NASCAR

Kansas offered wild chain of events

Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie Johnson hits the Turn 4 wall Sunday at Kansas.
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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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It depends on what fans are really looking for in a race as to whether or not they enjoyed Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Long day's work

Kansas Speedway proves tough for NASCAR teams to manage. PHOTOS

Some fans have been saying that we don’t have enough cautions, we don’t have enough guys banging into one another. If you’re one of those fans, you should feel very fulfilled.

There were 14 cautions, which was a new record for that racetrack, in the 14th time we’ve raced there. It was the most cautions in a NASCAR race in 2012.

About a fourth of the Chase drivers had issues and, honestly, three of them rebounded quite nicely. The only one that didn’t rebound was Greg Biffle, who was running third when he lost it and hit the wall about Lap 154.

Matt Kenseth slapped the wall and comes back to win the race. Tony Stewart had some pit-road issues, spun out with less than 100 laps to go and had to overcome qualifying 33rd and finished fifth. And then, of course, the day that Jimmie Johnson had could definitely be - if they win the championship - a defining day in their championship run.

We had a few guys who had some right front tire issues. There weren’t a lot of them but there were some. The most notable would be a guy that I feel for so much - Aric Almirola. He still doesn’t have his deal signed next year for Richard Petty Motorsports. It looked like he was going to be the guy to beat and obviously he cut two tires down, one most notably late in the race that ended his day.

Even with everything that happened, all the problems that our Chase guys had, when the checkered flag waved, the top two were still separated by only seven points, with Johnson trailing leader Brad Keselowski. Denny Hamlin, third in the standings, had a 13th-place finish and a day full of ups and downs. He lost five points.

Kasey Kahne gained points. With four to go, we now have five drivers separated by only 30 points.

There was a little bit of everything in the race. There was some good side-by-side racing, there was a lot of changing of the guard and then the two drivers that dominated the first half of the race, Johnson and Almirola, both ended up with issues.

A nod to a couple of our non-Chasers, two of which -- Paul Menard and Regan Smith -- finished in the top 10.

Paul has been solid all year long. That was his very first top-five finish of 2012. He got crew chief Slugger Labbe back this week after a six-week suspension. I just see some of our non-Chasers out there, probably the most notable being Regan Smith, who finished seventh after a very dismal 39th place qualifying effort in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 car.

They were fast all weekend. The only weak time they had was when he got bad loose and it walked up the racetrack with him in qualifying. He’s done such a whale of a job sitting in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a very, I’m sure, unusual or uncomfortable situation. I think he had a top-10 run, maybe even a top-five, going in Charlotte. Obviously we’ll never know because the engine let go. Whether that was two and done or if he’s going to be in the car some more, we’ll know more about that this week.

But what a whale of a job that young man has done. Maybe with the word that was going out around the racetrack this week, it may have earned him possibly a full-time ride with JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series in 2012.

But who knows, he’s probably caught the eye of a lot of people in this No. 88 car, showing that “put me in good stuff, I can be competitive.”

Tagged: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Regan Smith

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