In a night where Ryan Blaney bested the field with his first pole, I guess it was no surprise that Martin Truex, Jr. would win at Kansas. He started third, he nearly won here a year ago and he has one heck of a fast race car. You can also look to the starting grid dominated by Ford and Toyota. The only Chevy in the top 10 was Kyle Larson in ninth. And if you look at the final grid, only two Chevys were in the top 10.
It was a pretty typical Kansas race where cars got strung out pretty quickly and the leader often jumped out to a 1.5 – 2 second lead. What was atypical was the number of cars that did not get through tech and lost a chance to qualify. Twelve cars failed to get through tech including Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Something has to change there. I am not sure what the answer is but if you believe the teams, the cars are being measured in ten-thousandths of an inch. The cars supposedly measure properly ahead of time and are found wanting in tech. But the rules are the rules and other cars meet tech so Hendrick better get their act together.
Another thing I noticed was the chatter about a tire shortage. Kansas normally has 8 cautions so Goodyear brought 9 sets of tires for each team. OK, but if you add in the stages, which are essentially cautions, that would require 10 sets of tires. I guess no one really thought of that. You add in a few more cautions on top of that and you find yourself with a sticker tire shortage. Maybe it’s time everyone in NASCAR realize the stages are two additional cautions.
While not a stage fan, the stages actually made a race like Kansas better by bunching up the field a couple of times. But it’s not like they needed to add in two additional cautions. There were plenty to go around.
The biggest of the night was the Logano-Danica-Almirola wreck. If you haven’t seen the video, Logano broke a right front brake rotor (more on that in a minute) sending his car sharply to the left into Danica. Her car went up the track and hit the wall hard on the front and back spewing flames all over. Almirola was about 10 cars back of that but he must have gotten into some debris, losing his steering and sending him almost head on into Logano, raising the tires of the 43 off the ground and breaking the rear axle. Logano and Danica both exited their cars and you could tell Danica was pretty ticked off at Joey for wrecking her. Safety crews had to cut Almirola out of his car due to a compression fracture he suffered. He’ll miss some races but otherwise appears OK.
Danica has had a rough year and she took a hard hit last week as well. It seems like every time they get a decent run, something happens. In this case she just happened to be near Logano when his car failed. She had a lightly sprained ankle and was obviously very emotional about the incident and her season.
Lots of drivers were complaining about loose wheels. Some teams have recently changed air guns and some did have loose lug nuts while others were phantoms. Dale Jr. said that their race notes show a lot of complaints about loose wheels at Kansas, so there may be something in the car harmonics that create that feeling. But there were several drivers that did have loose wheels, so either the air guns or the desire to get off a quick pit stop are creating the issue.
Staying on that topic, brakes were an issue as well. Many drivers were having brake issues with Logano being an example of the worst case scenario. With low banking (15 degrees) and high speeds plus you throw in a measure of low down force and you need more brake to slow the car down. The lower down force helps create the greater straight away speed but it also generates the need for more brake, even at a mile and a half track. You can be sure teams will look at that a lot more closely the rest of the year.
Ryan Blaney won his first pole and his first race stage but couldn’t hold speed as the night wore on and he finished fourth. Kyle Busch had similar luck as the odds on favorite finished fifth. That leaves Joe Gibbs Racing 0 for 11 so far. Daniel Suarez put up a 7th place finish while Jamie McMurray pulled out another top 10 and threading the eye 3-wide pass. One of these days that isn’t going to work for him. Stenhouse followed up his last week win with a respectable 11th place finish.
Kyle Larson is still your points leader by virtue of his number of top 5 finishes. Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski are second and third respectively by virtue of their wins. It’s funny how this iteration of the NASCAR playoffs has drivers more concerned with points than they ever have been. It wasn’t that long ago NASCAR eschewed points racing and it was all about the race win, not the stage win. I expect that to change once they playoffs roll around. Sure, you carry over your playoff points but it’s the race win that guarantees your passage into the next round, not the points. With that said however, points for the non-winning teams will be crucial in the playoffs. Since your playoff points stay with you through each round, even a lackluster performance will still be buoyed by those traveling points.
Whatever. Win and you’re in still rules the day.
Enjoy the All Star race and here’s to Aric Almirola, one tough hombre. Get well, soon!