A lot of drivers are glad they aren’t in Kansas any more. A week after wrecks took out most of the competitors, a big wreck at the front of the field eliminated some top title contenders. And what the wreck didn’t end, the aftermath of the wreck ended the day for some others.
First of all, a big kudos to Martin Truex Jr for overcoming a penalty early in the race and driving through the field for a win. And speaking of that, Kansas was supposed to be a track that was difficult to pass at. Evidently Truex, Blaney, Kurt Busch and Chris Buescher didn’t get the memo. I am sure some drivers found it difficult to get around the track, but there were battles going on all over the place as playoff drivers tried like heck to stay in front of each other. Many of the top 12 drivers were running in the top 15. That makes it difficult to gain any position, you have to hope for bad luck. And Lady Luck reared her ugly head.
Kyle Larson, one of the favorites to go to Homestead and challenge Truex and Kyle Busch, had mechanical issues that ended his day. He could only watch from the garage and pray that someone else had worse luck that him. At that moment, he was not yet eliminated, although it didn’t look good.
Jimmie Johnson spun twice putting him dangerously near the cut off. He was not having a great day and fans all wondered if the 48 would even finish the race.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr was not having a good day and winning was his only shot at transferring.
Kenseth and McMurray were doing everything they could to stay near the front and hope that they could contend for the win.
Denny Hamlin won Stage 2 and led a few laps while Chase Elliott, who has not been that strong at Kansas, haunted the leaders all race long.
Lady Luck once again reappeared as a huge wreck caused by Erik Jones getting lose at the front of the field, changing everything. McMurray had his car destroyed and Kenseth sustained damage that was possibly fixable. But on his subsequent pit stop, his crew sent 7 men over the wall instead of the NASCAR approved 6. The penalty for that, which is unnecessarily severe, left a very frustrated Kenseth who was not allowed to finish the race.
Once the race got back underway, Truex took the lead and never had to look back. Harvick and Kyle Busch (who led 112 laps) were running deeper in the field so all Truex had to do was hold off Chase Elliott, Blaney and Kurt Busch. As so often has been the case this season, once Truex gets in front, he is untouchable.
Dale Earnhardt Jr got his second top 10 finish in as many weeks and third in the last 4 races. If he can pull that off at Martinsville, it would be the first time all season he has had 3 straight top 10 finishes.
If you are an F1 fan, you saw a great race at the United States GP at the Circuit of the Americas. Some amazing passes were made (highly unusual for F1) and Max Verstappen made an crazy pass to get a podium finish but the race stewards decided that he drove outside the white lines (Martin Truex Jr was penalized for that at Kansas) and gave him a 5 second penalty, relegating him to 4th. Just like in NASCAR, the way, and when, the officials decide to hold fast to the rules is always interesting.
Now onto Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix. The trick in these final races will be to stay ahead of everyone else. With 3 wins available, only one more driver will get in on points. If a non-playoff driver wins, or a playoff driver wins more than one, in any of these next three, points will be critical to move on
Brad Keselowski won at Martinsville earlier this season and Kyle Busch is the best over the past 5 years. This is not Truex’s best track so he will need to avoid trouble and stay in the hunt in points.
Jimmie Johnson was the spring race at Texas. Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin didn’t fare so well in the spring but in the past 5 years, Kyle is second only to Johnson. This race doesn’t favor Hamlin or Blaney. Truex finished in the top 10. Truex started third and finished 16th.
Ryan Newman won the spring trace at Phoenix and Kyle Busch was third. Blaney started second, but fell to a 23rd place finish. Over the last 5 years, Kevin Harvick has been the man at PIR with 5 wins. This is also not the best track for Truex.
For Martin Truex to advance, he will need to step up his game. While you might wonder how he can do that considering his performance this season, these three tracks could be his Achilles Heel. But he has found a way through adversity unlike any year before, so I see him moving on to Homestead.
So here I go:
- Kyle Busch
- Jimmie Johnson