KC Masterpiece 400

NASCAR executive addresses Kyle Larson’s rear window issue at Kansas

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Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, has cast doubt on Kyle Larson‘s claim that his rear window was sagging after Saturday’s Cup race due to race damage.

“We see claims of damage, but I think in talking to our folks, I’ve never seen damage cause that,” O’Donnell said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.” “We’ll go back like we always do and thoroughly inspect the car. It’s an area we continue to focus on because the teams know that they found something there and if we have to react, we will, but again, still looking at it.”

Extra attention was paid to Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet following the race at Kansas Speedway. An official kept watch over it on pit road, and it was taken to the R&D Center for additional scrutiny.

The rear window appeared to be sagging, which Larson attributed to damage from an incident with Ryan Blaney with 20 laps to go.

“Definitely (from the damage) because I didn’t have it until after Blaney and I got together, so I’m glad to see that we have a lot of damage back there,” Larson told FS1 after finishing fourth. “Because obviously if there was no damage, we’d probably get a penalty, and who knows we might still, but I got a ton of damage back there.

“These cars are pretty rigid, and one piece of damage can affect the whole rest of the car as you can see, so we’ll see what NASCAR says about it, but I think it’s pretty obvious we have a ton of damage back there.”

NASCAR has issued four penalties for rear window violations this season: Kevin Harvick’s team after a Las Vegas win; Chase Elliott’s team after an 11th at Texas; and Daniel Suarez and Clint Bowyer each lost their car chiefs for two races because of rear window support brace failures at Dover.

O’Donnell was asked about the possibility of news later in the week about Larson’s car.

“I think there’s certainly something you can look for,” O’Donnell said. “With the race teams, no different than rear skew in the past where it was an area teams found that they could work on. Suddenly, it’s become the rear window area.”

NASCAR executive: Teams not getting through inspection ‘frustrating’

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Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president and chief racing development officer for NASCAR, called the pattern of teams not getting cars through inspection “frustrating” for the sanctioning body.

Appearing on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” Monday morning, O’Donnell addressed the issue after a weekend where six teams were unable to make qualifying attempts for the Cup race at Kansas Speedway due to not passing inspection in time.

Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto, Kasey Kahne, Timmy Hill and Michael McDowell did not make qualifying attempts and started from the rear of the field.

The teams of Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray had to scramble to get their cars on the track with less than two minutes left in Round 1.

“It’s really a frustrating topic for us,” O’Donnell said. “You’ve heard me come on and say we’ve got the most talented engineers in the world working on the race cars and we believe that. And it’s certainly frustrating because it is on the teams to present their cars for inspection.”

O’Donnell compared the inspection issue to a hypothetical scenario in baseball.

“It’s become really the equivalent of a Kris Bryant (Chicago Cubs third baseman) coming to the plate with a bat you can’t use,” O’Donnell said. “The umpire says ‘you can’t use that,’ comes back with a bat you can’t use, the umpire says it again and then the third time says ‘you can’t make your plate appearance.’ Then the batter runs to the media and says, ‘I can’t believe they did this.’ At some point it’s frustrating on our end and at some point we’ve got to get the teams to be able to show up and get through tech inspection. It’s the same every week and it’s one of those things that most teams are able to do it.”

O’Donnell said NASCAR needs to “streamline” the process “somehow” and work with teams to ensure “we’re getting everybody out there, that’s what the fans pay to see and that’s what we collectively should want to do as an industry.”

Two weeks ago at Dover, pole-sitter Kyle Larson was one of three drivers who had to start from the rear for issues in pre-race inspection. The car chiefs for Larson and Alex Bowman were ejected from the event for their cars failing inspection three times.

O’Donnell was asked if NASCAR could increase penalties to further deter teams from going over the line.

“We feel like we’ve done that. It hasn’t seemed to work,” O’Donnell said. “I think we’ll go back and just look at it collectively and continue to focus on the teams that are doing it right and really make that be the narrative and continue to do so. Where we can make an adjustment we certainly will. Last thing we want to do you know is penalize any team. We don’t want that to be the narrative. We want the narrative to be around the race product.”

Matt Kenseth’s season debut ends in crash

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Matt Kenseth was a man of few words during his first Cup start of 2018.

When he did speak up over his team’s radio, he didn’t have many good things to say about Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 Ford.

On Lap 18, the chassis was “too tight.”

Three laps later, it was “pretty much undrivable.”

After the completion of the first stage, which Kenseth finished in 25th, one lap down, there was “something major fundamentally wrong.”

It never got better, as the 2003 Cup champion was eliminated in a seven-car wreck 13 laps from the finish.

Kenseth’s first Cup start since November ended with him stuck in the infield grass and a 36th-place finish.

“Freaking four laps down and we wreck, you’ve got to be (expletive) me,” Kenseth said on his radio.

“I don’t have any idea what happened with the wreck,” Kenseth later said after getting out of the car. “I just saw everybody wrecking and the track was kind of blocked, so I tried to get down towards the grass. This grass is not the new friendly grass, with the rain and all it just kind of dug in and then I just hit the car in front of me.”

It was end of a very rough debut for Kenseth, who will split time in Roush Fenway Raicng’s No. 6 Ford the rest of the year with Trevor Bayne. He will compete in the next four races, including next weekend’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Earlier this week, Kenseth told NASCAR America he hoped for a smooth Friday that would transition into Saturday.

On Friday, Kenseth missed out on a large chunk of practice time as his team struggled to get the car through inspection. Hours later, Kenseth was among six drivers left unable to make qualifying attempts when their cars didn’t get through inspection before the end of Round 1.

Kenseth started the race in 35th.

His result was his worst finish since his last visit to Kansas in the fall, when he placed 37th after a wreck and was eliminated from playoff contention.

“I expected us to be a little more competitive than that, so it was a really tough weekend all around,” Kenseth said. “We obviously have some work to do. The good news is it’s got to get better.”

Martin Truex Jr. comes two laps short in bid for third Kansas win

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It was a familiar sight in the closing laps of the Saturday night’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr.‘s No. 78 Toyota leading the field, seemingly on his way to another win on a 1.5-mile track.

“I thought with five to go were going to be in good shape,” Truex said.

Then “the switch flipped.”

“I got tight and started shaking the right front tire and I knew I was in trouble,” Truex said.

Very quickly, the No. 4 Ford of Kevin Harvick bore down on him.

“We had been so tight all night and I didn’t know where to go once he was getting there,” Truex told Fox Sports 1. “If I go to the top, he’s just going to catch me on the bottom. I might as well run where I feel I can run the fastest, and I did and it just wasn’t enough.”

On four fresher tires, Harvick took the lead and led the final two laps.

Last year, on his way to winning the title, Truex won a series-record seven races at 1.5-mile tracks. But the tide began to shift in November at Texas Motor Speedway when Harvick passed Truex with 10 laps to go and claimed the win.

Since then, Harvick’s won four of six races on 1.5-mile tracks.

“We’re going to have to find something,” Truex said in his post-race conference. “We’re going to have to find some speed, and I think our cars are capable.  We’ve had good speed throughout the season at points.  We just haven’t been as consistent as last year in finding it.  I feel like the box for us is a little bit smaller.

Truex then deadpanned, “It’s pretty evident that the Fords have an unfair advantage this year, so I’ll just throw that out there.”

Truex’s remark prompted an exchange with third-place finisher Joey Logano, who drives a Ford for Team Penske.

Logano: Boy have the tides turned and you don’t like it.

Truex: How does it feel?

Logano: “How does it feel? Not as good as the 4, I can tell you that much. (laughs). I’m still chasing a car that’s way faster then me. It used to be the 78, now it’s the 4 at this point.

Truex had entered the race seeking a third consecutive win at Kansas Speedway after sweeping the track’s events last year.

The No. 78 team was coming off a rough stretch of races after its win at Auto Club Speedway in March. Prior to finishing fourth at Dover last week, Truex hadn’t finished better than 14th in the previous four races.

After qualifying seventh but not having a presence in the top 10 for much of the race Saturday, Truex took the lead on a Lap 253 restart after electing to not pit. He kept it through another restart, leading 13 laps before Harvick passed him.

“I think the last couple years we’ve both ran up front a lot,” Truex said of him and Harvick. “I wish I was first tonight.  I don’t know who’s got the better of the firsts in the one‑two finishes between the both of us, but for me, it’s kind of really cool feather in the cap to be racing with Kevin and his team for wins and consistently running up front with those guys.  They’re really good at what they do.  I feel like since him and (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) got together in 2014, they’ve been consistently one of the guys to beat year in and year out.  Anytime you’re out there racing with these guys fighting for wins, battling it out, that’s where you want to be.  They’re a stout group. …

“They’re hitting on all cylinders.  They’ve got a great balanced race car and they’re doing all the right things.  I feel like we’re just a step behind that.”

What drivers said after Kansas Cup race

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Kevin Harvick – Winner: “Well, I think this weekend shows really how good the race team is. Everything didn’t go exactly smooth, and everybody just kept a good demeanor about things and kept calm and kept working through things. The same thing tonight. Everybody just kept working through trying to make the car better, and we were able to wind up in Victory Lane. Those are the days that you just grind it out.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 2nd: “I thought we were going to be all right there. Like three or four to go, my car just got real tight, and I chattered the right front off of turn four, and I was like, ‘Oh boy, that’s not good.’ We had been so tight all night and I didn’t know where to go once he was getting there. If I go to the top, he’s just going to catch me on the bottom. I might as well run where I feel I can run the fastest, and I did and it just wasn’t enough. Good strategy call by Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and overall, just a hell of an effort by everybody on our team. We had to fight hard. We were awful at the start of the race. We’re missing something right now, just can’t get the thing turned, so we felt tight all night long. Got better for sure the last three or four runs of the race but still have to find some turns. We’ll get to work on that.”

Joey Logano – Finished 3rd: “I really just had two bad restarts in a row, which is frustrating to me. As the leader, I feel like I probably took the wrong lane, which cost me the lead in the first place and then the last time I was trying to time him on the bottom, and he just read it really well and kind of stopped me, and then I spun the tires after that. The car behind me wasn’t the best of pushers. He wanted to win the race, too, and I don’t blame him. He’s not my teammate. He’s there to win, too. I just hate being that close. It’s a great run for AAA and Team Penske, but when you’re that close to winning it’s pretty frustrating as a driver and probably as a team we’re all probably a little frustrated right now.”

Kyle Larson -Finished 4th: “Yeah, we just had a really good car tonight. Our Clover Chevy was fast. I always run pretty good here at Kansas, so it was nice to lead some laps. I thought we were going to have a really good shot to win there, and Kevin (Harvick) was able to get to my outside. And then, I was tight in traffic there. Yeah, then (Ryan) Blaney was side-drafting really hard and I was as high as I could get and we made contact, whatever, and we had a bunch of damage, so I hate that we didn’t turn today into a win, but it’s satisfying to see how much speed our car had tonight. And, it’s definitely good to show that Chevy has a lot of speed, at least in the No. 42 team; so, we’ll just keep working hard and try to get as fast as the No. 4. I thought, myself, the No. 4 and the No. 12 were all pretty equal tonight. It was kind of just whoever got out in clean air and could get to the top quick enough would be the fastest throughout the run. So, it was a fun race but a little bit disappointing there in the last 20 laps.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished 5th: “I thought it was average. It felt balanced on the short run, and I lost the balance there toward the middle and end of the race. We optimized our finish. I certainly don’t think we had a fifth-place car, but we just did a good job with the track position there. Got a good finish out of it.”

Paul Menard – Finished 6th: “We had a good car all weekend. We made some good adjustments coming into tonight and kept working on it all night long. The track changed a lot as the sun went down. We kind of saved our best for last, I guess. We had a couple cars crash in front of us. We avoided it and the further up you can restart the better off you can stay up there and the more likely you are to stay up there, so clean air was everything tonight.”

Erik Jones – Finished 7th: “We had a really good car. Our Reser’s Camry was about a seventh-place car, and that’s where we ended up. We have to keep working. We’re getting close. There are some other teams that have some more speed right now and we’re trying to close the gap on them. We have to keep working on that and hopefully find our way to get there sooner rather than later.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 10th: “We were just a little off all weekend. But even though we were, we were able to run up near the front with our M&M’S Caramel Camry. We just ended up getting back in traffic there on the last couple of restarts and dropped too far down. We’ll go back and hopefully figure out where we are off, learn from it and move onto the next one.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 11th: “Overall, we were pretty much an 18th-place car all day. Our Ford wasn’t affected by any of the adjustments we were making, but with pit strategy and late-race cautions we were able to salvage an 11th-place finish. Not a bad points day. We’ll go back to the shop and keep working on our cars.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 12th: “Yeah, just scratching and clawing to run mediocre. We have a lot of work to do.”

David Ragan – Finished 13th: “We made good adjustments Saturday night to start the race and I felt like our car was OK the first run, and then we made a good improvement that first pit stop, so that really helped us stay on the lead lap a little bit longer, and then we just caught a couple of lucky breaks at the end, but we were just good enough that we could take advantage of those lucky breaks. I feel like we’ve made some more progress with our 1.5-mile cars. It was a fun race. We still have some more improvement we can do, but it was fun to race there with some good cars.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 15th: “It was a solid run. All weekend long it was just not our weekend. We had tech issues and didn’t get to qualify. We started in the back and got up through there pretty good, but then kind of stalled out. We got wrecked there. I was trying to get us up in the top five and got wrecked there. That’s just part of it I guess.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 16th: “It was a hard-fought night for sure. We didn’t have a good Friday, so made kind of wholesale changes on it. Fortunately, Chris (Buescher) was really good all weekend, so we kind used a little bit of his, and that helped. Just kind of all day, I could be loose or tight, just felt like I was at a certain speed, and that was about as good as I was going to go there. The track definitely changed a lot. I thought we fought hard. I did everything I could on the restart there to get all the spots and a little fortunate from a couple of cars falling out. We salvaged a decent night from a tough weekend and hopefully just learn from this and keep going the right direction and try to make it better.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 17th: “We had a challenging night at Kansas Speedway as we battled a lack of grip and handling issues, but I am proud of this Richard Childress Racing team because they never give up. We hit a snag in the race during a green flag pit stop. Our car was gurgling in the middle of three and four and I panicked. I came down pit road too abruptly and earned us a commitment line violation. We could have made it another lap and we ended up multiple laps down. We kept digging and we were able to earn back one of our laps when the caution came out with 30 laps remaining but didn’t have enough laps left in the race to get back on the lead lap.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 20th: “It’s good to get some points and get some momentum back of just finishing races. We just started out really loose and got behind a little bit and made good changes at the end, but by then we were two laps down, and it’s just hard to make up. Everybody fought hard, and it’s still good to get a top 20. I’m really happy for my teammate, David Ragan, top 15. That’s a great run for them, and they’ve been having a good streak. That’s not what we hoped for, but all in all an OK day.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 30th: “We were just an innocent bystander really. They crashed kind of underneath me, in front of me and just got all wadded up. I mean I had no place to go. It’s just unfortunate, kind of a ho-hum race I guess you could say for so long and then to get 14 laps from the end and tear up a bunch of cars like that just kind of sucks.”

William Byron – Finished 33rd: “Yeah, that one hurt really bad. But I’m fine. We took two tires there and couldn’t get it turned on the bottom and then got sucked around at the last minute. It just should have been lower than that. Just couldn’t rotate. Couldn’t cut. I think overall, we were trying to kind of push some things there and it just didn’t work out. But, we’re going to wherever is next and that was definitely the hardest hit I’ve been in. But, I’m thankful to be walking, so that’s good.”

Chris Buescher: – Finished 34th: “It was pushing and shoving (on a) late-race restart, and everybody gets impatient so just wadded up a bunch of cars. I thought we had cleared it, and we were in the grass and just had somebody come from the top and wipe us out. Not what we wanted with our Breyers 2 N 1 Camaro. We had good speed in the sun, and the sun went down, and we lost a little something. We were working hard to get it back and trying to be fighting for the lucky dog there, and we were for a long time. We just got swiped and something that who knows, I haven’t seen a replay. I don’t know. I’m sure just uncalled for.”

Matt Kenseth – Finished 36th: “I expected us to be a little more competitive than that, so it was a really tough weekend all around. We obviously have some work to do. The good news is it’s got to get better.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 37th: “I don’t know. It was hard racing. I definitely take the blame on that one. I was just trying to side draft hard and the car was kind of light down the frontstretch there and it was just hard racing at the end. I got about spun out in one and two on the restart, getting sucked around. We were making some spots back up and just trying to get back up to the front and tried too hard. That stinks. We had a really fast race car and I hate it for REV. The two races they’ve been on our car this year and we’ve led a bunch of laps in both of them and ended up wrecked. I wish we could get over that hump, but I thought we made a good gain tonight and where our cars need to be. Hopefully, we can carry that forward into the next upcoming weeks, but it was definitely my fault just trying too hard. I made contact and it cut my right-front down. I hate I got the 42, but it was just hard racing.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 38th: “This weekend was a rough one for our Twisted Tea team. From the moment we hit the track for practice and throughout the entire race, we struggled with our Camaro ZL1. Then we got caught up in the wreck at the end. I tried to avoid it, but drove in the grass and knocked the radiator out of it. Tough ending for our Germain Racing team, but we will go back to the shop and continue to push to make our cars better.”