Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Jeff Gordon: looks like he's toast in this title chase. But what a comeback for Edwards and Harvick

   With action like this, remind us once again why the rush to repave Kansas Speedway? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   Looks like it's Fork City for Jeff Gordon now too, along with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin, in this fall's NASCAR championship playoffs.
   Plus, both Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick had to pull off surprising comebacks to keep five-time champion Jimmie Johnson from delivering a crushing blown in the title hunt.
   And Johnson's victory in the Kansas 400 clinches the manufacturers' championship for Chevrolet

, with 14 wins, to Ford's six wins, and five wins each for Dodge and Toyota.
   Yes, the championship points are still not all that clear under this new system. But Gordon said before Sunday's Kansas 400 he had to make something happen here, after weak runs in two of the first three chase races. And, well, he did make something happen, but it wasn't good – it was a blown engine. That 34th –place finish, one of his worst finishes of the season, all but cooks him in the title race.
   Gordon goes to Charlotte this week 47 points down to leader Carl Edwards, and that spread is approximately a difference of 47 finishing positions.
   Gordon called the afternoon "a sequence of crazy events for us.
   "I don't know what happen but my oil temp was just pegged for, shoot, 30 laps, and I knew it was just a matter of time…
    "That restart Tony Stewart took me three-wide, all the way down to the apron, and we were on old tires, and that just ruined our day right there. He did what he had to do, though it messed us up. Right after that we start getting smoke; we thought it was tire smoke, but it wasn't -- it was under the hood."


   Jeff Gordon didn't have a great day in Kansas...and he really needed on. Now it's all over but the shouting (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   And it wasn't a great Sunday for the Busch brothers either. Though they haven't taken themselves out of contention, neither Kyle nor Kurt was very impressive here Sunday.
   The stars of the warm, sunny afternoon for the 82,000 here at Kansas Speedway were winner Jimmie Johnson, in a dominating run, late-charging Brad Keselowski, and comeback charges by Edwards and Kevin Harvick.
   Keselowski, who wasn't expected even to be in the playoffs when the season started, has been a fast bloomer. Sunday he was a fast finisher too, nearly catching Johnson down the stretch. Roger Penske's newest driver is thus just 11 points off the lead halfway through the playoffs, quite remarkable, particularly since he's such a newcomer, relatively, to all this.
   Consider this – if Johnson is still the championship benchmark, then Keselowski, more than eight months into the season, is just seven finishing positions behind Johnson.
    The victory ended a surprisingly long dry spell for Johnson, 21 races without a win. Now for others in the sport, that might not seem that long, but Johnson has been on NASCAR's top home run hitters.
   "There are probably three or four opportunities to win that come to mind that we just didn't take advantage of," Johnson said. "And that's on everybody's back --  I've messed up, we've had pit road issues, we've had a lot of little things go wrong. And we've had a lot of second place finishes that should have been wins."
   If Sunday's performance was a warning to rivals, looking the three 1-1/2-mile tracks still left in the chase, they should also be reconsidering Chicago, where Johnson had a top-three car only to be foiled by gas mileage.  

   Carl Edwards: a miraculous comeback from what would have been a terrible afternoon (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Johnson says he feels very good about these next three mid-size speedways.
   "This track is just slick, and tough to get the car perfect, and you have to adapt," Johnson says.  "There are a lot of really good lines you can choose from.  Trying different lines, and braking techniques, picking the throttle up in different areas, there's just a lot that you can do on a track like this."

    Fortunately,  Chad Knaus, Johnson's crew chief, says.
    "It's a really fun racetrack….  It incorporates a lot of the needs of a real race car -- great horsepower, a good aero base, and good mechanical grip base because the tire fall-off is high -- tires make a difference.
    "That's part of the reason why tracks like this one, the old Darlington, the old Charlotte, Atlanta, we do pretty well."
    Still, these cars-of-tomorrow, with their high center-of-gravity, aren't very forgiving if you're off.
   "I wish you guys could feel the pain sometimes, to be quite honest," Knaus said. "The race car we've got now is extremely fickle; it's very difficult to get the balance…and then once you get it, it's very easy to lose it. 
     "It's very difficult to tune these cars, and it's very stressful for all the crew chiefs. I wish people realized and knew how tough it really was."

     But it was Edwards' comeback – after a terrible start to the day – that was so stunning. And so perhaps was Harvick's  comeback.
    "I had Carl lapped at one point," Johnson said afterwards. "And I had Kevin right ahead of me (about to lap him).
    "So for those two to both bounce back and finish where they did did surprise me.  I thought we were going to have a huge day on both those guys."
    "I am ready to get out of Kansas; I am tired of eventful days," Harvick said wearily.
     Edwards was almost stunned with his finish: "I feel grateful.  That was very, very bad at the beginning…and I cannot thank my guys enough for sticking with it. 
    "I cannot believe we finished fifth.  It feels like a win. 
    "That's the most we've done with a car that wasn't capable of winning ever. To finish like that is spectacular.
     "That's the worst the car has felt in a race for a long time.
    "We had to have luck go our way.  We had two cautions that were timed perfectly; that was a big deal. 
    "But we've messed up enough in the past that I'm pretty proud of our ability to take our bad days and just keep plugging along. It's a test when you go through something like this, to see if somebody melts down or if you can kind of keep going through it.
    "We've had two weeks with very lucky breaks.
    "But there is still so much racing left….though we've run (only) four races, it feels like we've run 400.  There's a lot that can happen in the next six races. 
    "I have a feeling there will be more moments that define this championship."  

     Gee, it's been five months since Jimmie Johnson last got to crack a bottle of NASCAR bubbly (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   However no one should take his eyes off Matt Kenseth. In another 'stealthy' performance Kenseth pulled out a somewhat surprising fourth, to stay right in the thick of the title hunt.
   "I don't think you can ever be disappointed when you finish in the top-five," Kenseth said. "We were off all day, and we were still able to come home with a top-five. We had great track position, great qualifying, and great pit stops -- and that kept us in the game."
   Kyle Busch wasn't happy a bit, though 11th on an off-day isn't that bad. But he was never a factor.
   However Dave Rogers, Kyle's crew chief, says he feels the team is now over the hump: "Loudon, Kansas, Chicago, those were the tracks that we were the most concerned with. 
    "We had a good opportunity to make up some points today (with both Harvick and Edwards having major problems), and should have. But we didn't capitalize.
    "The disheartening thing is we didn't finish where we raced. We had the car for a solid top-five. And Kyle did a magnificent job of moving around; I've never seen somebody run that many laps all the way up against the fence and not touch the wall.
   "I'm just a little disappointed with the finish."

RE Championship

Jimmy Johnson only a 10 race champion can;t compare him to guys who had to hold points for 36 races.He's not a champion in my book.He has to steal someone else's pit crew and everything to win. Jimmy will never be a nascar champion in my book. Sorry I feel that way but it is what it is.The reason no one wants to watch nascar anymore because of change better when it was champion for 36 races.I know so many people who have stopped watching because of this change not the same. I don't even watch it like I used to just not same too many rules.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com