spongebob squarepants 400

‘Split-second’ gamble gives Jimmie Johnson third win of 2015

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Jimmie Johnson drove through Turn 3 of Kansas Speedway during the final caution of Saturday’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400 with less than 10 laps to go, looking in his rear-view mirror at the field behind and waiting to hear the voice of crew chief Chad Knaus.

“Sometimes you can tell what the masses are going to do, if they’re looking at pit road or not,” Johnson said. “Usually Chad gives me some indication early in Turn 3 what he’s going to do, and he didn’t really say much, so I knew he was thinking hard, and I could see most guys were favoring down and trying to find their way onto the apron.”

Finally, Knaus came over the radio and asked Johnson what he wanted to do.

“It just dawned on me,” Johnson said.

The No. 48 Lowes Chevy had won two races already and was locked in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Points didn’t matter.

The team could do something they weren’t used to through many of his 72 previous career wins.

“Man, I feel like gambling,” Johnson replied.

It was a “split-second decision” that kept his car on the track as all but four cars peeled off to pit road and led to career win No. 73.

“At that point I felt like I was pretty lonely and it wasn’t going to work out,” Johnson said. “(Dale Earnhardt Jr.) stayed and I think Chad was trying to be optimistic and fill me full of some sunshine, ‘oh, a few stayed out.’ I only saw one stay out. And then four lined up behind me.”

Those cars that did not pit were Earnhardt, the No. 41 of Kurt Busch and the No. 24 of Jeff Gordon.

“From our standpoint, we were in a unique situation because (Kevin Harvick) and (Martin Truex Jr.) were actually really close on fuel, we were not,” Knaus said. “We were well within our window. So we wanted to stay out.”

Johnson was fortunate not just to be in the position to gamble, but also to be in the race.

Knaus said they made a “significant amount of changes” to the No. 48, which started 19th and survived getting sideways on Lap 6 in Turn 3 as Johnson avoided wrecking into Earnhardt and an early exit. From there Knaus implemented changes to the ride height, chassis, air pressure, and of course, pit calls.

After the last green flag, the final six laps were a carbon copy of the race at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Johnson led the way as Harvick, with a better car on two fresh tires, wheeled his way into the top three to fight Earnhardt for a chance to challenge Johnson. Once Harvick got past Earnhardt, he went after Johnson, but as in Texas, ran out of time.

That left Johnson to run out of gas during his burnout and once in victory lane, awkwardly call his wife Chandra on Face Time in the early hours of Mother’s Day as he celebrated a Sprint Cup record 23rd win on 1.5-mile tracks.

“I thought my wife might have been asleep and then I caught her on Face Time in victory lane,” Johnson said. “She was not so happy to be on face time and other people looking in the phone.”

Despite not having the best car Saturday night, Johnson has claimed four wins in the last seven races at 1.5-mile tracks, with Harvick taking the other three. Now the series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway, a track where Johnson, now third in points, has earned seven career wins in 27 starts.

“I feel like it’s weighted more towards the performance of the car than what the driver does,” Johnson said of Kansas Speedway, where he has three wins. “(At) Texas, Atlanta, some of the tracks where it’s more abrasive, I think it does back into the driver’s hands a little bit more, the way you drive the car, the way you work the tires, you can over abuse them, you can just run the tire off the car there and a lot of the responsibility falls on the driver.

“But on the big tracks, aero, balance, the engine performance, the small details that separate our team from others, that’s where you find that tenth of a second that puts you in the winner’s circle.”

Pit road mistakes define Joey Logano’s top-five run at Kansas Speedway

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At first glance, Joey Logano had a great day in Saturday’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway.

The Daytona 500 champion started from the pole for the fourth time this year and led the first 29 laps. At night’s end, he had recorded a track-record 147 green-flag passes on the way to a fifth-place finish for his sixth top-five through 11 races.

In between those points, it could have been a lot better.

“Passing all those cars was fun but the rest of it we just did a terrible job of executing this race,” Logano said afterward. “We made mistake after mistake.”

Those mistakes came not on the track, but on pit road. The Team Penske driver found himself sent to the back of the field twice, all after a delay of 2 hours and 16 minutes because of rain.

Logano’s first infraction came on Lap 107, but it wasn’t his fault. The team was penalized after the gas man was caught over the wall too soon without his gas can. NASCAR allows a team’s gas man to be over the wall as long as they have a gas can. Logano’s gas man did not.

Then with 81 laps to go, Logano entered pit road before it had opened during a caution.

“(Execution) is usually our strong point,” Logano told Fox Sports 1. “I didn’t even think about looking, just assumed it was open.”

But Logano had a great car. By Lap 201, Logano was 10th. He drove from there to fifth after the final restart with six laps to go. The lowest Logano ever found himself was 36th, but his average running position over the race’s 267 laps was ninth.

“We had a fast race car and that is what saved us,” Logano said. “Execution was not very good tonight and we all just have to raise our game a little bit and understand why we made mistakes and clean it up going forward.”

With is ability to recover from mistakes Logano will enter the All-Star break fourth in the Sprint Cup point standings, 62 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

Unofficial race results, stats and winnings for the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway

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Jimmie Johnson won the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway for his third win of the 2015 Sprint Cup season.

Johnson also won at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. Like his Texas win, Johnson held off Kevin Harvick in second and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. in third. The top five was rounded out by Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano.

Here are the final results for the SpongeBob SquarePants 400:

1. Jimmie Johnson … 267 laps … $243,726

2. Kevin Harvick … 267 laps … $239,300

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 267 laps … $157,225

4. Jeff Gordon … 267 laps … $173,786

5. Joey Logano … 267 laps … $168,933

6. Matt Kenseth … 267 laps … $146,251

7. Brad Keselowski … 267 laps … $144,906

8. Kurt Busch … 267 laps … $110,215

9. Martin Truex Jr. … 267 laps … $122,060

10. Ryan Newman … 267 laps … $126.340

11. Aric Almirola … 267 laps … $130,401

12. Greg Biffle … 267 laps … $123,348

13. Jamie McMurray … 267 laps … $120,106

14. AJ Allmendinger … 267 laps … $120,548

15. Kyle Larson … 267 laps … $121,398

16. Sam Hornish Jr. … 267 laps … $113,410

17. Kasey Kahne … 267 laps … $100,865

18. Paul Menard … 267 laps … $94,465

19. Casey Mears … 266 laps … $110,323

20. Carl Edwards … 266 laps … $83,265

21. Clint Bowyer … 266 laps …  $119,798

22. Austin Dillon … 266 laps … $122,226

23. Michael Annett … 266 laps … $81,590

24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … 266 laps … $92,765

25. Matt DiBenedetto … 266 laps … $95,398

26. Ty Dillon … 266 laps … $95,873

27. Danica Patrick … 265 laps … $91,890

28. Josh Wise … 265 laps … $83,590

29. Landon Cassill … 265 laps … $83,290

30. Justin Allgaier … 265 laps … $102,087

31. Trevor Bayne … 265 laps … $124,415

32. David Gilliland … 263 laps … $90,115

33. David Ragan … 263 laps … $106,629

34. Brett Moffitt … 263 laps … $80,690

35. Cole Whitt … 263 laps … $78,970

36. Michael McDowell … 262 laps … $78,765

37. JJ Yeley … 262 laps … $78,561

38. Joey Gase … 262 laps … $73,402

39. Tony Stewart … 258 laps … $96,544

40. Erik Jones … 242 laps … $110,321

41. Denny Hamlin … 205 laps … $79,330

42. Jeb Burton … 153 laps … $57,330

43. Alex Bowman … 125 laps … $53,830

 

Average Speed: 125.265 MPH

Lead Changes: 16 among 10 drivers

Time of Race: 3 hours, 11 minutes and 50 seconds

Cautions: 9 for 49 laps

Margin of Victory: 0.487 Seconds

Erik Jones’ Sprint Cup debut ends prematurely in single-car wreck at Kansas

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Erik Jones’ official Sprint Cup debut came to a premature ending in Saturday’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Jones, 18, spun out on Lap 196 in a single-car accident and made heavy contact with the outside retaining wall.

“Sorry guys, just lost it,” Jones said over his team radio.

Jones led one lap in the race. He was filling in for the injured Kyle Busch. Joe Gibbs Racing has not said whether Jones will have additional starts in the No. 18 Toyota Camry before Busch returns after recovering from a broken right leg and fractured left foot, suffered in the Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona on Feb. 21.

“I learned a lot about racing upfront and racing these guys,” Jones said later on Fox Sports 1. “I just got loose off 4 and lost it. It’s my fault. I’m ready to do another one. I hope we get a shot at it.”

In Friday’s Toyota Tundra 250 Camping World Truck Series race, he ran out of fuel with five laps remaining while leading, having dominated the race. He led 151 laps in the race, but running out of fuel left him with an 11th-place finish.

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Brad Keselowski leads at halfway in the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway

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Brad Keselowski leads at the halfway point in the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway under caution. Keselowski leads after the race was red flagged for 2 hours and 16 minutes due to rain.

The red flag was displayed on Lap 98 for rain while Martin Truex Jr. led.

Truex has led a race high 61 laps, which exceeds his previous high this season of 23 at Martinsville Speedway.

At halfway, the top 10 is Keselowski, Truex, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano

Logano, the polesitter, was penalized on pit road prior to the red flag when his gas man was caught over the wall too early without his gas can.

Erik Jones, in his first official Sprint Cup start substituting for Kyle Busch in the No. 18,  runs 14th.

The race has been slowed five times for 30 laps by the yellow flag, including post delay caution laps.  Outside of a competition yellow on Lap 25, four incidents occurred on Laps 9, 94, 119 and 130. The first two involved BK Racing cars, as Jeb Burton and JJ Yeley spun out independently of each other on the first and Burton wrecked by himself in the second, which led into the rain delay.

David Ragan spun out and onto the frontstretch grass to bring out the fourth caution and Matt Kenseth spun from a flat tire on Lap 130.