Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Talladega Superspeedway has generally been
the "wild card" in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Not this time.
Sunday's 400-mile race at Kansas Speedway took the honors as the crapshoot in
this year's Chase after all the crashes, cautions and chaos that occurred
The Oct. 7 event at Talladega featured a 25-car crash on the final lap, which
involved most of the title contenders, including Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer,
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and defending series champion Tony Stewart.
But Kansas was a wild affair from start to finish on the track's newly repaved
surface. It featured both a track and Sprint Cup Series season-high 14
cautions, mostly for wrecks. When all was said and done, Matt Kenseth drove
into victory lane with cosmetic damage to his car, while the point-separation
between leader Brad Keselowski and second-place Jimmie Johnson remained the
same at seven, despite both drivers having a grueling day.
"With a hundred (laps) to go, I was thinking to myself, 'Man, this really had
to be entertaining for everybody to watch'," Kenseth said. "There was a lot of
wild stuff happening."
With a new coat of asphalt and the addition of variable banking in the turns
at Kansas, Sprint Cup teams faced the unknown when they arrived at this once-
labeled "cookie cutter" 1.5-mile racetrack. In addition to the regularly
scheduled weekend practice sessions, NASCAR granted teams two days of testing
at Kansas earlier in the week to familiarize themselves with the track
In a season that has featured a less-than-normal amount of cautions and wrecks
compared to previous years, Kansas was more than just a race. It was survival
of the fittest.
"I said when we finished Talladega that somebody should make 'I Survived
Talladega' T-shirts," Keselowski said. "Well, I didn't know coming to Kansas
it was going to be the same. Just wrecks and accidents and blown tires,
everything you can imagine happened today. I felt really lucky to survive it."
Many of the incidents at Kansas were a result of tires blowing. Goodyear used
a harder compound for its tires there.
Keselowski survived Kansas with an eighth-place finish, maintaining his
points lead with just four races remaining.
"Everybody has been asking all season long where have all the cautions been?"
he said. "The answer is that they flew to Kansas."
In what could have been a huge blow for his hopes of winning a sixth Sprint
Cup championship, Johnson bounced back from a wreck at the halfway point to
finish one spot behind Keselowski in ninth. While running at the tail end of
the lead lap, Johnson spun around and hit the wall in turn four. He managed to
stay on the lead lap after making numerous pit stops for a new deck lid and
other necessary repairs. Johnson then benefited from a pair of late-race
cautions to rally for a top-10 run.
Like most other drivers in the Chase, Johnson was happy to leave Kansas
unscathed in points.
"It was crazy," he said. "It's weird that all the cautions came back. Now we
see this type of driving at all the racetracks, but we don't get cautions out
of it, and (Sunday) we got a lot of cautions out of it. Restarts were pretty
wild. You had to run so hard that when something happened and you lost grip,
the car just stood up on the tires and would take off, and you couldn't
control it, and the guys were sliding everywhere."
While Kansas did little to shake up the Chase standings, Greg Biffle took the
biggest hit in points. Biffle, who ended the 26-race regular season as the
points leader, finished 27th after he was one of many causalities in the
wreck-filled race at Kansas. He slapped the wall on lap 176 and spent more
than 30 laps in the garage for repairs before returning. He dropped from sixth
to 11th in the rankings.
After yellow-flag fever plagued Kansas, it's likely we could see another
caution-filled race this coming Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Martinsville,
which is 0.526-miles in length, is the only short track on the Chase schedule
and is considered a wild card as well.
The Sports Network