Kansas Rear View Mirror
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on May 11, 2014 | 12:32 A.M. EST
Gordon became the ninth different winner in the season’s first 11 races. (Photo: Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - High speeds. Strategy. Crashes. Drama.
That about sums up Saturday night’s 5-Hour ENERGY 400 at Kansas Speedway.
The Sprint Cup Series made its debut under the lights at the 1.5-mile track and despite a threat of severe weather in the area that led to a slight delay before the green flag finally flew, a compelling race unfolded under the Kansas night sky.
Kevin Harvick appeared to be the class of the field and had another fast race car, which has been the theme of his first year at Stewart-Haas Racing. Even after getting mired back in the pack through pit strategy shuffling, Harvick was able to drive his way back to the front of the field and came up one position short of victory number three of the season.
Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and a handful of others also shared time at the point but at the end of the night it was Jeff Gordon who prevailed, thanks to the calculations of crew chief Alan Gustafson and the stout Hendrick horsepower under the hood.
Gordon became the ninth different winner in the season’s first 11 races and punched his ticket to the Chase as he searches for a fifth career championship.
In a season that has produced a string of entertaining races, Saturday night’s 5-Hour ENERGY 400 delivered again.
- Next to Gordon’s win, the second biggest story of the night had to be the run by Danica Patrick. Her seventh-place finish was impressive but equally so was just how strong her GoDaddy.com Chevrolet was at times. Patrick made it up as far as third at one point Saturday night and her move around Jimmie Johnson for position elicited cheers from the crowded Kansas grandstands. It was finally the sign of performance so many have waited for Patrick to deliver at a place somewhere other than Daytona and Talladega. Now the question is can she build on the run in the coming weeks?
- Kurt Busch’s Kansas weekend was just the start of a busy several weeks ahead as he prepares to run in the Indianapolis 500. After his disappointing finish in the 5-Hour ENERGY 400, Busch headed off to Indy to take part in Sunday’s practice session. Things will get tremendously hectic next weekend when he balances the 500 qualifying weekend with the Sprint All-Star Race activities at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Then he’ll finish up the month bouncing back and forth prepping for the 500 and the Memorial Day Sunday night Coca-Cola 600. Busch’s participation will no doubt raise awareness of both events and is a good thing for motorsports. But the question of whether it will distract him from his day job at Stewart-Haas Racing and his Sprint Cup Series performance is a legitimate question.
- There was a time when “Silly Season” was limited to a certain period of the year. But certainly things have changed and now the discussion of contract talks, negotiations and sponsor status is basically year-round. Well things picked up speed over the weekend in Kansas, specifically as it relates to Roush Fenway Racing. Both Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards are in the final year of their deals with the team. While Edwards has made it clear he doesn’t discuss his business publicly or through the media, Biffle did bring up the subject a couple of times this week. Although his intention seems to be to remain with RFR and to have sponsor 3M re-up its deal, there does seem to be a window open for that not to happen. The likelihood of both Edwards and Biffle leaving Roush at season’s end may be remote, but at this point perhaps it’s not completely out of the question.
- NASCAR received good news early last week when Camping World announced a seven-year extension of its Truck Series sponsorship. The deal gave the sanctioning body’s number three division a solid shot of stability that along with the new FOX television deal that begins next year should keep the trucks motoring along in the right direction. Perhaps those two pieces of news will help bolster participation in the garage area, which saw only 31 entries for Friday night’s Kansas race. The schedule lull at the beginning of the season also doesn’t help the series in terms of exposure with only two races in nearly the first three months of the year. The trucks continue to provide interesting and exciting racing and the circuit is positioned for the opportunity to grow in the coming years.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.