Chasing the Chasers: Kansas
Race four of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Championship headed to Midwest and Kansas Speedway. This race may have been the biggest wildcard so far and the standings changed following the checkered flag.
Kenseth led some laps and finished top 10 and kept his points lead. His day though was far from a Sunday drive. They struggled much of the weekend on this new tire that was brought to Kansas. Kenseth also cost himself valuable track position when he sped on pit road as the laps were winding down. He survived but barely and only leads by just three points in the standings.
Ho-hum another day, another top 10 finish for Johnson. This one didn’t come as easily as you would have thought. Johnson struggled on restarts especially on the outside and got caught by a caution which put him well behind on track position. Still, this team persevered and has chipped away at Kenseth’s lead every week. (-3)
I told you the standings took a shuffle this week! Harvick was most definitely happy as he earned his first pole since 2006 (Twitter wasn’t even around) dominated the race and won. It was not without some drama as he was caught a lap down when the caution flag waved during a cycle of green flag stops. Still, Harvick and his team aren’t going away quietly. Now third in the standings and coming to Charlotte where he won in the spring. (-25)
Gordon and his team find a way to have to battle back every week. This week it was getting caught one lap down during green flag stops and losing track position but having a car strong enough to battle back and finish third. Gordon is not going away and for a guy who has nothing to lose he might be the most dangerous wildcard in the Chase. (-32)
Kansas is Busch’s personal house of horrors. Most drivers are nervous about Talladega, but for Busch Talladega has nothing on Kansas. Busch was never really happy with his car all weekend, spun in practice Saturday and went to a back up. He had a few near misses early in the race but it was contact with Juan Pablo Montoya that set off a string of events that saw Busch’s title hopes disappear. (-35)
If Biffle was going to make a charge at the title in 2013 Kansas was his opportunity. Well this team missed their chance. They needed to start making up ground on the leaders but they struggled on Sunday with track position and an ill handling car. By finishing 13th and losing ground to the leaders Biffle’s hopes are fading. (-44)
After a few dismal weeks Busch and his team came to Kansas looking to rebound. They had some issues Saturday that forced them to a backup car but unlike his brother, the elder Busch was able to survive and finish second. Strong day for this team especially while those he is battling in the standings around him struggled. (-47)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Take away the engine issues at Chicagoland and Earnhardt wouldn’t be sitting eighth in the standings. He had another strong run on Sunday and battled up front. Even though he finished eighth it wasn’t enough as he didn’t gain much ground on the front four. The speed is there for this team and the wins are coming but just too late in this title hunt. (-55)
Kansas is Bowyer’s home track. Many expected him to be a contender for the win on Sunday but they never were able to get it together. They had a fast car at times but track position and adjustments never seemed to work in their favor. This week to me was far more disappointing than the previous three but just like the rest of their Chase this team is missing something. (-56)
Logano is another driver you have to wonder if things had gone differently at Chicago what could have been. Still, two top five finishes in a row has Logano moving into 10th in the standings. Another solid run for this team again. He ran top 10 for much of the day and even led some laps. An early Chase deficit has this team in win or go home mode as the races wind down this season. (-59)
Too many lost opportunities for Edwards in the Chase early on.This team needs to pull a video game move if they want to get out of the Chase basement. Edwards called the track conditions “treacherous” after his fifth place finish. I expected more out of Edwards on Sunday so I’m somewhat disappointed even though he finished fifth. (-60)
Newman was a casualty of an out of control Justin Allgaier when he tried to correct his race car from spinning out. A wrong place, wrong time moment for Newman who suffered heavy right side damage.Any hopes of challenging on Sunday went out the window. Newman finished 35th the worse finish of all the Chase drivers. (-73)
This team is missing something that they had earlier this season. The speed isn’t there and that is evident by recent qualifying runs and the race setup is missing that same speed as well. Kahne was a non factor and never could get the track position or the cautions to fall when they needed them. It was another week of what could have been for Kahne. (-83)