NASCAR headed out to the Midwest on Sunday for the 15th annual running of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. As to be expected with the new playoff system, the race was full of drama and excitement, giving the fans in the packed grandstands a finish they won’t soon forget.
After crashing out the week prior at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Matt Kenseth was put in a must-win situation headed into Kansas and Talladega. The driver of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota was out front for a majority of the race, doing exactly what he needed to do.
His closest competitor all day was Joey Logano, who had already clinched his way into the next round of the playoffs with a win the week before in the Bank of America 500, and had nothing to lose in going for the win.
The yellow flag waved with less than thirty laps to go, setting up for a wild restart with twenty laps to go. Matt Kenseth got a good jump on the restart and was able to clear out to the race lead, but Logano was right in his tire tracks. For almost the entire final stint, the two drivers put on a spectacular show; Kenseth blocking and Logano looking to make a pass at any chance he could get.
With five laps to go, the No. 22 got a good run on the No. 20 headed down the front stretch. Knowing that he needed to win the race, Kenseth blocked Logano all the way up into the wall, a move that came right back to bite him. As they dove off into turn one, the two made contact and Kenseth was sent spinning through the turn, while Logano drove off unscathed with the race lead.
The replays would show that Joey Logano clipped the left rear corner of Kenseth’s car, but when Logano was asked if the move was intentional, he declined, saying that it was just a racing incident.
Matt Kenseth, as to be expected, had a completely different perspective of the incident.
“It was really cut and dry, he (Joey Logano) picked my rear tires off the ground and wrecked me so there’s not debate about that one.”
Joey Logano was able to hold off the rest of the field on the final restart, and ended up driving to his second straight victory, ensuring that he is the only one of the twelve Chase drivers who doesn’t have to worry about points next week in the wildcard elimination race at Talladega.
Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five, and the points picture headed into next week’s race couldn’t be any more unclear.
Four of the twelve drivers will be eliminated from the playoffs at Talladega, and quite frankly none of them, except Logano, are completely safe. Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the drivers most in trouble, as they are pretty much in a win or die situation at the most unpredictable venue on the schedule. The rest of the nine Chase drivers need their cards to fall right and not end up in a crash in order to help ensure their playoff safety.
Kansas Speedway did its job setting up a barn-burner of a points battle headed into this round’s final race next weekend at Talladega. There is no doubt that the three and four wide racing that the 2.66-mile track produces will cause major stress and anxiety for not only the drivers, but fans all across the world.