Last week, Erik Jones proved to everyone who wasn’t sure that you don’t need to be in the Playoffs to make an impact. He scooped up the lead after Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch exited the race one after another, and was able to hold off their Joe Gibbs Racing teammate (Denny Hamlin) for the final 20 laps. He’d been securely in the Top 10 the entirety of the race, and his victory disallowed any Playoff driver from securing berth into the Round of 12. Now, we’re at Kansas; does a Playoff driver deliver the goods today, or do we have another surprise from an underappreciated driver?
Here’s what to look for:
–Tyler Reddick was fastest on Saturday, and he’ll have the best view from the front as the field takes the Green. Unfortunately for Reddick, this is not one of his better tracks. In six attempts, he carries a 17.7 average finish, and has yet to even crack the Top 5. He actually started 2nd here in the Spring…but brought it home 30th for his worst finish yet. What does today’s race hold for him? Gotta be better than 30th this time…right?
–Kyle Larson won this race last year and followed it up with a 2nd place finish to eventual winner Kurt Busch. Widely advertised, Busch is having concussion issues still and has withdrawn from the 2022 Playoffs. Does that leave the door wide open for Larson to repeat? He’ll start 7th and look for the lead early.
–Martin Truex Jr. is not Championship eligible. He missed the Playoffs by 3 points, and it looked like he may’ve been the one to upset the field at Darlington. When he passed Kyle Busch at Darlington, there was a huge roar from the crowd, but he wouldn’t see the end of this race. Things should go differently at Kansas; this is a track in which he’s had nine Top 10s in his last ten attempts and has scored more points than any other driver. Look for the 19 to spend a lot of time up front once he gets there.
-We just touched upon a pretty substantial streak (nine Top 10s in ten races), but we saw one come to an end last week with Kevin Harvick, literally up in flames. He hadn’t scored outside the Top 10 at Darlington since 2012, but an exhaust issue led to a fire which led to him jumping out of his window instead of driving his car. I mean, you’ve GOT to get out of a flaming car, ya know? Not his fault. He’ll look to rebound at Kansas, our second-best driver here in the last ten races. He’s averaging 6.9 with five Top 5s and he should be someone to contend with in the closing laps, if not the entire race.
-I pulled Erik Jones out last week here and he didn’t really fit in with the caliber of drivers. Or so YOU thought! He probably should’ve been in the Playoffs somehow, but we’ve got a really tight field! Heck, even Truex isn’t in. Cole Custer hasn’t won a race since 2020; that Win came at Kentucky, a track that isn’t on the schedule anymore. What IS on the schedule is Kansas — and a few other tracks — that have a layout strikingly similar to Kentucky! Cole has three teammates here, one of whom is Kevin Harvick, and he could tap back into that magic that carried him to his only Cup victory at Kentucky. Let’s watch!
Alright, as advertised, here are some pictures from Darlington and some of our Myrtle Beach trip!
A few hours later, we arrived in Darlington; this is the tunnel to the infield. (Photo: Rob Schulz)
Thought I’d share this because I’ve never seen it; after the pit stops, the gasmen have to wheel their cans over to the huge gas truck and get refilled! Neat! (Photo: Rob Schulz)
On the 21st anniversary of 9/11, be sure to keep those in mind who lost their lives that day.
Football now, NASCAR later. Coverage of the race starts on USA at 3:00pm, green flag scheduled for 3:18pm.