Alex Bowman has to be wondering what he has to do to win a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has finished runner-up in each of the last two weeks leading up to Saturday’s Digital Ally 400 at the Kansas Speedway. Unlike the previous two weeks, this time Bowman was leading when it counted the most. Instead of being the hunter, he was the hunted.
Bowman, led 63 of 271 laps on Saturday night and had his No. 88 Chevrolet out front in the closing laps. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t get enough distance on the field in the end and Brad Keselowski not only caught him, he passed him for the lead with six laps remaining in regulation.
Keselowski, checked out while Bowman tried his best to hold off the rest of the field. Then, he got lucky and received a break via a caution when Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 95 Toyota was smoking on the 1.5-mile track.
The field was bunched up again.
Instead of a wild restart like we expected, Keselowski pulled away and cruised to his 30th career Cup Series victory and second at Kansas. The win was much needed as it was Keselowski’s first top five finish since his win on March 24 at Martinsville and just his second top five finish at Kansas since 2012.
Still, his No. 2 Ford was dialed in for the final laps as he led 12 laps overall on Saturday.
Brad Keselowski bests Alex Bowman during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 11, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas.
Bowman, had to settle for a third straight second place finish. He had zero top 10 finishes on the season prior to that. He said after the race that this second place run hurts. He thought he’d win this race.
Erik Jones finished third in his No. 20 Toyota. It was his third straight top seen finish at Kansas and his second straight top 10 on the year.
Chase Elliott earned his third straight top five finish on the season with a fourth place run in his No. 9 Chevrolet. Elliott, now has three top four finishes in his last four starts at Kansas. He led 45 laps out front on Saturday.
Clint Bowyer rounded out the top five in his No. 14 Ford in earning his sixth top 10 finishes in his last seven starts on the year. The only finish outside the top 10 in this span was at Talladega.
Several big named drivers had problems in the final stage.
Martin Truex Jr. had too many crew members over the wall on his stop between the second and third stages and he could never make up for it in a disappointing 19th place run. He swept both races in 2017 and finished second and fifth respectively at Kansas last year. Furthermore, he led 95 laps in the spring race in 2015 followed by 172, 104 and 13 the last three years in this race respectively. Truex, led zero laps tonight.
His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate of Kyle Busch went through too many pit stalls on the Lap 217 caution period and had to restart at the end of the lead lap. He would charge back through the field but had contact late in the race and was forced for an unscheduled pit stop. His top 10’s streak comes to an end as he finished three laps down in 30th.
Then there was Kevin Harvick. He won this race in dominating fashion last year after leading 79 laps. He also led 76 laps in the fall race at Kansas. On Saturday, he led a race high 105 laps but hit pit road with less than 88 laps left after he developed a vibration. Harvick, thought that he had a loose wheel and brought his No. 4 Ford down pit lane as a result. Unfortunately, his crew never found anything wrong. Harvick, would finish 13th as a result.
Penske Saturday Sweep
Team Penske won both major races on Saturday. First, Simon Pagenaud won in his No. 22 Chevrolet for Penske in the NTT IndyCar Series at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the INDYCAR Grand Prix earlier on in the day. Then, Keselowski caps the night off win a win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in his No. 2 Ford for Penske.
It was a perfect day for one of the best teams in all of racing.
While Penske was celebrating, another Penske team was down. Ryan Blaney finished 32nd on Saturday for his fourth straight result of 15th or worse. In fact, he’s finished outside the top 15 in eight of the 12 races in 2019. After Kansas being one of his better tracks, to finish this bad is worth noting.
Hamlin Slumping Too
After a start to the season in which Denny Hamlin had nine straight top 11 finishes including heading to Talladega on the heels of six straight top seven’s he’s since finished 36th, 21st and now 16th.
Hamlin, was involved in a crash on Lap 10 at Talladega. He struggled in Dover. Then, he spun early on in Saturday night’s race and never made up for it. Hamlin, leaves Kansas with his fifth finish of 14th or worse in his last six Kansas starts.
Kyle Busch during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 11, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas.
Top Favorites All Make Mistakes
Heading into the weekend, Kyle Busch (+400), Martin Truex Jr. (+600) and Kevin Harvick (+750) were the three favorites to win Saturday’s race. Rightfully so too. Busch, had eight straight top 10 finishes at Kansas, six of which in the top five, to go along with 11 straight top 10 finishes to start the season of with.
Truex, had won two of the past three races and had finished in the top five in each of his last four starts at Kansas, three of which being in the top two.
Harvick, was the defending race winner and had led 70+ laps in both races at Kansas in 2018.
Instead, all three made those crucial mistakes as stated above. That was rare. Now, all three will try to regroup and dominate at Charlotte.
Kevin Harvick leads during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 11, 2019 in Kansas City, Kansas.
Rough Ending Of Weekend For SHR
Heading into Saturday’s race, Stewart-Haas Racing looked like the clear cut favorites. They haven’t won now in 12 straight races as they have to leave Kansas wondering what might have been.
It all started in inspection on Saturday afternoon. They had thought that they started 1-2-3-4. Instead, half of them failed inspection and had to go to the back.
I mean, at this point last year, SHR was coming off of their sixth win in 12 races.
Heading into Mothers Day a year ago, they’ve won literally half the races. This year, they’ve been shutout.
Also there’s this, heading into this weekend, they haven’t won a single race in NASCAR’s premiere series since last November at Texas and even that car was found to be illegal. Their last win for a car that passed inspection was the Talladega race last October. Their last legal win not on a superspeedway came at Michigan on Aug. 12. Prior to that, their win before the August Michigan win was at the June Michigan race.
Their last win away from a superspeedway or a 2-mile high speed oval was at this very race track a year ago.
You can see how far they’ve fallen since they left Kansas last May.
Harvick, was quickest in both practice sessions on the 10 lap averages and also being ninth and fourth respectively on single lap runs. The speed was there again. He even led a race high 105 of 271 laps too. But, he made that costly error and pit when nothing was actually wrong. He finished 13th.
Aric Almirola should have been tough too. He finished ninth in the Fall race of 2017 with RPM. He was also ninth and 10th respectively in the two races a year ago as well. In practice, he was first and ninth respectively on single lap runs and second in final practice on the 10 lap average chart. But, after starting 2019 off with a top 10 in six of the first seven races, over the last five, he’s finished 37th, 23rd, ninth, 16th and 12th respectively respectively.
Daniel Suarez never really was a factor and finished 14th.
Clint Bowyer held the candle for them as he was second and third on single lap runs in practice and third on the 10 lap averages in final practice. He was their top finisher in fifth for his sixth top 10 finish in his last seven starts on the year.
5-12-13-14 is now how they thought they’d fare this weekend.
Hendrick Motorsports Shines Again
Alex Bowman may have been close to winning again, but reality of the story is, he’s a contender now. Saturday was his third straight runner-up after leading 63 laps. He was 10th and second respectively on single lap runs in practice and seventh on the 10 lap average. He qualified 10th for the race.
Chase Elliott led 45 laps and finished fourth for his third straight top five finish on the season. For a while, it looked like Bowman and Elliott would finish in the top two for the second time in three weeks. Still, they each got top fives for a third straight week.
Elliott, was sixth in final practice in both single lap and 10 lap averages.
Jimmie Johnson finished sixth in his No. 48 Chevrolet to five HMS half of the top six finishers. Johnson was sixth and 10th respectively in practice and earned his first top 10 finish since 2016. In a span of nine years (2007 through 2016), Johnson had 14 top 10 finishes in 16 tries at Kansas. He was 24th, 11th, 19th and 22nd respectively in the last two years. Now, he gets up to sixth again.
William Byron looked racy early and even led four laps but he finished a disappointing 20th.
Still, HMS looks like they’re back.
Tyler Reddick Beats RCR Teammates
He was making just his second career Cup Series starts and here Reddick is beating his two full time Richard Childress Racing teammates on Saturday. Reddick, finished ninth in his No. 31 Chevrolet while Austin Dillon (17th) and Daniel Hemric (18th) each finished one lap off pace.
That’s eye opening.
Digital Ally 400 Results
17 Stenhouse Jr.
22 Logano -1
11 Hamlin -1
3 ADillon -1
8 Hemric R -1
19 Truex Jr. -1
24 Byron -1
36 Tifft R-1
32 LaJoie -1
6 Newman -2
21 Menard -2
47 Preece R -2
34 McDowell -2
38 Ragan -2
13 TDillon -2
43 Wallace Jr. -2
18 KyBusch -3
15 Chastain -3
12 Blaney -7
52 Currey -8
77 Houff -8
27 Sorenson -9
95 DiBenedetto -9
00 Cassill -10
46 Gase -13
66 Hill -14
51 Ware -26