Logano spins blocking Kenseth to win Kansas, blocks other contenders heading to 'Dega
Flag to Flag: The Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway was Matt Kenseth's (14th) to lose. The No. 20 team had a Charlotte race to forget a week ago, with bad pit stops, wall contact, and eventually a day-ending crash that left them 12th of the 12 Chase teams entering Kansas Speedway. They almost did what they needed to do Sunday.
Kenseth led more than 100 laps more than any other driver and assumed the lead for the final time on a restart with less than 20 laps to go from Jimmie Johnson (3rd), who decided not to pit when the rest of the
On the final restart, a green-white-checkered finish, Logano and foe Denny Hamlin started on the front row and Logano pulled away. Hamlin barely edged Jimmie Johnson (3rd) for the runner-up spot.
Most of the 267-lap affair lacked high drama. Brad Keselowski (9th) started on the pole and led the early
Kenseth led most of the race and most of the other Chase drivers remained in the top 15. But then Dale Earnhardt Jr. (21st) had to pit with a loose wheel after halfway in the race, trapping him first a lap down, then two, and ending his chances to make it up. Earnhardt Jr. also had a tough day at Charlotte, so he is now 12th in points heading to Talladega and in a must-win situation.
Then on the second-to-last pit stops of the day, both Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. (15th) got pit road penalties - Harvick for dragging the gas can from his stall and Truex Jr. for his crew letting a tire out of control. Both drivers were stuck a lap down on the second-to-last yellow flag of the race, but could not take a wave-around to get the lap back, as Johnson elected to be the only lead lap car not to pit. On the Kenseth caution with four laps to go, Truex Jr. took the free pass, but did not have time in the final two laps to gain any lead lap spots.
In front of that, Logano has fortified his title chances, making other Chase drivers rely on decent finishes at the wild, unpredictable Talladega race next week to advance to the Eliminator Round. No driver in the two years of this format has won two races in the same round. Logano's move on Kenseth, which will get discussed later on in more detail, is huge in trying to thin out his closest competitors.
The top 10 were: Logano, Hamlin, Johnson, Kasey Kahne (best finish since Dover in May), Kyle Busch (needed good finish after Charlotte trouble, thought he was blowing an engine, brushed wall, stayed in top 10), Kurt Busch (solid all day, no drama), Ryan Blaney (started 8th, stayed in top 10 most of day, very impressive), Carl Edwards (started 2nd, ran in top 15 all day), Brad Keselowski (faded after leading early laps, scraped wall but didn't lose much), and Jeff Gordon (not a winning car, but in top 15 all day). The rest of the Chasers avoided catastrophe, but still some disappointed: Ryan Newman (11th - hung near top 10 most of race), Kenseth (14th - made up no spots on final restart, after getting spun from lead), Truex Jr. (15th - used strategy to get into top 5, lost steam after pit penalty), Harvick (16th - top 5 car, but had vibration entire race that eventually broke shifter, lost chance to get on lead lap when Truex Jr. got free pass after pit penalty), and Earnhardt Jr. (says he can't pick a better track for a must-win than Talladega next week).
The points are almost as tight as the pack will be next week at Talladega. The race will be intense, no doubt, as Talladega president Grant Lynch and I discussed last week.
RaceTweet: Logano spins Kenseth to win Kansas - only driver safe heading to Talladega.
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Matt Kenseth - Leads 153 laps and drives his butt off to try and secure his next round bid. Instead, he blocks Logano and gets spun from the round-advancing win. Kenseth almost pulled off what Harvick did at Dover two weeks ago.
North Korean Missile Dud: Dale Earnhardt Jr. - After poor driving and bad luck at Charlotte last week, Earnhardt Jr.'s day got doomed by his pit crew leaving a loose wheel. Earnhardt Jr. was not a favorite to win the race, but the No. 88 team is struggling to put a whole race together and capitalize on their fast cars to go deep in this Chase.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: No one - Despite there being multiple grooves, this race really lacked much variance amongst the contenders. The drivers that wrecked were out and the ones that had trouble (i.e. Harvick, Truex Jr., Earnhardt Jr.) stayed in their spots. And Ky. Busch had all sorts of issues, but never lost much track position.
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: Ryan Blaney - Easy. Started and finished in the top 10.
Ghost Driver: Carl Edwards - With Hamlin, Ky. Busch, and Kenseth hanging in front of the field for much of the day, Edwards struggled in comparison. He started 2nd and had the best pit stall pick (courtesy of a Keselowski penalty), but then fell through the field and hung only in the top 15. The late restarts bunched the field up enough times that Edwards rebounded to a respectable 8th. But with Chase drivers all around him both in Sunday's finish and in the points, Edwards goes to Talladega needing to finish well to move on - and he's not one of the most proficient plate racers.
Jimmie Johnson Golden Horseshoe: Kyle Busch - With two bad finishes already in the Chase. Ky. Busch's day looked off the rails again when he said he thought his engine was blowing up in the closing laps. Instead, the power plant stayed together, his contact with the wall in that same sequence was of no consequence, and Busch snagged some spots on the final restart and finished 5th.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: The Logano-Kenseth contact will be the story of the week. I already have fielded several tweets calling Logano "full of it" and a "dirty driver" for his explanation of getting into Kenseth. But if Logano lets Kenseth back in line he does three things: 1. He probably lets Kenseth win. 2. He then allows one of his biggest obstacles to winning the title to advance to the next round. 3. He sends the message that he puts up with being driven that way with no consequence.
Then there's Kenseth's side: he needs to win, was in position to win, and did everything he could to defend his ground with a few laps to go. If the duo doesn't catch lap traffic, then maybe Kenseth doesn't have to slow down and maybe Logano doesn't catch him there. But it happened as it did and the two made contact.
Really, neither driver was wrong. But their views now are ironic. Remember that infamous 2010 Pocono race when Harvick wrecked Logano for blocking? Logano went after Harvick
And Kenseth put Logano in the same position that Keselowski put him in on that late restart at Charlotte last fall. Kenseth hit Keselowski's car under yellow and then the two tangled after the race, in one of the most entertaining post-race
In the end, Logano and Kenseth both had a lot at stake, which affected their aggressive decisions. But that's just what we want to see: bold moves and conflict reaching a race win. This makes the coming races all the more fun to watch.
Georgia On My Mind: David Ragan had a forgettable, but not calamitous Kansas race. He started 22nd, battled nose damage, and nursed the No. 55 Toyota home to a 25th-place finish, three laps down. Reed Sorenson had a typical "Premium" Motorsports race: start way back and finish there. Sorenson placed 38th, 11 laps down.
The Xfinity Series race saw Kyle Busch go to Victory Lane ahead of some big Georgia drivers comebacks. Chase Elliott was running 15th in the race's closing stage, but gained lots of ground on the final restart and drove to 7th. He drag raced with points leader Chris Buescher, who finished 6th and now leads him by 33 in the standings. Ryan Sieg also hung on the lead lap at the end and then surged to 8th at the finish. Korbin Forrister made his NXS debut, starting 33rd in the No. 90 car owned by his Camping World Truck Series owner, Bobby Dotter. But Forrister crashed and placed 33rd.
John Wes Townley's team skipped its second NXS race in three weeks. Townley told me recently that his Athenian Motorsports team is looking to run only some NXS races next season and focus mainly on running the full NCWTS schedule. Townley did run the Friday night ARCA race, placing 8th, but led on the second-to-last restart and almost won.
NXS RaceTweet: Kyle Busch comes back several times and catches teammate Kenseth to win Kansas.
Next: The Sprint Cup Series and Camping World Truck Series deploy to the hectic, unpredictable 2.66-mile, 33
PRN will be in Talladega covering the action next week. Stay here and on my Twiter account @DougTurnbull for updates.