With the mile-sized race tracks in the rear view mirror, there was bound to be drama headed to the first mile and a half track, not only amongst the twelve Chase contenders but also the rest of the field who had nothing to lose and everything to gain. The pressure was definitely on for those Chase contenders in the bottom half of the field, who needed a great run in order to stay in the championship hunt. Here is what was surprising and not surprising from the third race in the Chase competition, with just seven races remaining in the 2010 season.
Surprising: One of those bottom half Chase contenders, Greg Biffle, definitely helped his own cause, qualifying his No. 16 Sherwin Williams/3M Ford in the fifth position and driving strong all race long to claim his second checkered flag of the season. The Biff’s win was the 118th Cup Series win for Roush Fenway Racing and thankfully this time, team owner Jack Roush was in Victory Lane with his driver instead of recuperating in the hospital from a plane crash as was the case when his driver won Pocono. Biffle gained one position in the Chase standings, moving from ninth to eighth, but he is now just 85 points back from the point’s leader.
Not Surprising: In spite of starting at the back of the field and getting trapped in the pits early in the race, Jimmie Johnson, in his No. 48 Lowes/Johns Manville Chevrolet, made his ever-lucky way to the front of the field, finishing in the runner up position. With that finish and as he does so often when the pressure is on, Johnson moved into the points lead, making his presence known for that fifth historic consecutive championship run.
Surprising: In this third Chase race, one of the non-Chasers had a major impact on the Chase standings. Normally good- natured David Reutimann apparently had had enough. After Chase competitor Kyle Busch got into the back of him early in the race and spun his No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota, Reutimann took revenge, coming back onto the track and slamming Busch into the wall. Busch’s car sustained serious damage, in Busch’s words “the car was killed.” This unfortunate turn of events led to a 21st place finish for Busch and a free fall of four positions in the Chase standings, from third to seventh, 80 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
Not Surprising: While Busch was furious, saying that Reutimann could have wrecked him in any of the races next season and had no right to wreck him in the midst of a Chase run, Reutimann was non-repentant. Reutimann said “It just gets old” and between the urging of his crew chief and his own frustration, Rooty proved that he was just not going to take it anymore.
Surprising: Big Daddy and original four-time champion Jeff Gordon was NASCAR’s biggest winner in the point standings, moving up three spots from eighth to fifth. Gordon, in his signature-colored No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet, qualified in the third spot, led laps during the race, had some stellar pit stops, and finished in the fifth position on the track.
Not Surprising: After a rough run at the Monster Mile, point’s winner of the regular season, Kevin Harvick, redeemed himself with a great run at Kansas. Not only did Harvick bring his No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet to the checkered flag in third place, he also moved up to the third position in the point standings, just 30 points behind Johnson.
Surprising: While not a terrible run, with a 12th place race finish, Denny Hamlin, who has been so strong coming into the Chase and so determined so far throughout the Chase competition, lost the points lead to Jimmie Johnson. Hamlin sits just eight points now behind his nemesis as he desperately attempts to fight his way back to win that coveted Sprint Cup.
Not Surprising: A panoply of Fords graced the top ten at the Kansas Price Chopper 400 presented by Kraft Foods. Carl Edwards, in his No. 99 Aflac Ford, finished sixth. Matt Kenseth, in his No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford, finished seventh. And Paul Menard, who started on the outside pole, finished eighth in his No. 98 Zecol/Menards Ford. It was no surprise that the Fords were competing so well since the manufacturer put $100,000 on the line as an incentive for the win. Jamie Allison, Director of Ford North American Motorsports, duly pronounced it a “One Ford effort.”
Surprising: Kasey Kahne, in his No. 9 Budweiser Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, led the race to green from the pole position. The driver that is soon to running for Red Bull Racing and ultimately Hendrick Motorsports unfortunately hit the wall about midway through the race and then watched his car fall to pieces as the tire blew the fenders and other car parts all over the race track. After that most promising start, Kahne finished miserably in the 37th position.
Not Surprising: Kahne’s Richard Petty Motorsports teammate A.J. Allmendinger continued his string of great races, particularly after leading so many laps and being dominant early at the Monster Mile last weekend. The Dinger managed to lead a lap at Kansas and again scored a top ten finish in his No. 43 Insignia HDTV/Best Buy Ford.
The Chasers and the rest of the Cup field will now head even further west for the fourth Chase race of the season. The Pepsi Max 400 will run at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California on Sunday, October 10th, with the broadcast on ESPN set to start at 3:00 PM ET.