Ryan: Blocking brought consequences for Kenseth


KANSAS CITY, Kan. – If rubbing is racing, then blocking is …

Blasphemy? Badass?

Blocking is …

Well, it’s complicated.

There might be no alliterative witticism in the NASCAR vernacular to describe the practice of deliberately impeding another driver’s progress. Yet there is one truism about the maneuver.

It comes with consequences.

The sort that cost Matt Kenseth a victory at Kansas Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was seething Sunday after his No. 20 Toyota was bumped out of the lead – and a guaranteed berth in the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup – by race winner Joey Logano.

The anger was understandable from Kenseth, who is having a career season with five victories and seemed on the way to a sixth after leading a race-high 153 of 269 laps. He was a few minutes from a checkered flag that would shore up a championship bid via playoff advancement after enduring a week of nerves frayed by opening the second round of the playoffs with a 42nd at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In a large plume of white tire smoke, all the elation evaporated and left Kenseth facing the unenviable prospect of a must-win at Talladega Superspeedway to keep his title chances afloat.

Any Sprint Cup star understandably would be upset by those circumstances, and Kenseth fired several razor-sharp digs while subtly vowing retribution.

Yet the ire directed at Logano was misplaced.

The golden rule of racing applies as much as in any walk of life. Do unto others as you would like others to do unto you.

When Kenseth threw a backstretch block that squeezed Logano’s No. 22 Ford into a scrape with the wall at over 190 mph several laps earlier, it established the justification for payback.

As a rule of thumb in racing, you might get to throw one block – and even that ultimately might be determined by whether the driver behind you wants to risk a rear-end collision – but all bets certainly are off after that.

If you continually try to obstruct the path of a faster car and force a competitor to choose between lifting off the accelerator and lifting your rear tires off the asphalt, you increasingly create an untenable set of circumstances.

Should Kenseth have gone for the win at the risk of putting himself in the position for being roughed up? With Talladega looming, it might have seemed the smart play, but he also had refused to label Kansas a win-or-else proposition two days earlier. If he had finished second Sunday, there still might have been a chance to advance with a top five at Talladega (where he finished second last year).

Regardless, Kenseth took his shot at stopping Logano, who unquestionably had the faster car since a restart 15 laps earlier. The first block merely delayed Logano’s charge – and guaranteed there’d be no more dispensation when the opportunity arrived again to challenge for the lead on Lap 263 entering Turn 1.

“I feel like he raced me the same way,” Logano said. “I’d be surprised if he expected something different.  We were just racing hard, and he’s racing for a win, I’m racing for a win. There’s a lot of aggression there, and that’s what our sport is built on.  Our sport is built on stuff like that.”

The old-school argument made by a 25-year-old rising star (who is 18 years Kenseth’s junior) is intriguing because there seems a growing generational divide about the unwritten rules of racing etiquette.

This is the second straight season in which a Team Penske driver has left a champion feeling aggrieved by aggression. Last season, it was Jeff Gordon, 44, who angrily accused Brad Keselowski, 31, of needlessly causing contact while contending for the lead in the closing laps at Texas Motor Speedway.

Sunday’s incident at Kansas wasn’t entirely analogous because the cars weren’t side by side. Logano was behind Kenseth, which added the wrinkle of whether he could have completed a pass for the lead without contact.

Logano said he didn’t mean to turn Kenseth (“we both went for the same piece of real estate”), who countered that it was “absolutely, 100 percent” intentional.

In other words, it was complicated.

That’s blocking.


NASCAR America: Aric Almirola replaces grim Kansas memories with fond ones

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The 2017 crash in the spring Kansas Speedway that seriously injured Aric Almirola and kept him from competing in seven races that season continues to define his career.

“Breaking my back was obviously not in the plan,” Almirola said in an interview on NASCAR America. “I didn’t anticipate ever being injured in a racecar. Everybody always thinks, ‘that’s not going to happen to me.’ ”

But it did and each time Almirola returns to Kansas – like he will Sunday (2 p.m. ET on NBC) – he is met with memories of the accident that will not go away. That’s because his crash continues to be part of the highlight reel for this track as one of its most dramatic moments.

As it turns out, his thoughts about the track have become fond ones.

Later in 2017, Almirola finished ninth in the fall Kansas race after finishing fifth the week before at Talladega. He finished ninth again this spring.

“Something that really stuck out to me there is how his perception has changed,” Parker Kligerman said on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America. “Sometimes you have drivers who ascend to the top very quickly and they don’t have, maybe, a respect for what they’re doing and what they’re getting to do week in and week out. And when they’re … forced to watch the sport from another angle and … just observe, a lot of time they come away being faster, better, more appreciative.”

This week, Almirola goes to the track with an even better feeling after winning last week’s race at Talladega.

For more, watch the video above.

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Kansas Cup race could make elimination era history

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NASCAR is five years into the elimination era of the playoffs and a bit of history could be made with Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

The Cup Series enters the second-round elimination race with five different winners in the first five races.

There has not been six different winners to begin the playoffs since the elimination era began in 2014.

The five winners so far have been Brad Keselowski (Las Vegas), Kyle Busch (Richmond), Ryan Blaney (Charlotte Roval), Chase Elliott (Dover) and Aric Almirola (Talladega).

The last three races have each seen a driver earn their second career Cup win.

This five-race stretch only saw one win by a member of the regular season’s “Big 3” with Busch’s victory.

Martin Truex Jr. has gone 12 races since he last won at Kentucky Speedway. Kevin Harvick is winless in the eight races since his Michigan victory.

But with the arrival of Kansas for the elimination race chances are good to the two drivers could make playoff history.

Harvick claimed the win in the May Kansas race, leading 79 laps from the pole. Three of his seven wins this year have come on 1.5-mile tracks.

If he wins Sunday, Harvick will also continue his six-year streak of winning in the playoffs, which is the longest active streak.

Truex will try to defend his win in this race last year, which completed a sweep of the Kansas races. He also finished second to Harvick in May’s race.

Of Truex’s four wins this season, he has only one on a 1.5-mile track. But of his 12 wins since 2017, eight have come at mile-and-a-half tracks.

“As far as why we’ve been good there (at Kansas) over the years, I’m not sure,” Truex said in a press release. “It’s a place where I really feel comfortable. Have had chances to win multiple races there over the years with different teams even. It was one of the places I was successful at before Furniture Row so for whatever reason it just points towards my driving style and my comfort level, what I like in my race car and it just seems to work out well there.”

MORE: Truex looks to rebound at reliable Kansas

Here are the winners of the first six races in the first four years of the elimination era.


Chicagoland – Brad Keselowski

Loudon – Joey Logano

Dover – Jeff Gordon

Kansas – Joey Logano

Charlotte – Kevin Harvick

Talladega – Brad Keselowski


Chicagoland – Denny Hamlin

New Hampshire – Matt Kenseth

Dover – Kevin Harvick

Charlotte – Joey Logano

Kansas – Joey Logano

Talladega – Joey Logano


Chicagoland – Martin Truex Jr.

New Hampshire – Kevin Harvick

Dover – Martin Truex Jr.

Charlotte – Jimmie Johnson

Kansas – Kevin Harvick

Talladega – Joey Logano


Chicagoland – Martin Truex Jr.

New Hampshire – Kyle Busch

Dover – Kyle Busch

Charlotte  -Martin Truex Jr.

Talladega – Brad Keselowski

Kansas – Martin Truex Jr.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Kansas preview, Pete Pistone

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and gives you a final preview of this weekend’s races at Kansas Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut. They will be joined by SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Pete Pistone.

Tune in to get the latest on Chip Ganassi Racing deciding to appeal the penalty against Kyle Larson‘s team from Talladega.

Also on today’s show:

Aric Almirola had one of the feel good moments of 2018 with his victory last weekend at Talladega. In his own words, Almirola tells the story of how his Kansas crash 17 months ago put him on the road to where he is today.

— As NASCAR America prepares for its 1,000th episode tomorrow, we’ll show you some of the best moments from our first 999 shows. Today, we’ll feature the best of the NBCSN iRacing Simulator. Parker then hops in the sim to show us what challenges await the Playoff drivers at Kansas.

— Carolyn and Parker also reveal their Kansas fantasy picks for this weekend.

Tune in after the show for the latest episode of the “Dale Jr. Download” at 5:30 p.m. ET.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Chip Ganassi Racing appealing Talladega penalties against Kyle Larson’s team

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Chip Ganassi Racing announced Thursday it will appeal the penalties brought against Kyle Larson‘s No. 42 Chevrolet after Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

NASCAR confirmed the appeal will be heard Friday at 8:30 a.m. CT at Kansas Speedway. Here is a primer on how the appeals process works.

During a postrace inspection, NASCAR found that team violated Section 10.9.9.d in the rulebook, which notes: “Damaged vehicle repair, regardless of how the damage occurred, is permitted to have original body parts removed or reattached in their original location with fasteners and/or tape only.”

The L1 penalty, which was announced Wednesday, resulted in Larson losing 10 driver and owner points. His car chief, David Bryant, also was suspended for a race. Crew chief Chad Johnston was fined $25,000.

Chip Ganassi Racing was granted a deferral of Bryant’s suspension. He will be allowed in the Cup garage Friday until a decision has been reached by the appeals commission.

The team issued a statement Thursday afternoon:

“After reviewing the penalty, the rule and the procedure that we used during the race in Talladega, we feel strongly that we did nothing wrong.  Subsequently, we have decided to appeal the penalty.  Despite going through the appeal process, we will do everything in our power to keep our team focused on the race this weekend in Kansas and the balance of the season.”

With the loss of 10 driver points, Larson will enter Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC) 11th in the standings and 36 points back from the cutoff spot to advance to the Round of 8.

With or without the penalty, the race still is essentially must-win for Larson.