As demonstrated earlier this year at Pocono, track repaves tend to produce major mishaps by drivers who have not yet adapted to the new surfaces. Though many expected the new Kansas to produce single-lane racing and difficulty passing, resulting in an uneventful 400 miles, the surface created the polar opposite of what was anticipated.
For several drivers who faced disastrous circumstances at Kansas, such as Jimmie Johnson, and those who had unfortunate starting positions, like Regan Smith, the frequent wreckage and major shifts in running order because of cautions opened opportunities to salvage a decent finish in round six of the Chase. For others, however, promising days took wrong turns, deteriorating their opportunities to prove themselves.
Of the drivers whose days created a false sense of security in their finishing order were Aric Almirola and the returning AJ Allmendinger. AJ, who by chance (and some serious luck), was given the opportunity to drive the Phoenix No. 51 machine previously piloted by Kurt Busch, due to the misfortune of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s absence from the past two races. Regan Smith, who was scheduled to take over Kurt’s ride, got the rare opportunity to take over the famed No. 88 car, leaving a spot for Allmendinger to temporarily return to the sport.
Allmendinger, starting in the 13th position, made his way up into the top five before cutting a tire, wrecking, and retiring for the day with a devastating 35th place finish. In his chance to redeem himself and boost his marketability for the upcoming season, Allmendinger seemed quite successful… only to be taken out of the race by a common problem at the new Kansas.
Meeting the same fate as Allmendinger, Almirola was a victim of the new Kansas as well. After running a good race and even leading a significant amount of laps, Almirola was taken out by a cut tire just as A.J had been. With his sponsor, Farmland, paying extra attention to the race due to the fact that the race was near their headquarters and that Farmland had extra money weighing in on the outcome of the race, a 29th place finish was sure disappointing for Almirola.
While the new Kansas produced a great race, and many chances to move through the field despite mishaps and misfortunes, some drivers who were truly depending on this race were some of the ones who met irredeemable fates. Regardless, the new surface created excellent racing and an unpredictable outcome – which isn’t exactly what some of us had in mind.
By Alanis King