Race Capsule: What Busch winneth, Truex Jr. has taken away at Kansas
Kyle Busch notched his first-career Sprint Cup Series win at Kansas Speedway Saturday night, holding off a hard-charging Kevin Harvick and doing so older tires. But the race belonged to another Toyota driver, who saw it slip away.
Flag to Flag: This GoBowling.com 400 was all Martin Truex Jr. (finished 14th), almost all night. He won the pole Friday and led 172 of the first 211 laps. The only time the No. 78 Toyota competitively lost the lead is when eventual winner Ky. Busch took two tires and beat him off of pit road on lap 26 and led 32 laps. The only other times other drivers led were during green flag pit stops.
Behind Truex Jr.'s dominance, the field looked quite racy as tire fall off allowed cars to rise to and fall from the occasion. Kyle Larson (35th) ran in the top 5 almost the entire race, really coming to
Cautions slowed the night several times and brought teams to pit road almost every time. The most common caution culprit was cars slapping the outside wall after getting loose out of the groove. Cole Whitt (39th), Paul Menard (40th), Chase Elliott (9th), and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (13th) were among the drivers to tag wall (though Elliott's contact did not bring out a yellow).
During the last sequence of green flag pit stops, Truex Jr. pitted from the lead and had another freak taste of bad luck as he has so many times in his career before. A loose bolt behind one of the wheels kept the lug nut from getting fully secure. When Truex Jr. took off from his pit stall, he says immediately he knew the wheel was loose. He had to pit again under green and lost a lap. He eventually got the free pass on a strange wreck and final caution of the
Truex Jr. ceded the lead over to Tony Stewart (12th) for a handful of laps, but Ky. Busch finally chased him down and took the lead. Then that final caution on lap 242 was the big wreck of the night. Denny Hamlin (37th) who had rebounded from two pit road speeding penalties was surging on the restart on brand new tires. After blazing a trail on the outside line, he tried to make an inside move on Brad Keselowski (10th), but Keselowski blocked. So Hamlin looked in the middle of Keselowski and Lason in turn 3. In such close quarters, Hamlin
Some of the leaders pitted on that final caution, but Ky. Busch stayed out and
The race was certainly more competitive than what the status quo has been on 1.5-mile tracks in recent years, but the aerodynamics still make passing very hard. People at the track did say the racing action was much better than it looked on TV.
Top-10: Ky. Busch; Harvick (caught Busch at one point on the last run, but Busch blocked him); Ku. Busch (very strong all night, but never strongest); Kenseth (best finish of season, in top 5 all race); Blaney (first top 5 of season and in top 10 all race); Austin Dillon (late surge into top 10 after running mid-pack most of the race); Ryan Newman (another Newman-
The points: Kyle Busch is the first three-time winner of the season. He trails single-time winner Harvick by four markers in the traditional standings. Blaney's good finish has him 16th in points and in the last Chase slot with 15 races to go. Only 32 points separate 12th-in-points Jamie McMurray (whose Kansas race got derailed when NASCAR made him re-pit under green to fix unapproved body adjustments) and 20th-place Trevor Bayne. Tony Stewart is 59 points from 30th-place Regan Smith, after running 12th Saturday night.
RaceTweet: Martin Truex Jr. dominate, but Ky. Busch ends his horrible Kansas luck and wins. And Hamlin tries to spark a post-Talladega Big One.
Handsome Boy Modeling School Stud of the Race: Martin Truex Jr. - He led 172 laps and certainly would have won, if not for the wheel problem on the final green flag pit stop. In 2012, Truex Jr. led 173 laps, only to have a late caution get him freight-trained on an untimely late caution/restart and finish 6th. The racing gods certainly seem to have it out for him - as he said himself on the team radio. Kansas Speedway
North Korean Missile Dud: Denny Hamlin - While the Joe Gibbs Racing cars of Ky. Busch and Kenseth purred in the top 5 and the satellite team of Truex's dominated, Hamlin not only lagged
Never Fear, Underdog is Here: A.J. Allmendinger - The JTG-Daugherty Racing No. 47 team has been more consistent in
Ghost Driver: Jimmie Johnson - Last spring's Kansas winner just didn't have it Saturday like he has at most 1.5-mile tracks, so far this year. Johnson made appearances in the top 10, but never got near the front and finished 17th.
You Can Comeback, But You Can't Stay Here: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - Tagging the wall late in the race is hard to come back from, but Stenhouse Jr. managed to hold some track position. In the final
Wheel of Misfortune: Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson - Truex Jr. is already the least fortunate in this
Jimmie Johnson's Golden Horseshoe: Kyle Busch - There is no way Busch wins this race without Truex Jr.'s misfortune and crew chief Adam Stevens' call to stay out on old tires. Truex Jr.'s trash is Busch's treasure. Busch is also lucky that Harvick didn't dump him when he blocked Harvick as they raced for the win.
Head-Scratcher Crown of Thorns: The win-and-you're-in stipulation for NASCAR's Chase is finally seeming to produce the results NASCAR wants. Both Ky. Busch and Hamlin said that the fact they had wins played into how they raced near the race's end. Hamlin just decided to stick his car three-wide (and wrecked). Busch said in Victory Lane that he decided to throw the blocks on Harvick, because he had a win and didn't have to worry about wrecking and losing points. Even Johnny Sauter in Friday night's Camping World Truck Series race drove very aggressively and blocked rookie Ben Rhodes, causing Rhodes to wreck him. But Sauter has a Daytona win to lean on and went for another win. The downsides to this, of course, are that these decisions compromise other drivers without wins and they can feel the consequences of that abandon. The racing action has already been better in 2016 and these moves for the win are part of that uptick.
NCWTS RaceTweet: Byron wins! No. Sauter's gonna. No! Rhodes? What? They wreck!? Congrats to Byron on his first win!
Georgia on My Mind: Chase Elliott had a disappointing race by his standards and ran around 19th much of the race. But even after scraping in the wall late in the going, Elliott got some track position and held pat for his 7th top 10 in the first 11 races and is tied with Truex Jr. for 10th in the standings.
David Ragan had an invisible, tough, and forgettable night, limping around off the pace to a 29th-place finish, three laps down. The night went without wrecks or major problems, at least. Reed Sorenson returned to the No. 55 and the team returned to nothingness: 33rd place and 10 laps down. That was Sorenson's best finish of the season, however.
John Wes Townley won the pole for Friday's NCWTS race, but got in a wreck with John Hunter Nemechek on lap 50 and finished 28th. This was the last race for crew chief Michael Shelton, who is leaving the team for a career outside of racing. Townley is 20th in the standings.
Next: Everyone races at Dover International Speedway. The NSCS hits the Monster Mile Sunday at 1 p.m. on FS1/MRN/Sirius/XM 90. The Xfinity Series returns from break Saturday at 2 p.m. on all the same channels and the NCWTS races Friday at 5:30 p.m. on the same channels. Dover is always a unique race and how well the track rubbers up will determine how well the racing is.
We want to send our condolences to the family and friends of former NASCAR team owner Steve Turner, who passed away last week. He contributed lots with his race teams in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series and triumphed in 2012 with the NCWTS championship with driver and son-in-law James Buescher. Rest in peace, Steve.