Winners and Losers from Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway
Joe and J.D. Gibbs may be upset that three of their team's race cars were torn up in wrecks in Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway, but any frustration was quickly erased when Matt Kenseth crossed the finish line with his second win of the season for Joe Gibbs Racing.
On the flip side, Kenseth's teammate, Kyle Busch, had a terrible day, finishing 38th.
Other drivers in the race also having less-than-stellar outings included Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Such is the story of this week's winners and losers in the Sprint Cup circuit.
While Kenseth will likely have a smile on his face for the next few days, perhaps the best thing to say for the drivers who struggled Sunday is they're not in Kansas anymore (at least until this fall during the Chase for the Sprint Cup race there).
Winners: Matt Kenseth
Kenseth picked up where he left off the last time at Kansas, winning his second consecutive start there in Sunday's STP 400 (the other win being last fall there in one of his last races for Roush Fenway Racing).
Kenseth not only earned the pole—an oddity for someone who is typically not a great qualifier—but he dominated Sunday's race, leading 163 of the event's 267 laps.
He also climbed two spots in the standings after the race, from 10th to eighth.
What's more, it's the third straight race this season where the pole-sitter has gone on to win the race, as well.
And Joe Gibbs Racing has now won four of the first eight races—two of those wins coming from Kenseth.
Winners: Kasey Kahne
Kahne gave Matt Kenseth all he could handle in the closing laps, but he just couldn't seal the deal and overtake Kenseth for the win.
Still, Kahne has nothing to be ashamed about: He now has one win, two runner-up finishes and two other top-five showings.
But perhaps the best thing of all: Kahne jumped five positions, up to second in the Sprint Cup standings after Sunday's race, which is the highest he's ever ranked in his Cup career.
Winners: Clint Bowyer
Bowyer continues to be in search of his first career Cup win at his "home" racetrack, having grown up in Emporia, Kan.
Still, a fifth-place finish Sunday is something Bowyer and team owner Michael Waltrip have to be happy about.
If there's one negative to such a good finish, Bowyer still fell one spot in the standings, from eighth to ninth.
Also, one must wonder if Bowyer will continue a trend that he's shown throughout this season, where he has a good race followed by a bad race.
Consider: After finishing sixth at Phoenix, he was 27th at Las Vegas. After finishing fifth at Bristol, he finished a season-low 35th at Fontana. After finishing runner-up at Martinsville, he was 15th at Texas last week.
So will Bowyer's fifth-place finish Sunday at Kansas mean another down showing this coming Saturday at Richmond, a track he's won at before?
Time will tell.
Winners: Jamie McMurray
Jamie McMurray knows the pressure is on him to turn things around and get back to success pretty fast—lest he potentially be out of a ride by season's end, as has been rumored.
McMurray finished seventh Sunday at Kansas, his second top-10 in the last three races (both seventh-place finishes) and third in the last five.
McMurray also moved up one spot to 11th in the standings, the highest he's ranked since being fourth after the second race of the 2010 season—one week after winning the biggest race of his career, the Daytona 500.
Winners: Paul Menard
Paul Menard finished 10th Sunday, extending the best season start he's ever enjoyed in Sprint Cup racing.
While he dropped one spot in the season standings, from ninth to 10th, Menard continues to surprisingly be the paragon of performance at Richard Childress Racing in a season that has been a struggle for his other two teammates, Kevin Harvick (12th in the standings) and Jeff Burton (23rd).
If there was an early candidate for most improved driver this season, Menard would be one of the leading choices.
Losers: Kyle Busch
The younger Busch brother was going for his third win in four starts Sunday at Kansas, only to suffer a season-worst 38th-place finish.
Busch had spun earlier in the race but managed to regain control.
But any hope of rallying back for the win was quickly dashed when Busch and former Joe Gibbs teammate Joey Logano crashed on Lap 103, ending both their days.
Perhaps the worst part of the whole situation is after building himself up to second place in the standings—climbing 15 spots in five races—he dropped back five spots to seventh after Sunday's bad day.
Losers: Joey Logano
To say the least, it's been a rough month for Joey Logano.
First he was involved in a wreck that injured and knocked Denny Hamlin out for several races at Fontana, the same place Logano and Tony Stewart almost came to blows.
Logano had cracked the top 10 (was ninth) after Fontana, but he's been on a downhill slide since, culminating with Sunday's crash with Kyle Busch, relegating Logano to a 39th-place finish.
Even worse, though, he dropped from 14th to 20th in the Sprint Cup standings after eight races.
Losers: Brian Vickers
Sunday was not the kind of day Brian Vickers had hoped for.
After finishing eighth, 11th and eighth in his last three starts, including replacing the injured Denny Hamlin last week at Texas, Vickers' run of good luck ran out in his second fill-in role for Hamlin.
Vickers finished 31st at Kansas, 10 laps off the lead lap.
While reports have Hamlin hoping to return to his car in the next race, Saturday at Richmond, unless NASCAR clears him it will likely once again be up to Vickers to bounce back for himself and Joe Gibbs Racing.
Overall, while it was a great day for JGR with Kenseth's second win, it was anything but for the other three cars (including Elliott Sadler making a one-off start) all being knocked out after wrecking during the course of the race..
Losers: Tony Stewart
If you would have said after the first eight races of the season that Tony Stewart would have no wins, no top-fives and just one top-10 finish—not to mention being ranked 21st in the standings—few people would have believed it.
But the truth is the truth, and Stewart continued his season-long slump Sunday at Kansas, finishing 21st for the second consecutive week.
It's the fifth time Stewart has finished 20th or worst, and the second consecutive 21st-place finish for him. The co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing is off to the worst start of his 14-plus year Sprint Cup career.
While Stewart has historically been a slow starter throughout his career, what he's done thus far this season is taking things to a whole other level.
Sure, there are 28 races still remaining, but unless he gets things turned around in a hurry—the 18 remaining regular-season races prior to the Chase—he could potentially miss qualifying for the postseason for only the second time in his career.
Losers: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
After the best start of his career, with finishes of second (Daytona 500), fifth, seventh, sixth and second (Fontana), the bottom has dropped out on Dale Earnhardt Jr. the last three races.
The points leader after Fontana, Earnhardt has now dropped from first to fifth in the ensuing three races, recording his three worst finishes of the season, as well: 24th at Martinsville, 29th at Texas and 16th Sunday at Kansas.
While it's too early to panic, there admittedly has to be some concern among Earnhardt's fans. How everything could go so right in the first five races, then suddenly turn into not much of right in the last three is anyone's guess.
But as the series moves to Richmond for Saturday night's race, Earnhardt is looking for a big bounce back at one of his most successful tracks (27 career starts, three wins, nine top-fives, 11 top-10s).
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