The halfway point of the Chase at Lowe’s brought with it a reality check to several men no longer in the hunt for a championship. For drivers like Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, and Kevin Harvick, their one-time title dreams turned into nightmares filled with enough broken parts and pieces to start a junkyard. On the contrary, for others it was a case of too little, too late, as strong runs by Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch didn’t even make a dent in deficiencies that seem far too steep to overcome.
Jeff Gordon – Gordon has won here four times, including the 1994 World 600 to score his first ever Cup series victory. (Has it really been 13 years? Wow). But he’s in a pronounced slump at LMS right now, having failed to finish the last five points races here.
1) Jeff Gordon (Six First-Place Votes)
Was going to either win, or become a hood ornament on Tony Stewart’s Chevy in a daring last lap pass for the win.
A handful of Chasers, including Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, got dragged into a fall mess of mangled machinery coming out of turn 4, all caused when Bobby Labonte simply lost control and spun out in front of the field. The results really jumbled up the Chase standings; for when the smoke cleared, all title contenders figured out just two men had left the rest of them eating their own dust. It was all par for the course in another restrictor-plate roller coaster ride that left engines burning up, Chasers on life support, and fans sitting on the edge of their seats for a last-lap shootout to the finish.
Jimmie Johnson – Johnson has been on a roll at Talladega as of late: he won here last spring and finished second in April. He almost won last fall’s Talladega event, as well; that is, before former teammate Brian Vickers crashed the little party Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson were staging on the final lap of the race. Johnson was miffed for a long time after that, but don’t expect it to be a problem this year – Vickers is in a Toyota and might not even qualify for the race.
Watching the end of Sunday’s weird, wacky Kansas Cup race, I was as stunned as anyone to hear Jimmie Johnson say in his immediate post-race interview that he didn’t think Greg Biffle won the race. “He was clearly out of gas,” said Johnson. “I feel terrible for Greg. He’s been working so hard to win a race and he was up there in position to win it. But if you don’t maintain pace car speed, you don’t hold your position. And it was clear to everyone that he couldn’t do it. If he could have, he would have stayed on the bumper of the pace car to the finish line. So in my opinion, where he coasted across the finish line relative to the other cars that could maintain pit road speed is where he should finish.”
12. Denny Hamlin – Gets rubbed by a pit lizard.
After a wild and wacky weekend at Kansas, people are still trying to figure out who won the race, let alone what the ramifications were on top of the Chase standings. However, as the dust settles and reality sets in that Greg Biffle snagged the win – fair or unfair – the focus should switch to just how clearly the title Chase unfolded after a rain-shortened, crash-filled frenzy in the Midwest. After six drivers were within 28 points heading into the event, now just two are within 114 of new Chase leader Jimmie Johnson – superstar Jeff Gordon and surprise Clint Bowyer. Everyone else got swept up by a Kansas tornado; in fact, half the title contenders finished 35th or worse, putting their Chase hopes in serious doubt heading to Talladega and beyond.
Each week, we’ll go through all the media reports, interviews, PR, and all our own stuff to find the best quotes from the Nextel Cup race, capturing the story of how the weekend unfolded. It’s the most original commentary you’ll ever find: the truth, coming straight out of the mouths of the drivers, crew members, and the car owners themselves. This week, here’s a sneak peek at what a select few were thinking following the rain and darkness-shortened LifeLock 400 at Kansas.
At first glance, it would seem that the sport was simply Mother Nature’s victim once again, especially on a Kansas prairie known for ferocious thunderstorms. As the race began under threatening skies, the first bout with weather wasn’t so bad – just 12 laps in, a small shower pushed through that caused the race to be red flagged for just over 45 minutes Sunday. But the second, expanded weather delay that put a black cloud over several aspects of the race itself. A severe rainstorm, weather hit with such ferocity around lap 145 that the stands emptied completely, water was flying through the air sideways, and even cameramen were being pulled off the roof for fear of being struck by lightning.