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NASCAR Kansas postscript

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, October 23, 2012

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Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Zest Ford, celebrates with his wife Katie and their family in Victory Lane
Getty Images for NASCAR
If you were tired of watching races where drivers had to slow down to save fuel, if you were tired of long green flag runs that contained very little racing action then you had to love NASCAR's weekend in the wild wild west. The Kansas Speedway weekend was loaded with on track drama that forced racing teams to rise to their highest level of performance. The speedway's new track surface created speed that set new records in qualifying and a new track record for yellow caution flags: 14 that consumed 66 laps of the race.

The weekend was two days filled with high speed racing is rubbing that created at least two driver feuds that could possibly spill into a future race. If there ever was a time for fans to scream "the NASCAR we know and love is back," it was definitely during the weekend in the wild wild west.

THUMBS-UP. Matt Kenseth led 78 laps of the race, including the final 49 circuits, to score his third win of the season, his second win in the Chase series and his second win in the last two weeks. To get to victory lane, this driver and team had to deal with the repairs from a lap 173 hard hit into the wall when Kenseth was trying to avoid a spinning car in front of him.

WHAT'S-UP. It's time to stop all of the comments we keep hearing and reading that says this team is a "lame duck" organization. Yes, Kenseth is moving to Joe Gibbs Racing next year but it never meant he planned to diminish his remaining commitment to Roush Fenway Racing. The #17 team are not lame ducks. They are soaring like eagles.

THUMBS-UP. Roush Fenway Racing swept the Kansas Speedway weekend after Rick Stenhouse Jr won Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race. An early race altercation with Joey Logano found Stenhouse two laps down and it appeared that he was going to take a serious hit in the championship battle with Elliott Sadler. However, by combining a wave around and a lucky dog pass with some very good driving, Stenhouse found himself in second during the final moments of the race and was able to steal his sixth win of the season after Kyle Busch ran out of gas.

THUMBS-UP. Jimmie Johnson, and his Chad Knaus led #48 team, once again reminded us why they are five time champions. After leading 44 laps at Kansas, and looking like a contender for the win, Johnson spun around and hit the turn four wall hard. At first, Knaus told his driver to take the car to the garage area. However, after taking a second look on his TV monitor, the crew chief said "I think we can fix it" and had the car brought to pit road. Through a succession of pit stops, the crew placed what appeared to be 50 yards of Bear Bond tape on the back of the car and kept their driver on the lead lap. Johnson's hard charging effort led to a ninth place finish. All this extra effort kept the team second in the championship standings and only seven points out of first.

THUMBS-UP. After the race, Johnson was extremely surprised to see how much damage there was to the rear of a race car that actually handled so well on the track. It seems that  Chad Knaus didn't exactly tell his driver how bad the damage to the car was knowing it would give Johnson the confidence to launch his charge back to the top ten. This is not to infer that the crew chief lied to the driver. He just didn't share all of the details. Those of you who follow national politics will understand the difference.     

THUMBS-UP. Brad Keselowski did an amazing job of defensive driving that allowed him to avoid a wreck involving three other cars that occurred literally a matter of inches in front of him. The result, of his up and down day at Kansas, was an eighth place finish that allowed him to keep his lead of seven points over Jimmie Johnson in the Chase standings.

THUMBS-UP. Brad Keselowski also did his typically candid, well worth repeating, comments after the race. Regarding the 14 yellow flags, he said: "everybody's been asking all season long where the cautions have been. Well, they flew to Kansas and they've been hanging out here." He also pretty much summed up the feelings of many of his fellow Cup drivers when he said "I'm ready to go home and have a couple of beers."

WHAT'S-UP. A driver that probably really wanted to go home and have a couple of beers might be Kyle Busch who didn't enjoy any part of his weekend in the wild wild west. During the Cup race he began his long day with an early in the event spin through turn four. He ended his day with a hard crash with Ryan Newman. Afterwards, he clearly indicated that Newman might be feeling his front bumper during a race somewhere in the not to distant future. All of this came on the heels of Saturday's Nationwide Series race when, driving for his self owned team, he gave a win away after he ran out of gas on the white flag lap.

WHAT'S-UP. On the topic of race drivers getting a little tense at Kansas, there was some highly noticeable tension, in addition to some bumping, between drivers Danica Patrick and Landon Cassill. The issues between them finally came to a head on lap 155 when the Go Daddy girl decided she had her fill with the antics of the Burger King boy. Patrick laid her front bumper on the rear of Cassill's car. Unfortunately, she made the move in the middle of a turn and she spun to the bottom of the track. That's when she learned the lesson, pointed out to her later by the ESPN broadcast team, regarding turning the steering to the right while spinning on the bottom of the track. It apparently causes the car to slide back up the track and into the outside retaining wall.

WHAT'S-UP. During a post wreck interview, and  still visibly angry at what happened on the track, Patrick clearly indicated that it was time for her to take more aggressive action and further stated: "at some point I have to stand up for myself so this doesn't happen with other people-I chose today."

WHAT'S-UP. Greg Zipadelli, Patrick's crew chief, wasn't too thrilled with this incident either but appeared to more upset with his driver than Cassill. Following the wreck, "Zippy" came over the team's radio and said: "that's bull s**t right there, you know better than to do that."

WHAT'S-UP. Landon Cassill also shared his thoughts on this matter, via an in car radio, and said: "rule number one in stock car racing is: learn how to wreck someone without wrecking yourself." If you thought that was as funny as I did, then feel free to change the WHAT'S-UP to a THUMBS-UP.

THUMBS-UP. If Danica Patrick is going to start standing up for herself, and start hitting back, then the networks now have a legitimate reason for all of that extraordinary live, on track, television coverage this driver always seems to receive.

THUMBS-UP. As we're all aware, driver Regan Smith for selected by Hendrick Motorsports to substitute for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr for two races at Charlotte and Kansas. Smith, who is seeking a Cup ride for 2013, was understandably eager to showcase his driving talent behind the wheel of some of the best equipment in motorsports. Unfortunately, the two race program got off to a sluggish start. He suffered an early departure at Charlotte due to a blown engine, something very rare for a Hendrick team. During qualifying at Kansas, a severe loose condition in the car led to a 39th place starting position. Smith drove his guts out last Sunday which led to a seventh place finish that was duly noted by the members of the NASCAR nation and the NASCAR media.

THUMBS-UP. Brad Keselowski, and the members of his Miller Lite team, decided to play a prank on Jimmie Johnson, and the Lowes team, during one of the practice session at Kansas. The two Chase for the Sprint Cup contending teams were side by side, only a few feet apart, in the garage area. Keselowski and company, well aware that Johnson isn't that fond of rap music, set up a sound system on their tool cart and blasted it towards the #48 guys. It was the type of music that, reportedly, makes Mark Martin smile when he's doing his weight training.

THUMBS-UP. NASCAR officials said there was an estimated 78,000 fans in attendance for the Kansas Speedway event. Those fans knew that there were going to be certain factors, such as new asphalt, that was going to turn the Nationwide and Cup series races into a weekend in the wild wild west.

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