to yell into the microphone? Can’t they just talk normally. Just because they raise their voices doesn’t make the race more exciting.

Not a very interesting race but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

janice

that’s my main problem with jr and burton. they yell, voices get higher pitched and i can’t figure out what they’re saying.

napping was a more favorable activity yesterday afternoon for me.

katiescarlett

I agree, they are trying too hard to generate excitement. Both need to use their indoor voices…and take a Xanax before the race begins. I like Jr. but I cannot listen for very long. They are more annoying than DW and Larry Mac, which says a lot.

z

Regarding the end of the race:
Kyle Busch, in a post-race interview, indicated running the high groove tended to make his car tight, and the tightness worsened the more he was on the high groove; he attributed his inability to approach and pass Elliott was due to what I assumed was a mechanical, and not aero, tight condition (Busch also indicated he, compared to Chase, lost speed when Busch tried to drive a lower groove)
Chase indicated, post-race, he was also tight while on the high groove, but Chase could maintain relative speed (or, Chase was still faster than Busch) when driving in a lower groove.

I am not sure I have read of the high groove at Kansas (or other tracks with variable banking) causing, or being associated with, a tight car (Chase apparently was tight, and compared to Busch, Chase had clean air).

midasmicah

A race or a parade..that’s the question. And burton and dale jr sound like someone’s squeezing their …well, you get the picture. A parade it was. Thank goodness Martinsville is next..

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