In what has to be the best mile and a half race this year, if not the best Kansas races ever, Brad Keselowksi battled Alex Bowman down the stretch for his third win of the year.
The mile and a half tracks have produced little in the way of great racing and Kansas is no exception. The cool weather and past bad racing was certainly a factor in the poor showing in the stands. Why go sit in the cold when the racing will just blow anyway?
It proved to be better than all of that as the track cooled, night fell and the track changed. Kevin Harvick dominated Stage One and much of the second leading 104 laps. Chase Elliott won Stage Two. Keselowski started fourth but struggled to stay in the top 10 much of the race. Then the track changed. Harvick was plowing like a dump truck and pitted with a tear off stuck to his grill that made him feel like he had a tire going down.
For a while it looked like Chase Elliott would bring home the checkers as he led 45 laps. But Alex Bowman proved that his 5th place starting spot was no fluke. Bowman stayed in the Top 10 and Top 5 all night and managed to get around Elliott to take the lead in the closing stages of the race. Bowman led 63 laps all night but failed to lead the most important one. Keselowksi suddenly had a car that did more of what he wanted and got around Bowman. A caution in the final 3 laps set up a GWC finish that saw Keselowski jump out to a lead on the ensuing green flag that was too much for Bowman to overcome.
The lower hp motors with this aero package finally paid dividends for NASCAR. Drivers were hesitant to get out of the gas, which produced some big runs, and cutting and weaving passes. Drivers tried to break the draft to fight off the runs and there was even some blocking, see the discussion between Erik Jones and Clint Bowyer. Combine the track changes with the race package and we saw a lot of passing, something all fans say they want more of. I was more than pleasantly surprised at the style of race and have to say that if this is what we have to look forward to every week, that is a huge step forward for NASCAR.
Wait a minute, calm down buddy. Temper that with a dose of reality let’s wait and see. Kansas may just have been the perfect coincidence of track, package and weather. We need to see a few more mile and a half tracks to really know what we have going for us.
Another added element was that we once again had Chevy dominate the Top 10 with seven cars. Ford got the win and dominated the Top 15 with two in the Top 5 and five more in the Top 15. The lone Toyota in the mix was Erik Jones in third. Denny Hamlin was the next Toyota in line in 16th.
Want more? OK, let’s just highlight Elliott and Bowman followed by Tyler Reddick in 9th, Chris Buescher in 10th and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in 11th. Want even more? How about Jimmie Johnson in 6th and Kurt Busch in 9th. KuBu has been one of the lone bright spots for Chevy this season even while his bright shining star of a teammate has faltered. Kyle Larson was able to bring his car home in 8th after starting 35th. That had to feel like a win.
All in all, that is a good day for NASCAR. Young drivers running up front, veteran drivers showing how to close the deal, Chevy seems to have found its groove and a debatable race package at a boring track proves to be one of the best races of the year. Now, they just need to get some more fans in the stands.