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NASCAR Kansas postscript

by Dave Grayson
Monday, October 10, 2011

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Jeff Gordon lost an engine to bring out the final caution that wiped out his teammate Johnson's lead.  He still won.
Getty Images for NASCAR
During the NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend at the Kansas Speedway we watched a driver who understands the pressure of winning a championship once again rise to the occasion. The anticipated fuel mileage outcome of the race was actually determined by extremely hot oil and the Nationwide Series event also turned up a dominant winner while presenting a new driver feud based on an old issue. With those thoughts in mind, let's begin with:

THUMBS-UP to Jimmie Johnson for scoring max points after winning the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas. Johnson led 197 of the race's 272 laps in a dominant performance that was based on good driving, a good car and flawless service on pit road.

THUMBS-UP to the numbers associated with Johnson's win. It marked his second win of the season and his 55th career win which ties him at eighth with Rusty Wallace on NASCAR's all time win list. Johnson now has a series high 20 Chase wins and he gave team owner Rick Hendrick his 199th victory. He also helped Chevrolet wrap up the 2011 manufacturer's championship. The bowtie brigade now has 35 championships including the last nine years in a row.

WHAT'S-UP with speculation that said Johnson's five consecutive championship dynasty was over. That was three weeks ago. Since that time he's moved from tenth to third in the standings only four points from the top of the rankings. The prospect of "Jimmie Five Time" becoming "Jimmie Six Pack" is alive and well. 

THUMBS-UP to Kasey Kahne's strong second place showing, for Red Bull Racing, following an exciting green-white-checker finish. Kahne's efforts could become a factor in the team's ongoing effort to locate financial investors to keep this two car operation alive. 

WHAT'S-UP with the ironic circumstances behind that green-white-checker finish? It came from the race winner's team mate: Jeff Gordon. It was anticipated that the finish of the Kansas would be about fuel mileage. Instead it was about the extreme heat of the oil in Gordon's engine. Gordon came over the radio and announced that his oil temperature was pegged. In the waning laps of the race there was smoke emitting from his car. With three laps to go, the engine blew and set up the double file restart final shootout. Gordon's bad luck resulted in a 34th place finish and he's now tenth in the Chase standings, 47 points away. The math says he's not officially eliminated as a Chase contender but the reality of it all says otherwise.

The THUMBS-UP for making chicken salad out of chicken do do goes to Carl Edwards who turned a very long and frustrating day into a fifth place finish. Despite starting the race from the front row, the handling on Edwards' Ford was terrible and he started going backwards the moment the race started. However, this Bob Osborne led team didn't lay down and that top five comeback now has them on top of the Chase standings. "This feels like a win, we should be posing for pictures and drinking champagne," Edwards said.

WHAT'S-UP with Tony Stewart's late race slide through his pit stall while coming perilously close to hitting the pit wall? After the rolling the car back into the pit box, the result was a lengthy stop, a huge loss in track position and It turned an apparent top five into a 15th place finish. It also caused Stewart to drop from third to seventh in the Chase standings. Stewart came over the radio and apologized for the incident and said his foot accidentally hit the brake and the gas pedal at the same time.

WHAT'S-UP with the dual broken axles on both of the Toyotas fielded by Michael Waltrip Racing? Drivers David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr found themselves stuck on pit road for axle replacements during the course of pit stops. It was rather bizarre.

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On the topic of dominant performances at the Kansas Speedway, THUMBS-UP to Brad Keselowski for winning the Kansas Lottery 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Keselowski's Penske Racing Dodge led 173 of the 200 laps. He scored his fourth win of the season and his 16th series win.

WHAT'S-UP with that mystery odor than found its way inside of Elliott Sadler's Chevrolet? It was crew chief Ernie Cope who eventually figured out that the strong stench was caused by brake fluid that oozed out of the master cylinder and spilled onto the headers which were generating an estimated 1,300 degrees of heat. Once the mystery was solved, the crew chief complemented the driver and told him "you have a very good nose."

The Nationwide Series THUMBS-UP for making chicken salad out of chicken do do belongs to Kevin Harvick's crew. Driving his self owned car, and making his final series appearance of the season, Harvick sustained a broken front splitter in the race. He had to come to pit road six times, including two trips behind the pit wall, before the repairs were finished. Despite the frustrating circumstances Harvick and company came back to a lead lap sixth place finish.

WHAT'S-UP with that heated exchange on pit road between drivers Brian Scott and Aric Almirola? Scott claimed that Almirola kept running into him on restarts and it's been going on all season long. He also claimed that he was blocked on pit road. "He races you like a jack you know what . He obviously has an issue with me and now I have one with him," Scott said.

On the other side of the spat Almirola said he felt like the problem started when their two cars got together during the September 9th race at Richmond which he tried to apologize for and Scott needed to get over it. "He races over his head, he's fortunate that his dad has a lot of money and finances his racing," Almirola said.

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In some final thoughts, WHAT'S-UP with Sprint Cup drivers A J Allmendinger, David Reutimann and Reed Sorenson being sent to the rear of the starting grid prior to the race for missing driver introductions? This situation surfaces from time to time and it makes me wonder why that is. These teams have public relations reps and you would think that at least one member of the entourage would be in charge of getting their driver to his next scheduled appointment such as the driver introduction stage.

THUMBS-UP to the Kansas Department of Transportation who, in a spirit of cooperation, decided to postpone highway construction for a week in an area that would have greatly impacted the commute to the Kansas Speedway. I'm sure the 82,000 plus fans who attended the Sprint Cup race really appreciated that gesture. For a moment there we had the making of another Kentucky Speedway traffic nightmare. 

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