After a weekend that may have changed everything, the Cup teams take on Kansas Speedway for the next episode of the 2016 Chase. When the race was over and done last weekend the Chase grid looked a bit different than it did when they started the race and now it seems there are those that need to win to get in or, at least finish really close to the front if they want to make it into the next round. Since Talladega is next weekend, the stakes are much higher than they might have been if last weekend hadn’t been such a disaster for some.
But let’s talk about Kansas for a moment… It isn’t really a track that favors any one driver over another, at least not the Sprint Cup drivers. It is a fast track and also an interesting track with its own set of characteristics. Once again this weekend, weather has made life a little more interesting for the teams as they prepare for Sunday afternoon’s race. Sure they got to practice on Friday but it was a bit delayed and the track was ever changing when they did hit the track to practice and then there was qualifying. No matter how you look at it, there are some that look to be struggling and others that seem to be in control of their situations well enough to show they have speed and that is one thing they are going to need.
From this fan’s view, it looks like the JGR Toyotas showed up ready to race this weekend. If qualifying holds any view into how the race may go on Sunday afternoon, the JGR Toyotas looked very good. Let’s see, we have Matt Kenseth (who usually performs quite well at Kansas) on the pole and Kyle Bush starting on outside pole. Behind them are Carl Edwards and the JGR associated team of Martin Truex, Jr. and that looks very good for JGR at least for pit selections and the start of the race.
Of course if you’ve been following this fan’s view for any length of time at all, you already know how much stock I put in qualifying times when it comes to race day. How often have we as fans seen the pole sitter fall like a rock on race day compared to how they did on the few laps they ran to qualify for the pole position. From my view, it happens much more often that way than it does with a dominating performance along with a top qualifying spot.
You see, there’s a reason or two why I think the way I do about this. All things considered and if a car is competitive, it doesn’t really matter that much where they start. What does matter, at least from this fan’s view, is where they pit and how they run for extended periods. If there are long green flag runs, how do they move through the field when compared with the rest of their competitors? Is their setup for the long runs or for the short runs? Are they able to make up spots in the pits (which is one of the best and safest ways to make multiple passes if possible) and does their strategy for the race advance them every time they have to stop?
The Kansas Speedway is, or at least can be hard on tires and on engines. It is a one and a half mile oval and the speeds are high (as I mentioned earlier.) That can wreak havoc on tires and on engines and as we saw a couple of costly tire and engine failures last weekend, the same could happen again this weekend. If it happens to a Chaser other than Jimmy Johnson, well, that could mean their demise as far as the 2016 Chase is concerned.
At the very minimum it could mean they have to win at Talladega next weekend if they expect to move on to the round of eight and that is no small task in itself.
Had it not been for Denny Hamlin losing an engine when he did last weekend, this would be a whole different race altogether. Because of his engine failure, the four other Chasers that had struggles or problems last weekend would have been much further out on a limb. As it turned out, there is only about eight points separating five drivers from not making the next round and they are all presently in the eighth to twelfth positions in this round of the Chase. Man, talk about drama building for these next two races, well from this fan’s view, it doesn’t get much more intense than this.
That is one thing I like about the Chase format in its present form – it makes almost every race one filled with high emotion and drama and there will be those that make it to the next round and some that won’t depending on how they perform in each race. Points matter a little but winning means a lot more. I don’t need to restate this but I will; if you win you advance and if you don’t there is a very good chance you won’t.
I mean, look at how the first round of three races finished; Martin Truex, Jr. and Kevin Harvick won and they moved on to round two. Because of an engine failure last week, Kevin Harvick may not make it to round three. The same could be said for the other four near the bottom of the top twelve; if they don’t finish in the top five or win, they may be out also. That alone could be enough to keep them awake a night or two after this one is in the books. It will make Talladega loom all the larger for them next week. Although it isn’t likely, if something breaks, blows out or blows up for any of the remaining Chase contenders at Kansas they may be facing an ominous task at Talladega or end up being out of the Chase for this season.
Kansas is a very good track for Matt Kenseth and he could end up in Victory Lane on Sunday but don’t expect Kyle Bush to do anything but push for the win Sunday afternoon. Only one one thousandth of a second separated these two when it come to taking the pole position and it could come down to something just as small at the end of the race. If you go by the qualifying, JGR looks like they could have a great day and the others look like they are struggling a bit. I’m not picking a winner and I’m not saying it will be one from the JGR garage but it very well could be. There is also the chance that a different team could take the win and that team may or may not even be one of the Chasers…
See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© October 15, 2016 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman, Nascarfansview.com and Justafansview.com
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