When the green flag dropped, there were plenty of storylines to be digested at Kansas. A playoff cut-race, four drivers would be going home at the conclusion with the final eight drivers that would run for the title set.
Joey Logano showed the impressive speed from the Ford camp qualifying on the pole and winning the first stage leading over 100 laps in the first-half of the race. Kevin Harvick would work his way to the front by the second stage and win it clearly showcasing the best speed on the mile-and-a-half track like he has all season for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Meanwhile, everyone was keeping their eyes on the constant points battle four cars were locked in that included Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Bush. The race was primarily run green all day outside of the two stage cautions and when William Byron’s engine expired early in the contest. That hurt the chances of Brad Keselowski and Paul Wolfe into gambling their way into the final eight after a bad two weeks at Dover and Talladega. Keselowski and the No. 2 team held on for every green-flag cycle as long as they could to try to put themselves in position to win the race, but that break never went their way and they were eliminated from contention despite a heroic run at the end of the regular season and to kick-off the playoffs.
After Harvick fell victim to a late speeding penalty on pit road, the race was up for the taking. That’s when the No. 9 of Chase Elliott rose to the occasion and took home his second win in the round and in the last three weeks. Elliott was able to hold off the great Kyle Busch over the final 40 laps with Kyle Larson charging hard from third running the high-line needing a win to advance.
“I thought last year we had a pretty solid run at it and didn’t win any, obviously, but had some really good runs,” Elliott said. “Just so proud of my race team and the pit stops we had today. (Crew chief) Alan Gustafson made some great calls. We just can’t get complacent. This is a huge time of year. We have a lot of work to do and a long way to go.”
Kurt Busch survived an uncontrolled tire penalty and an 18th place result claiming the final spot in the Round of 8 over Ryan Blaney who finished 7th on the afternoon. Blaney, Larson, Keselowski and Alex Bowman who had a top 10 finish but needed a win to get through, were all eliminated from the playoffs. The final eight are set as the series heads to Martinsville, Texas and ISM Raceway in Phoenix before the final four are set for Homestead. Of the final 8, all four cars from the SHR stable are alive and on their way into the next round with championship hopes still intact.
As for Chase Elliott, he needs to be given some serious props and kudos along with that Hendrick Motorsports team. After failing to win coming into the season with all of the negativity and criticism he faced, he won his first back at Watkins Glen and made a statement in this round with two huge wins at Dover and now Kansas. The team is set up to go contend for a championship and heads to a track where they have had a success at and nearly won last year in this spot before a run-in with the 11 of Denny Hamlin. The No. 9 has all the momentum on his side and it’s going to be hard for the competition to keep him out of the final four.
Here’s how the playoff standings reset heading into the Virgina short-track next Sunday:
- Kyle Busch 4,055 points
- Kevin Harvick 4,054 points
- Martin Truex Jr. 4,038 points
- Chase Elliott 4,018 points
- Clint Bowyer 4,015 points
- Joey Logano 4,015 points
- Kurt Busch 4,015 points
- Aric Almirola 4,006 points