Kansas Rear View Mirror

Joey Logano

MRN's Winston Kelley interviews race winner Joey Logano in Victory Lane. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Most everyone pointed to Talladega as the “wild card” race in the Contender Round. It’s hard to imagine the GEICO 500 being any wilder than Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

From the drop of the green flag the race had an undertone of the unknown thanks to the track’s recently repaved and reconfigured racing surface, a swing in weather conditions and the championship implications.

Almost on cue, several pre-race favorites and title contenders began experiencing misfortune.

Jimmie Johnson, who started 32nd after spinning in qualifying, was involved in a early crash. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., had a tire failure that sent him into the wall. Brad Keselowski also had an accident that damaged his car. Kevin Harvick was once again bitten by bad luck when he came to pit road for what he thought was a tire issue and took himself from the lead pack.

One race into the Contender Round, the pressure has been raised on some of the sport's biggest names.

The door was opened for others to excel and five of the 12 remaining Chase participants finished inside the top 10, led by Joey Logano, who took the checkered flag and punched his ticket into the Eliminator Round.

Considering how recent races have gone at Kansas, maybe Sunday’s chaos shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

It will be a short week for the Sprint Cup world with Charlotte next on the schedule on Saturday night. It also promises to be a week filled with a number of sleepless nights for those who endured a challenging afternoon at Kansas.

  • Harvick talked all weekend about avoiding the bad luck that has plagued him on a nearly weekly basis but to no avail. Despite winning the pole and leading 61 laps, Harvick comes out of Kansas with only a 12th-place finish. I’m not sure what the going rate is for rabbit’s feet or four-leaf clovers, but I have a feeling the No. 4 team will take all they can get before Charlotte rolls around.
  • Ryan Newman said before the Contender Round began that an eighth-place finish for three weeks would be good enough to advance. Newman placed sixth. The Richard Childress Racing driver made his way into the Chase with consistency and has continued that. He has a little wiggle room but will need to up his earlier Charlotte finish of 15th in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500.
  • It has become basically a weekly occurrence to watch Kyle Larson challenge for his first career Sprint Cup win and it was again on display Sunday. Larson started 18th but worked his way to the front of the field in relatively short order and ran in the lead pack from there. He came up short of running down Logano in the closing laps but finished second for the third time this season.
  • The rumored replacement for Marcos Ambrose in the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 9 ride for next year now looks like it will be Sam Hornish Jr. Speculation is the former Indy Car star and current Joe Gibbs Racing part-time Nationwide Series driver will get another shot at a full-time Sprint Cup ride next year when Ambrose returns to his native Australia.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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