Kansas Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on October 6, 2013 | 6:33 P.M. EST
A record 15 yellow flags punctuated the afternoon at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Chase needed spark and it got it Sunday in a wild Hollywood Casino 400. But it’s still questionable whether the caution-filled race hit the sweet spot some fans have been looking for since the playoffs began.
A record 15 yellow flags punctuated the afternoon with a combo platter of the track’s smooth surface, Goodyear’s new multi-zone tread tire and unseasonable cold temperatures combining to play havoc with drivers.
Literally from the drop of the green flag cars appeared to be racing on ice. Single-car spins turned into multi-car crashes and no one was spared the conditions more than one driver called “treacherous.” It was a scene very similar to last year’s Kansas Chase race when 14 cautions slowed down the action and the race could not get into any kind of rhythm.
But there was drama, even if it came at the expense of a lot of torn up equipment. While Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson stayed on top of the Chase standings, Kyle Busch free fell after another horrendous Kansas outing and Kevin Harvick’s win pulled him within 25 points of the top spot.
It’s not an easy task for Goodyear to produce tires that can be competitive, durable and safe on newly paved racetracks and Kansas is not alone in creating that challenge. Similar scenarios have played out at Phoenix and Michigan to name a couple.
Hopefully, with time and aging Kansas will offer drivers – and Goodyear – less of
a test than the one on Sunday.
- Jimmie Johnson had an up and down day like most everyone in the field but it ended on an even weirder note when his engine gave up power on the final lap. Johnson was able to nurse his way back around and wound up finishing sixth, which wasn’t bad considering he got shuffled back on pit road during a late stop and had to race his way back to the front of the field. But these are the kind of performances fans have become accustomed to during Johnson’s Sprint Cup championship runs and he finds himself right in the thick of this year’s title fight as the Chase reaches halfway next week.
- Matt Kenseth hung on to the point lead despite his trying day that ended in an 11th place finish. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led 21 laps but had handling issues truly from the start of the weekend, at one point calling his ride one of the “evilest” he’s ever driven. But like Johnson, Kenseth was able to take not a perfect day by any means and still register a decent day. With Charlotte, Texas and Homestead still left on the schedule, Kenseth – who has been so dominant on 1.5-mile tracks this year – should still feel very positive about his run for the title.
- Danica Patrick’s tough rookie season took another hit – literally – when she made hard contact with the first turn wall in a lap one crash. Fortunately Patrick destroyed her Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in the incident and her hopes of ending the season on an upswing continues to be a challenge. There’s no doubt Patrick is sincere when she talks about wanting to improve and become an impact driver in the sport but the fact of the matter is she seems to be regressing as the season goes on. Certainly bad luck is part of the game for every driver and Patrick has had her share, case in point Sunday’s early exit. But as SHR evolves next year to have Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch join the stable with the return of Tony Stewart, you have to wonder how long Patrick can remain with the team if improvement is now shown.
- The 2014 Sprint Cup Series schedule is finally expected to be released this week and apparently there will be some shifts. In addition to Texas moving its spring night race to an afternoon affair to avoid a head-to-head conflict with the NCAA Final Four also in town that weekend, a couple more tweaks were rumored over the weekend. The first race at Kansas, which has longed for a night event, may move to later in the season and possibly take the Mother’s Day weekend slot from Darlington, which might shift to an April Sunday afternoon. Nothing was officially confirmed but all of this could be a precursor to even more moves for the 2015 campaign. Stay tuned.