The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series traveled to Kansas Speedway for the Go Bowling 400. Martin Truex Jr., who came so close to winning at Kansas in 2016 before a loose tire ended his prospects, redeemed himself at the track as he led a race-high 103 laps to win the 2017 race.
Ryan Blaney won the pole, the first for Wood Brothers Racing since Ricky Rudd did so for the 2004 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. He led the first nine laps before Truex passed him. On lap 30, the first caution of the day came out for Landon Cassill, who hit the turn one wall. The green flag waved five laps later with Truex as the leader until lap 50, when Cassill hit the wall again to bring out another caution. During pit stops, Chase Elliott exited his pit box as Michael McDowell entered his, causing the former to clip the latter, spinning the #95.
Green flag racing resumed on lap 55 as Kevin Harvick decided to stay out, becoming the leader. On lap 59, Ty Dillon got loose after the air between him and the nearby Erik Jones was disrupted, causing him to spin. The restart came on lap 63 with Harvick the leader, though Kyle Busch passed him a lap later as Harvick started to fall. Busch went on to win the stage, his first stage victory since he won Stage #1 at February’s Daytona 500. Behind Truex were Blaney, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch.
The second stage began on lap 88 with Busch as the leader. On lap 96, Jones spun to bring out a caution. Lap 100 saw the waving of the green flag as Johnson began to fall off pace. A lap later, Johnson blew a tire and caused a debris caution. The restart took place on lap 105; shortly after, Kurt Busch brushed the wall, though no caution came out. On lap 137, Corey LaJoie hit the wall and produced a caution. Clint Bowyer stayed out for the restart on lap 143, becoming the leader. However, Blaney quickly passed him. On lap 147, LaJoie’s teammate, Gray Gaulding, blew a tire and hit the wall, causing another yellow flag. Another restart came with eight laps to go in the stage as Blaney held on to win. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Larson, Truex, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jones and Joey Logano.
Stage #3 began on lap 167 with Blaney continuing to be the leader. Truex caught up to the #21 and made the pass on lap 179. On lap 194, A.J. Allmendinger and Paul Menard made contact in the wall to bring out another caution. The restart happened on lap 198, though green flag racing lasted only two laps.
On lap 200, a brake rotor broke in Logano’s car as he entered turn one, causing him to spin into Danica Patrick. The two cars slammed into the wall and caught fire, destroying Patrick’s front end as she slid into Logano. Aric Almirola slid as he attempted to avoid the wreck, crashing into Logano and causing his car to go airborne in a flurry of sparks.
Although Logano and Patrick were uninjured and were able to walk away, Almirola remained in the car as track workers approached his car. Unable to extract him through his window, workers removed the roof of his car and pulled from from there. Upon being removed from his car, Almirola was placed on a Kendrick Extrication Device (KED) and backboard before being taken to an ambulance. Though he was awake and alert, Almirola reported that he broke his back, and was taken to the University of Kansas Medical Center by helicopter. He remained at the hospital overnight for examination, while NASCAR claimed his #43 car for evaluation.
“I’m okay, I’m just saying prayers for Aric right now,” Logano stated. “A lot of us took a hard hit. Something broke on my car. I don’t know what it was. It’s hard to check up. The car just took a big step sideways into the corner. I hooked Danica, and I don’t know what happened. Everyone pray for Aric right now.”
“I hope Aric’s okay,” Patrick commented. “He definitely is feeling the worst of everybody. NASCAR has done everything they can to make our cars as safe as possible, but things happen. And his car looked the least damaged of all of ours.”
NASCAR put out the red flag to allow the track to be cleaned up, lasting 27 minutes, 41 seconds before the yellow flag was flown.
The green flag came out on lap 204. On lap 216, Jones went wide and got loose in turn two, spinning to bring out the caution. Another restart took place on lap 220 with Blaney continuing to lead, though Truex took the lead with 25 to go. A lap later, LaJoie hit the wall, forcing another yellow flag.
Another restart came with 19 to go as Truex was shuffled back to 3rd, restarting behind Blaney. Truex followed Blaney onto the apron before making his move, driving up the groove and passing him for the lead. With eight laps to go, Jones was involved in yet another caution when he was clipped by Ty Dillon, spinning him into the infield.
The restart took place with five laps to go, though it lasted only a few seconds: Johnson went onto the apron before moving up. As he came up, Hamlin hit Kurt Busch, who collided with Johnson and spun him into the infield, causing the 15th caution of the race. The final restart occurred with two laps remaining and Truex and Blaney comprising the front row. Truex easily pulled away to win his ninth career race, second of the season, the eighth of Furniture Row Racing and the seventh shared between the two. After the finish, Austin Dillon hit the wall. He went on to finish 16th.
Keselowski finished 2nd, followed by Harvick, Blaney, Kyle Busch, Larson, Daniel Suárez, McMurray, Bowyer and Bayne. Carl Long, running his first Cup Series race since 2006, finished 31st. Six drivers failed to finish the race: Menard, Patrick, Logano and Almirola were involved in crashes, while Derrike Cope and Ryan Newman suffered engine failures.
“These races are so hard to win,” Truex said. “Any of these restarts, you never know what can happen. We won the Southern 500 with this car and now here. It’s just amazing, it’s awesome.”
Next week, Charlotte Motor Speedway will host its annual Monster Energy All-Star Race, with the next points race being Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600 on May 28.
Race results (courtesy of Racing-Reference)
Featured image courtesy of @NASCAR