Good Ol' Saturday Night Racing at Kansas
Kansas is a relatively new track in the Sprint Cup Series, having only been on the schedule since 2001. Jeff Gordon won the first Sprint Cup race there, and should be considered a favorite for Saturday night's race. Denny Hamlin, winner last weekend, won last year, so also needs to be considered a favorite.
The track is what is commonly classed as a "cookie cutter" track, at 1.5 miles in length and only slight banking throughout the track, including on 20 degrees in the corners. After the high banks and fast speeds of Talladega, this race could be considered a much calmer race.
And speaking of Talladega, last week's race was somewhat of a wreckfest, all things considered. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 26th in the race. After the race, he was honest in saying he knew there were wrecks that were going to happen with the way people were driving and chose to drop back and stay out of the fray. Those comments resulted in dozens of hateful posts on Twitter, Instagram and other social media.
So, of course, I'm going to weigh in on this one. I haven't watched the videos, haven't read a lot of the diatribe, and can only speak from what I do know. I know that Dale Jr. has suffered two major concussions, the last which kept him out of the race car for the duration of the 2012 season. I do know that Dale Jr already has a win this season, at Daytona. I do know that Dale Jr. has run strong at almost every other race so far this year. I do know that he stands a very good chance of winning his first, and perhaps only, Sprint Cup Championship this year. I do know that if he suffered another concussion, as a result of an accident, he could be out of the car for a number of races, and that victory at Daytona would count for nothing, as a driver in the Chase must have started (or attempted to start?) each race in the schedule. Denny Hamlin has been given an exemption as a result of his trip to the ER at Fontana (he had gotten a sliver of metal in his eye and was not cleared to drive until he had received treatment). However, if Dale Jr were injured, there is no guarantee that NASCAR would consider giving him an exemption. His decision was to finish the race in one piece.
Why would anyone question that?
Some "fans" cried and moaned that he wasn't competing, wasn't trying actively to win the race, as per NASCAR's new rule, enacted after Clint Bowyer's spin at the end of last season. Dale Jr was up in the front pack during the last restart and was forced up the track and almost pinned against the outside wall by an overzealous driver who either didn't see him, or didn't care that he was there. Dale Jr decided at that point that his health wasn't worth that risk and dropped back.
Was he racing for the win? No, but had a wreck happened, which seemed very likely, he would have been in a good place for another move to the front. As we know, the wreck happened just before the white flag was flown, and Denny Hamlin was declared the winner under caution. Dale Jr walked away with a 26th place finish and a vow to do better at Daytona.
More importantly, he walked away healthy.
Kansas Speedway will light up this evening with the Camping World Truck Series and tomorrow night with the Sprint Cup Series. The Nationwide Series are on a break this weekend.
Who is your pick for the race?