Kansas provided a very compelling and jam-packed Round of 12 elimination race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Normally, “cookie-cutter” 1.5 mile tracks tend to be a mixed bag regarding exciting races but Kansas seemed to exceed expectations.
Unlike Talladega, where that race eliminated almost every Playoff driver, Kansas was more selective in eliminating its Playoff drivers. And it eliminated one driver in particular that nobody expected.
While the race was won (as usual) by Martin Truex Jr., he had some adversity to get there. After being black flagged for a restart violation, Truex had to pit for a loose wheel. Despite those setbacks, Truex was able to get back to the front and get his seventh win. Even though Truex was already through to the next round, it was still an important win for him and the Furniture Row team as they were mourning the death of fabricator James Watson, due to a heart attack the night before the race.
Toward the beginning of the race, Truex got a black flag for going below the white line on a restart. Apparently, the front row couldn’t go under but everyone behind the leader could, resulting in Truex being penalized and not Kevin Harvick. Harvick pointed out that he was listening to the prerace drivers meeting and was rewarded for paying attention.
Tim Fedewa (Harvick’s spotter) – #78’s on the board for a restart violation.
Cole Pearn [Truex’s crew chief] – They’re saying because we dropped below the line? That’s not a fucking rule, man!
Kevin Harvick – I think what he did was go below the apron. I don’t think you can go below the apron before the start/finish line. Interesting tidbit I caught in the drivers meeting today.
One of the more unexpected moments was Kyle Larson blowing his engine and thus being eliminated from the Playoffs. Many thought Larson had an easy road to the final race at Homestead with all his playoff points but alas, you still need to perform in each round and Larson fell out. It just shows how tough winning a championship can be.
Kyle Larson – I’m blowing up. Low oil protective active. It’s getting worse.
Chad Johnston (Larson’s crew chief) – I guess you’re just gonna have to pit here, bud. Be ready to pop the hood.
Larson – I got to keep it idle because it’s about to die.
Johnston – Just run it. Run it.
Derek Kneeland (Larson’s spotter) – All right, it’s blowing up guys.
Larson – Well, cross our fucking fingers.
Johnston – I don’t even know what to say.
Just like Talladega, there was even a “big one.” Erik Jones was turned on lap 197 and resulted in many crashing and picking up damage. It took out Jamie McMurray and (eventually) Matt Kenseth from the Playoffs.
Austin Dillon – Oh gosh, man! That was scary!
Joey Meier (Brad Keselowski’s spotter) – Holy cow! Nice job, man!
Brad Keselowski – I lost something out my window. I don’t know what.
Matt Kenseth – Hell, I didn’t know that wreck was happening.
Jason Hedlesky (Kenseth’s spotter) – I was late telling you.
Erik Jones – It’s my fault. Sucked me around.
Fedewa – I saw the #77. He shot back to the right and then all hell broke loose.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Did ya’ll have a good view of that from this car?
Greg Ives (Dale Jr’s crew chief) – They had the top camera and they went to your in-car camera. You were wheeling it in there.
Matt McCall (McMurray’s crew chief) – All right boys, we’ll just get a tow truck and get it back to the garage there so we can get everything loaded up.
Matt Kenseth would be eliminated but not in the way you would think. Kenseth was called out after more than six people went over the wall to service Kenseth’s car. And when that seventh person went over, Kenseth’s day and his Playoff hopes, were done.
Jason Ratcliff (Kenseth’s crew chief) – Pit, pit. Seven guys only. Six, six guys.
Hedlesky – Watch the red flag here, Jason.
Ratcliff – Hey, you can’t have more than six guys, okay. You can’t have more than six… The red flag is out. Stop Matt. Stop. Stop… Yeah, they’re reviewing something here.
Mike Wheeler (Denny Hamlin’s crew chief) – They showed seven guys on TV for the #20 car.
Matt Kenseth – What’s the penalty for that?
Ratcliff – We’re done.
Kenseth – Done? Somebody’s gotta tell me what the hell is going on.
Ratcliff – Seven guys over the wall.
Kenseth – So you’re telling me, we sent one too many guys over the wall so we’re gonna not have a chance for a championship because of that?
Ratcliff – Nope, I’m telling you I sent six over and somebody can’t count.
Ratcliff kind of covered himself in saying “somebody can’t count.” But hearing the clip, Ratcliff originally said seven people before quickly correcting himself. Ratcliff may have felt he was quick enough in correcting himself but when you have people going over the wall and needing to fix a race car quickly, it may have been too late. And that might have been Kenseth’s final chance at winning a MENCS title.