Entering the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, the points were extremely tight from 3rd place to 6th. There was no margin for error going into the Kansas race, yet there were more errors this week than last week at Texas. Kyle Busch hit the wall twice, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin hit the wall at least once, Ryan Blaney scrubbed the wall one time and slammed it another, ending his day early. Even runner-up finisher Chase Elliott got into the wall several times while catching eventual winner Kyle Larson.
The points now are totally out of whack. The driver with the most considerable advantage without a win, Ryan Blaney, had a +17 advantage going into Kansas, now sits a point below the cut line heading to Martinsville. Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano believed going into Kansas that they had to win to advance, but Truex is just -3 points, and Logano is now just -26 points below the cut line, meaning a solid stage points day could put them right back in it without a win. Logano defied all odds this weekend by putting 17 points into the deficit while not finishing in the top 5.
Heading to the slowest, most challenging place to pass on the schedule presents a danger for anyone except Kyle Larson. Even Elliott and Hamlin are not safe, with 34 and 32 point leads, respectively. That, to me, is the beauty of stage racing. NASCAR added a way to score points without getting the finish you needed at the drop of the checkered flag. Throw all of that out the window, and try to focus on the history at Martinsville. We have seen some big-time bumps and runs here in recent history that had to happen to advance.
I will stick with my guns here, as I picked Larson and Elliott to take on Hamlin and Busch at Phoenix for the title. All I need to get all four correct is for the top 3 in points to run smooth and mistake-free, and Kyle Busch to get some early-stage points and force the rest of the field to drive harder than they should and force some mistakes. I think Denny Hamlin wins the race, but the four I mentioned all make it in. Ryan Blaney was never my pick. I know that a lot think he is ready for that jump, but he is the third-best driver at Penske, and I don’t think any of them have run well enough this year to take on the Hendrick or Joe Gibbs guys in a winner take all situation. Get some popcorn ready. This Sunday is going to be a knee slapper!
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