This week in the NASCAR Playoffs it’s another elimination race. The Hollywood Casino from Kansas Speedway will determine the 8 drivers that move forward to the 3rd round. After today’s race, 4 drivers will no longer have the opportunity to compete for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship.
On the bubble in 8th place is Martin Truex Jr.(78), last year’s champion. In ninth is Brad Keselowski(2), possibly one of the hottest driver’s the last 2 months of the season. He sits 18 points behind Truex Jr. Ryan Blaney(12) -22 points, Kyle Larson(42) -36, and Alex Bowman(88) -68 are 10th, 11th, and 12th.
Truex Jr. won both races at the track in 2017. He knows how to get around the 1.5-mile oval quickly. If he stays out of trouble and 7th place Clint Bowyer(14) puts together another good run today they are likely to move forward. That means the 4 below the cut line may have to win today’s race to advance.
Stage points will be important to everyone today. Stage 1 and 2 are 80 laps each. The final Stage is 107 laps. A total of 20 bonus points are available to a driver if they can sweep the first 2 Stages.
Joey Logano(22) won the pole and lead until making a green flag pit stop on Lap 40.
After service to the leaders cycled through, Logano was back in front. William Byron suffered an engine failure on Lap 57. Oiling down the track and bringing out the first caution of the day. Pit stops under the caution were delayed as track crews cleaned up the oil on the track and pit road.
When the pits were opened Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) opted to stay on the track. Everyone else on the lead lap pitted. Blaney, Aric Almirola(10), and Keselowski were first off pit road. They only took 2 tires, Logano took 4 new Goodyears and exited 4th. The strategy looked to be ill-conceived when Logano ran down and passed Blaney quickly. Almirola and Keselowski also faded without 4 fresh tires.
Logano held on to win the Stage and take the 10 bonus points and 1 playoff point.
Stage 1 Results
* Ford Fusion Drivers
Conspicuous for his absence from the Top 10 Stage points winners was the mile and a half specialist, Martin Truex Jr. Harvick’s 2nd place Stage finish earned 9 points. Enough to clinch his spot in the Round of 8 based on points.
Pitting during the Stage ending caution, this time everyone took 4 tires and fuel. Logano maintained the lead, exiting pit road first.
Logano again drove off when the race restarted. Leading until his pit stop on Lap 122.
Kurt Busch had an uncontrolled tire during his green flag pitstop and was forced to return to pit road for a drive-thru penalty. The misstep by his crew put Busch 2 laps down and suddenly his advancement chances were in danger.
When all the leaders had made their stops, Kevin Harvick(4) was the leader. Blaney ran 2nd and Logano 3rd. Harvick took the Stage 2 win.
Stage 2 Results
* Ford Fusion Drivers
With points earned in Stage 2, Logano moves on to the next round of the playoffs based on points.
The Final Stage
The restart for the final stage of the race featured Harvick in front, Elliott in 2nd. Larson in 3rd and Blaney in 4th. Logano had trouble on his pitstop when the front tire change had his air hose get caught on the splitter. He restarted in 9th.
Kurt Busch gained one lap back but restarted in 22 still one lap down. If the race ended after the 2nd Stage he would be eliminated by 3 points. With 100 laps to go there is still time for Kurt to recover.
Final pit stops started with 53 laps to go. Four tires and fuel were the norm for this point in the race. Harvick pitted from the lead and was too fast exiting pit road. After returning for his penalty, Harvick was shown a lap down. His chances at the victory likely gone. Opening the door for a must-win driver to possibly step through.
As the laps wound down to the finish Chase Elliott(9) moved into the lead. Harvick got back on the lead lap but was almost 30 seconds back, the last car on the lead lap. Kyle Busch, Larson, Truex Jr., and Jones made up the remainder of the top 5.
With 10 laps to go Elliott led Kyle Busch by .6 seconds. At 7 laps to go the lead was cut in half. Then with 5 to go Elliott increased the lead to a half second, but Larson moved into the picture just a second back.
Larson passed Busch on the final lap. However, Elliott held on for the win. His second in this round of the playoffs. Larson finished .903 seconds back. Kyle Busch took 3rd.
The top 8 held serve and advance to the Round of 8. Ryan Blaney gave it a strong run and even led twice before finishing 7th. He finished 9th in points just 5 points behind Kurt Busch.
Moving on to Round 3
The Round of Eight starts like this. Five Ford Fusion drivers advance. Unfortunately, 4 of them sit below the cut line at the start of the round. Still, 3 races to go before the field is cut to 4 drivers for the final at Homestead. Next week it’s Martinsville. Then Texas and Phoenix complete the round.
|3||78||Martin Truex Jr.||4038|
- Ford Fusion Drivers
Results of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway
|5||78||Martin Truex Jr.||11.852||267|
|20||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||-2||265|
Eliminated from Playoffs