With Kansas City Royals Manager Ned Yost commanding the drivers to start their engines, here is what else was surprising and not surprising from the 14th annual Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Surprising: There were surprisingly two drivers after the checkered flag flew that thought that they had won the race.
One driver, Joey Logano, did indeed end up in Victory Lane, securing his place in the Eliminator Round of the Chase competition, while Kyle Busch, who has so often had tremendously bad luck at Kansas, finished third in a run that felt to him more like a win.
“It’s a dream come true,” Logano said after winning his fifth of the season and his first ever at Kansas Speedway. “It’s a dream season so far. We’ve just got to keep finishing it off.”
“It is awesome to be back in victory lane again,” Logano continued. “We were able to capitalize and do what we needed to do. It was fun.”
“I won today, I just didn’t get champagne and a trophy,” Kyle Busch said after posting only his third top-10 finish in 15 races at Kansas Speedway. ““To get through Kansas feels nice.”
“I set my mind to it that there is no reason why we can’t run good here. There is absolutely no reason and other guys can do it so I can do it and my teammates can do it — there is no reason,” Busch continued. “We did that here today and it felt good.”
Both drivers also had winning days in the point standings as Logano is just six points ahead of Busch after the Kansas race.
Not Surprising: One of the first gestures after the race was over was from rookie Kyle Larson, demonstrating with about an inch between his index finger and thumb just how close he was yet again to winning.
This was Larson’s 15th top-10 finish of the season and he was again the highest finishing rookie, in fact for the 21st time.
“We were good all weekend long,” Larson said. “I thought me and Joey were dead even there at the end. It was hard for me to gain on him. We would go within a hundredth of each other it seemed like on every lap. I was able to close on him at one point, but just couldn’t do anything.”
“Good finish. We’ll get some wins here soon hopefully before the end of the year, and I think once we get one, we should be up here more often as a winner.”
Surprising: For at least one Chase contender, the Kansas race ended up being what has traditionally been defined as “a potentially lethal game of chance in which a “player” places a single round in a revolver, spins the cylinder, places the muzzle against their head, and pulls the trigger.”
“It was just Russian roulette and it was our turn,” Brad Keselowski said after a tire issue sent him into the wall for a 36th place finish. “We blew the right front tire. I am not sure why. We didn’t have an aggressive setup or anything, we just blew the tire.”
“We didn’t do anything,” the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford continued. “Like I said, it was a game of Russian Roulette and it was our turn at the gun.”
Not Surprising: After the euphoria of welcoming his first born son into the world prior to the race, it was not surprising that Clint Bowyer was extremely upset with finishing 18th at a track that he considers part of his racing history.
“We just struggled all day,” Bowyer said. “Got damage early on and our pink lemonade 5-hour ENERGY Toyota was never the same. Hate it at my home track.”
Surprising: For once in a very long time, Richard Childress Racing had a better day at the track than Hendrick Motorsports, with the former having all three of its drivers in the top ten, while the latter had major issues of some sort for every one of its four drivers.
Ryan Newman, driver of the RCR No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet finished sixth, Austin Dillon in his RCR No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet finishing eighth, and Paul Menard, in the RCR No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet finished ninth.
“Just a good run for the Caterpillar Chevrolet, it was nice to lead some laps,” Newman said. “First time in a long time we have done that.”
“That is good. That is a motivation for our company.”
“We fought hard all day,” Menard said. “We didn’t quite have the speed our teammates did. We made some really good adjustments to get the car balanced out good. I’m pretty happy with a top 10 after struggling most of the race. We hit on a couple of things throughout the race that got us better.”
Jeff Gordon was the highest finishing Hendrick Motorsports car, with a 14th place run. Kasey Kahne finished 22nd; Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson finished 39th and 40th respectively.
“It was a handful,” Jeff Gordon said. “We were having a pretty solid day with the Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet until the No. 1 car (Jamie McMurray) got loose and got into our left rear.”
“We had a little damage but we just lost all that track position,” Gordon continued. “It is so hard to get it back at this place.”
“A lot of people had trouble today. So today was a real survival day. We did that. It just felt like we could have finished a lot better than that. We had a good race car. We actually really had a great race car.”
Not Surprising: Pleased but not satisfied was how Brian Vickers felt after almost wrecking all day, throwing the kitchen sink at his race car, and finishing tenth in his No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota.
“I think we wrecked 15 times and didn’t hit anything,” Vickers said. “We didn’t get much practice yesterday — we had a couple shock issues that kind of messed us up for the two practices. Then we finally got that figured out on the last run of practice. Basically, today’s race was our practice.”
“It just took us until the end of the race to kind of get it figured out,” Vickers continued. “There were a few runs there where we were horrible and trying to learn and trying things that didn’t work and did work. Then that last run the guys said, ‘Screw it,’ and threw the kitchen sink at it with a couple changes where we were trying to learn something for the future and it was just awesome.”
“Considering everything we had to overcome this weekend I would say we’re pleased, but not satisfied.”
Surprising: In a race with so many blown tires, it was a bit surprising that Carl Edwards’ two tire call actually worked out for him. The driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford finished fifth, keeping his hopes alive in the Chase race.
“That was an awesome finish for us,” Edwards said. “I appreciate everyone coming out here and supporting this 99 team, it means the world. We did not run very well all day but that was awesome at the end, a lot of fun.”
“We put it on the top and ran around and it was a lot of fun,” Edwards continued. “You keep saying we are going to fall out of this and we will keep doing what we are doing. I am so proud of my guys, they did great on pit road. Everyone on the Fastenal crew did a great job and Jimmy Fennig made the right calls and we came home with a top-five, so it was a good day.”
Not Surprising: After another top-10 finish, there was no doubt that Denny Hamlin was in a smooth mood after his seventh place run.
“I’m proud of my team — no mistakes on pit road, just nice smooth day,” Hamlin said. “I saw those guys having a lot of issues. We don’t have a lot of the speed that those guys have, so maybe if we can get them out this round, then maybe there’s a fighting chance we’ll get to the end of this thing.”
“This is a good run for us and this is obviously the type of runs that we need to keep moving on. We’ll take sevenths all the way out.”
Surprising: This team just might have finally turned the corner after a struggle and back luck filled season to date. Martin Truex Jr. scored his best finish of the season with a fourth place run in his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet.
Since the Chase began, Truex has an average finish of 9.25 and had the second best result at Kansas of all of the non-Chase drivers.
“A lot of effort and a lot of patience have gone into our resurgence,” said Truex. “Everything seems to be clicking much better right now and I look forward to taking advantage of what we have learned and trying to get a win.”
“As I said last week, we’re also getting ready for 2015 and right now we’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”
Not Surprising: He may not have advanced in the Chase but AJ Allmendinger was celebrating what he perceived as a stand-out weekend at Kansas.
“This is the best weekend we have had in a long time for sure,” the driver of the No. 47 Clorox Chevrolet said after finishing 11th. “Happy with the car throughout the whole race, we are just lacking a little bit of overall speed.”
“It was a good car, by far the best we have been,” Dinger continued. “That is the best 1.5-mile car I’ve had in over a year. Hopefully, we learned for the next race at Charlotte.”