On Sunday, October 22nd, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returned to Kansas Speedway for the second time this season. But this visit was for a playoff elimination race in which the 12 drivers currently in contention for the championship were reduced to 8 as the series gets closer to its final race. Going into this event, there were many questions surrounding those drivers that were predicted to be eliminated. All questions were answered along with a few shocking changes during the 267-Lap Hollywood Casino 400.
Given that it had rained the night prior, there was a competition caution on Lap 30 to check tire wear. On the restart, leader Martin Truex Jr changed lanes and went below the white line on the apron of the track before he had crossed the start/finish line. He was called out by NASCAR as he was in clear violation of the rules. He had to serve a pass-through penalty but did not go a lap down. A few laps later, Brett Moffitt in the #83 brought out the caution when he got into the wall in Turn 3.
With 11 laps to go in the first stage, championship-favorite Kyle Larson began experiencing mechanical problems. He brought his car down pit road and subsequently lost 3 laps to the leader. His team was unable to fully diagnose the issue, despite help from Hendrick Motorsports, and Larson returned to the track in 37th position. After completing another 4 laps, Larson’s #42 Chevrolet started smoking badly on the front stretch – so bad that the caution was brought out and the stage finished under yellow conditions. While Kyle Busch got the stage win, Kyle Larson went to the garage where he incurred a DNF and said goodbye to his shot at the championship.
Stage 2 saw aggressive racing with many playoff drivers running in the Top 10. The only caution in the segment came with 4 laps to go when the #83 of Brett Moffitt scraped the wall yet again. After a 2-lap shootout, the #11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin won the stage.
Aggression ramped up and the race got a little out of hand in Stage 3, which resulted in 5 cautions and one red-flag. On Lap 175, playoff contender Ricky Stenhouse Jr cut a tire and was sent into the outside wall. Only 13 laps later, 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson gently tapped the wall in Turn 4. Johnson lost control of his #48 Chevrolet and was sent spinning through the infield grass. While the hood of the #48 was slightly bent, he didn’t have any other damage and returned to the track after the team taped down the slight imperfection. On the restart, however, Johnson spun again in Turn 2 after completing less than half of a lap. Once again, he did not sustain any damage.
While coming down the backstretch on Lap 199, the #77 Toyota of rookie driver Erik Jones (running was running 4th) got loose and veered to the left of the track. Jones overcorrected the steering and abruptly turned right, directly in front of the rest of the field. In a violent wreck, the #77 collided with the #19 of Daniel Suarez. The impact caused Jones to go airborne and slid down the SAFER barrier on the right-side of the car. Meanwhile, the front half of the #19 was completely sheared off. This wreck collected playoff drivers Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. It also collected Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Danica Patrick, AJ Allmendinger, and more. The race was then red-flagged and luckily all drivers were okay.
When the race was returned to yellow-flag conditions, playoff-hopeful Matt Kenseth came to pit road to fix the damages on his #20 Toyota. Since the damage was caused by a racing incident, his team was placed on the 5-minute repair clock. The NASCAR rulebook states that teams may only have 6 members working on the car when on the clock. However, the #20 team was in such a hurry to fix the car that a 7th team member accidentally came over the pit wall. According to NASCAR’s rules, the extra man over the wall results in an automatic disqualification. In possibly his last season (as Kenseth has not secured a ride for 2018), Kenseth was out of the race and out of contention for the championship.
With 32 laps remaining in the stage, AJ Allmendinger spun by himself through the infield grass. When the race restarted, Martin Truex Jr emerged as the race leader and drove off to his dominating 7th victory of the season. This is his 2nd time winning at Kansas this year.
Eliminated from the Round of 12 are Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Moving on to the Round of 8 are Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott.
Don’t miss the kick off to the Round of 8 at Martinsville Speedway. Get your tickets HERE