Before the Chase took on the ruthless Kansas Speedway, many experts and fans were saying it was a three-man chase for the Championship. Well, they were wrong.
Going in to the race weekend, there was a clear separation between the top three drivers, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Busch, and the rest of the field. All three drivers were running consistently strong races and looked to be pulling away in points. After Kansas, that isn’t the case anymore.
All three of the top Chase contenders ran into problems during the race, some more than others. Busch and Kansas collided once again with Busch wrecking his primary early on Friday in practice. During the race, things went down hill quickly as he spun through the grass trying to avoid a wrecking Danica Patrick. There was little damage to his car and he rallied back to the front of the field. It didn’t last long. With just 68 laps to go, Busch slammed hard into Turn 1. He would go on to finish 34th.
Kenseth had his own issues throughout the race making several extra trips down pit road. He said it was a “struggle all day” and that he hadn’t had to race in a car that bad in a long time. Giving props to his team, he came across the start/finish line 11th. Johnson had one of the strongest cars all day. Passing cars left and right, Johnson seemed to struggle on restarts. With two to go, his car gave out and he limped around to finish 6th.
When the checkered flag flew, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman, who was collected early in a wreck, lost the most in the Championship standings. Busch dropped two to fifth, and Newman dropped five to 12th.
At the end of the day, the top seven drivers in the standings are separated by one race worth of points. It is still anybody’s game, but Johnson and Kenseth will be the ones they will have to beat.
-3 Jimmie Johnson
-25 Kevin Harvick
-32 Jeff Gordon
-35 Kyle Busch
-44 Greg Biffle
-47 Kurt Busch
-54 Dale Earnhardt Jr
-55 Clint Bowyer
-59 Joey Logano
-60 Carl Edwards
-73 Ryan Newman
-83 Kasey Kahne
JOILET, ILLINOIS :: Kyle Busch took the checkers Saturday afternoon in the NASCAR Nationwide Series after leading 195 laps of 200. Busch became the first driver to ever win from the pole at Chicagoland in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Joey Logano in Penske's No. 22 was able to finish runner up 1.616 seconds behind leader Kyle Busch.
This win marked Kyle's 10th win of 2013 and his 61st career NASCAR Nationwide Series win in his 264th career start. This is Kyle's 17th top ten of 2013 in the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs. Kyle won yesterday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and today's race allowing him to have a chance at sweeping Chicagoland. To complete the sweep he'd have to win the first race of the chase in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tomorrow. This was Kyle's third win at Chicagoland in 10 career races.
Joey Logano notched his 5th top ten in just six starts at Chicagoland. Logano also added his top ten amount to 9 on the season. Logano's Penske teammate, Sam Hornish Jr. was able to knock off another top five with a 3rd place finish. This was Hornish's 5th top ten in five races at Chicagoland. Hornish now holds a 17 point advantage in the standings over Austin Dillion who finished 4th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. clocked in a 5th place finish in his No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. Earnhardt was working with his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief Steve Letarte as they prepare for tomorrow's first chase race. Brian Vickers who drives the No. 55 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finished a solid 6th place for his Joe Gibbs Dollar General team.
Matt Kenseth who is the No. 1 seed heading into tomorrow's race finished 7th after a very quiet day. Parker Kligerman driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports ended up 8th after starting in the 5th position. Kligerman has had a very consistent season in that No. 77 Toyota. Kevin Harvick for Richard Childress finished 9th after a almost similar day to Matt Kenseth. Rounding out the top ten was Nelson Piquet Jr. in his Hooters No. 32 for Turner Scott Motorsports.
Regan Smith had a rough day finishing 13th after overcoming a sticky situation where he was one lap down, Justin Allgaier bounced off the wall and his Regan Smith sending his around down the backstretch. Luckily Smith had next to no damage and rebounded with less then 20 to go to finish his No. 7 inside the top fifteen. Elliott Sadler had a tough day as well after running in 11th he was trying to make a pit stop when the No. 24 of Brett Butler ran in the back of him as Sadler slowed to hit the pit road speed. Butler was 10 laps down at the time of the crash with Sadler. Elliott pushed to the end of the race with a lot of damage and finished 19th in his No. 11 Toyota. Sadler and Smith are now 20+ points behind points leader Sam Hornish.
With just 7 races left before we crown a champion in Homstead it looks as though it's a 2-man race between Hornish and Dillion. Next weekend the NASCAR Nationwide Seires heads back to Sparta, Kentucky for some more short track action.
Sunday Night’s Coke 600 had to be one of the most unusual races NASCAR has had in a very long time. The most bazaar incident came on lap 126 when a cable holding up the SkyCam broke and fell onto the track and into the stands. Before anyone knew what had happened, race leader Kyle Busch ran over it and sent it flying. He and many others ran over portions of the cable damaging their cars.
NASCAR red flagged the race and brought the cars down pit road. Dozens of NASCAR Officials surrounded the cars to assess the damage and counted a total of 19 of them that had visible damage from the flying cable; the worst being on the No18 of Busch, the No55 of Mark Martin and the No9 of Marcos Ambrose.
After assessing the damage and giving officials enough time to clean the cable up off of the track, NASCAR had the teams fire the engines and make a trip around the track and back to pit road. This time, they sent them to their pit boxes and did something very unprecedented for NASCAR. They gave the teams 15 minutes to work on their cars.
That gave teams like Martin, Ambrose and Busch, who had to replace the right front and side of his car, 15 minutes to do so and other teams with little or no damage 15 minutes of time to make changes. NASCAR officials surrounded each and every car on pit road and monitored each team. It was organized chaos.
After the 15 minutes were up, the grid was reset and no driver lost his or her spot from before the caution and the race was restarted. Teams, drivers and fans were still scratching their heads wondering, what in the world just happened here?
Did NASCAR handle this bazaar situation correctly? I believe they did. The damage to the race cars had nothing to do with an on-track incident and it would have been unfair to punish the drivers with significant damage by sending them to the back of the pack after making repairs or possibly to the garage.
NASCAR handled this odd situation the best they could and since we usually criticize them and their decisions, I think we should commend them on a job well done. Listening and reading to drivers comments after the race, many agree that NASCAR did it the right way.
“Put them back into position on the same tires, open pit road, and then go ahead and pit,” Matt Kenseth said. “It just turned into a free-for-all. There were some crews with 15 people around the cars, and there was no way an official could have possibly seen what they were working on. But that was nice that the guys got to fix their damage, because it was certainly no fault of their own."
“NASCAR did a great job of actually handling a crisis there because we were hard-done by and they gave us our laps back and we were able to stay in the race and duke it out,” Ambrose said after the race.
It wasn’t just cars that sustained damage. In a statement released, 10 fans were also treated for injuries from the cable falling, three of whom were taken to local hospitals. All were treated and released.
The use of the camera has been suspended indefinitely and an investigation into what caused the failure has begun.
So hats off to those NASCAR Officials who made the call after this bazaar incident and also those who oversaw the happening on pit road; you definitely made the best out of an unforeseen situation.
The NASCAR Industry has seen its fair share of fights and feuds already this season and there could be another one that surfaces very soon.
Kasey Kahne has had a pretty strong run so far this season in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with one win and four top-5 finishes. His two worse finishes this season, both on the plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega, have come at the hands of another driver, Kyle Busch. This weekend at Darlington was no different.
Kahne brought his could-have-been-race-winning car home in 17th place after an incident with Busch caused him to hit the wall. Busch was racing Kahne for the lead and came up behind him going into turn 2. Busch dive-bombed Kahne in an attempt to slide around him but he went into the corner too fast. He slid up the track and had to slam on the brakes behind Kahne. Busch’s car never touched the back of Kahne’s but his close contact was enough to take the air away from Kahne’s car and it sent him into the wall.
Busch ended up finishing 6th after a flat tire cost him the win in the very late stages of the race. He parked his No.18 Toyota and left without an interview. Kahne, however, did have something to say.
“I could see him and I was like ‘oh shoot, oh shoot’ and then the car moved and just spun out. I don’t know if he actually touched me or what, but his angle into the corner. If he would have just entered like normal, the way he has entered the whole race it would have been no issues and I would have been leading off (Turn) 2 and he just didn’t want that to happen so he blew turn one. So whether he hit me or not he still caused that whole deal with screwing up.”
“I think he just made another mistake. That is his third one when he has been around me this year. I don’t really understand it. We were battling for the lead or for the top two or three spots each time. I imagine he will call me again tomorrow and say he’s sorry. I mean he’s got to just race me. I mean I’ve never touched the guy in my life as far as on the race track. Three times this year, there have been other times in other years. I don’t really know what his deal is with me.”
Kahne was visibly upset but kept his cool during the interview. With three incidents already this season, what could some of these two drivers if something happens again? We all know Busch has a temper but it’s not often that we see Kahne get angry. Keep an eye on these two this season because there is a good battle brewing here.