Mike Forbes reviews the race at Kansas Motor Speedway
Thursday night in what was the first of four days of racing at Kansas Motor Speedway Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag for the fifth time this season. That breaks a tie between he and Kevin Harvick for the most victories at Nascar’s highest level this season.
The race at Kansas in my opinion was one of the better ones we have seen recently at a mile and a half track. Some people are saying that the lack of PJ1 compound gave drivers more choices on where to run which made for better battles all night long.
One thing I know is I cannot remember a race on a track other than Talladega or Daytona where we saw so much three or even four wide racing on restarts. The closest track I can even think that provides that much excitement on a restart would be Michigan but even that track is so wide that what we saw Thursday just seemed to jump out at us.
When Denny Hamlin claimed the checkered flag it ended a three race stretch where he had finished outside the top ten. Some were even saying that the 11 team was fading as the Summer wore on. Thursday night as he claimed back to back victories in Kansas Denny and his team proved them wrong. During a 36 race season it is incredibly hard to be great every week. That is what has made the battles between Kevin Harvick and Denny so fun this year, both drivers have been so good and so far ahead of the field that when Denny started struggling it was eye opening. It seems as though Denny has found that groove again and I certainly look forward to watching him battle for a championship as we move later into the summer and fall.
Speaking of Kevin Harvick, he had a Kevin Harvick type day. He started on the pole and immediately fell back in the first stage. The thing that makes Kevin so hard to beat this year is that even when it seemed he was way off his team found a way to battle back and in the closing laps was even leading the race. He would end up fading but fading to Kevin Harvick is different than what it is for most drivers as he came across the line in fourth securing another top five.
I think I was most surprised at how well two and sometimes no tire pit stops worked. Brad Kesolowski seemed to be able to drive away from the field at times after getting track position from a two tire stop. William Byron and Alex Bowman both were battling for the lead in the last 50 laps after taking two and no tires. With the lower horsepower and the current aero package I just cannot believe how little effect four tires has had these past two races on mile and a half tracks. Track position is still such an advantage with this package that crew chiefs are able to be creative to get their guy out front.
Let’s talk about Kyle Busch for a second. He finished in the 11th spot which is not what we were hoping for from the number 18 team. Before the race I told you this guy is primed to take off and when he does he will win some races this season. Well he dominated the first stage and got the green and white checkered flag. Then as other drivers started being creative on pit strategies, he started running 4th or 5th. His car wouldn’t take off as well as some of his competitors, but it would come to him as the runs went on. Then late in the race he got into the wall and blew a tire. This is exactly what is happening with Kyle this year. Just when you think it is turning around something like that happens. Now Kyle would eventually take the wave around and rally for his 11th place finish but he has so much talent that this is not acceptable or us on the fantasy side. I still believe he will win multiple races this year and be right there when they battle for the championship in Phoenix. I am going to be very strategic when I use him in the upcoming weeks because so many other drivers are giving better value to us.
One of those drivers is Aric Almirola. I cannot express how happy I am to see the 10 team consistently running up front this season. Before the race I told you I believed he would be back in the top five when the race ended and he came one away with a 6th place finish. He never did actually lead the race but he was competitive and he has shown that he will be a factor in many of these races down the stretch.
Once again the Penske cars showed a ton of speed. Joey Logano was fast and led some laps before he had a pit stop penalty and he never could rebound and ended up crashing with a loose wheel. Brad Kesolowski was the best of the group finishing 2nd. I agree with Brad that his team is putting up with a quietly impressive season themselves. If not for the victories by the 4 and the 11 we would be talking about Brad a lot more than we are now. Ryan Blaney also spent a lot of time in the top five before he ended up finishing a disappointing 20th.
Overall it is a good time to be driving a Ford in the cup series as they are battling it out with Toyota to be the top manufacturer in the series. Although Chevy did have a 1-2 finish last week and at times led some laps in Kansas they are still behind the other two manufactures and they need to get that figured out quick.
Lastly I want to touch on the crashes that ended some big name drivers nights. Jimmie Johnson is having a rough final season and his crash at Kansas knocked him out of a playoff spot. The 48 team is showing some decent speed at times but then he gets caught up in a wreck or something bad happens and he ends up with these disappointing finishes. Someone said recently that he must have used up all his luck winning seven championships and while that is a fair assessment I know personally I would like to see an all time great go out battling for the championship like Jeff Gordon did rather than missing the playoffs all together. I still think Jimmie gets in but that team needs to rebound and they need to do it quickly.
How great was it to see Ryan Preece get out of the number 37 car after what was a vicious wreck on the back stretch? When that car took off towards the wall I cringed. Then when he hit the wall and nearly flipped just to get hit again I thought for sure he was going to be in some pain but thanks to all the work Nascar has done with the tracks and the car he immediately got out visibly angry but in one piece. Between that wreck and Ryan Newman in Daytona it is great to see these guys not be seriously hurt in these wrecks.
So now the cup series has an “off” weekend and will not race again until August 2nd in New Hampshire. August is going to be a very busy month for the cup drivers as there are seven races leading into the playoffs. We will have you covered every step of the way.
Be sure to check out all of our NASCAR content and be prepared to WIN!