Kevin Harvick took victory as the main protagonists in the Chase for the Sprint Cup struggled at the treacherous Kansas Speedway.
Harvick took the win having started on pole, battling through a season-high and track record 15 caution periods, including a bizarre caution for a grass fire outside Turn 1, as drivers fell foul to the new tyre and a recently repaved circuit.
“It was an interesting weekend to say the least,” said Harvick. “Everybody was battling the tyres and the track, and I think it was like driving on a razor blade. I told them yesterday, we’ve just got to try to get some kind of consistency because that was the thing that for me stuck out the most was our lap times; one would be good, one would be bad, one would be good, and that’s always our strong point where you have that nice curve of lap times.”
Harvick was followed across the line by Kurt Busch, who had started the race from the back of the grid alongside brother Kyle, who was involved in two incidents, including a crash which saw Danica Patrick out in the first corner of the 267 lap race.
“The racetrack is the worst racetrack I’ve ever driven on,” said Kyle, who also had a coming together with Juan-Pablo Montoya and dropped to fifth in the standings, 35 points back from the leader. “The tyre is the worst tire I’ve ever driven on. Track position is everything. You can’t do anything unless you’re out front and then you get back in traffic — Kevin Harvick couldn’t pass me and he led the first 80 laps of the race so I would say it was pretty pathetic.”
Fellow title contenders Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth both had issues on pit road, with Johnson almost getting caught out by a debris caution, narrowly missing going a lap down. Kenseth, on the other hand, was handed a speeding penalty and fell down the order. Both drivers worked their way back up the field in a damage limitation cause.
Kenseth battled back to finish eleventh, while Johnson looked to be on for a top five before a vibration in the car caused him to slow and drop down to sixth place. As a result, Kenseth holds on to his lead at the top of the standings, but only holds a three point advantage over Johnson, with Harvick a further 22 points back.
It was a good race for fans of Jeff Gordon, too, who worked his way to a third place finish, despite a slight disagreement on track with Kurt Busch which saw the two have a discussion on pit road after the race. “It’s not a NASCAR race if we don’t have a discussion with another driver about an incident on the track,” said Gordon, who moves up to fourth in the standings, 32 points off Kenseth.
“It was a struggle all day. I have been so incredibly spoiled this year, I haven’t had to drive a car like that in a long time,” concluded championship leader, Kenseth. “It was just so incredibly treacherous. I was so loose, I was about to crash pretty much at all times in the race. “We drove back to 11th, which definitely isn’t what we wanted or need to contend for this thing but it was a good day for as bad as we were.”