Who doesn’t love Thursday night racing? If you’re a NASCAR fan, or just a racing fan in general, more races a week is always welcome. With Covid-19 still wreaking havoc across the world, trickling down into everyone’s lives and into every facet of sports, we find ourselves with Thursday night racing at Kansas Speedway.
Shortly after 4:45 pm PST, Kevin Harvick led the field to green, with Joey Logano to his outside. Logano was able to power by Harvick on the outside. Going into Turn Three, Logano assumed the lead with Harvick falling to second. By Lap Five, Ryan Blaney moved ahead of Harvick and focused his attention on Logano, his teammate. Before the competition caution came out, Martin Truex Jr. passed Blaney and made a charge for the lead. The competition caution waved on Lap 26, ending the battle for the lead before it could begin. Logano led all the leaders down to the pits for service. Truex Jr. exited first, with Logano suffering a pit penalty for an uncontrolled tire.
Truex Jr. led the field back to green, with Kyle Busch to his inside. Busch wasted no time with Truex Jr. and quickly assumed the lead. By Lap 45, Busch led Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. for a 1-2-3 Joe Gibbs Racing top three. As Stage One neared completion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s day came to a premature end with an engine issue, resulting in a fire inside of his race car. Joe Gibbs finished off the first stage of the night as Kyle Busch got the green-and-white checkered flag. Busch led all lead-lap cars down to pit road for service. Hamlin exited with the lead as Busch fell to third behind Truex Jr.
Hamlin restarted the second stage with Truex Jr. to his inside. Hamlin was able to pull away as Brad Keselowski challenged Truex Jr. for second place. With Truex Jr. able to clear Keselowski, his sights became set on Hamlin. Hamlin was no match, as Truex Jr. took over the lead on Lap 98. By Lap 100, the third caution came out as Bubba Wallace spun coming out of Turn Four.
All lead lap cars came down to the pits under the caution, with Brad Keselowski emerging with the lead as he took two tires while everyone else took four tires. Starting on the inside, Keselowski led the field back to green with Truex Jr. to his outside. Following a multi-lap, side-by-side battle, Keselowski was able to hold the lead over Truex Jr. as Blaney made his way to third. Done with running in second, Truex Jr. passed Keselowski for the lead on Lap 115. Chris Buescher brought out the fourth caution of the day with a spin down the backstretch on Lap 143.
Truex Jr. led the lead-lap cars down the pits for tires and fuel. Ryan Blaney and Jimmie Johnson came out first and second as they took two tires only. Blaney led the field back to green with Johnson to his inside. Blaney was able to hold the lead with Brad Keselowski lurking in second. With less than two laps to go, Keselowski powered by Blaney and took the green-and-white checkered flag, ending the second stage. Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott played the pit strategy game as they took two tires and came out first and second.
Hamlin chose the outside lane with Elliott to the inside as Stage Three got underway. Hamlin held the lead as Elliott followed closely behind. Not long into the stage, the sixth caution of the night flew with Matt Kenseth spinning in Turn Four and collecting Bubba Wallace. As with the previous restart, Hamlin led the field back to green with Elliott to his inside. On the first lap, the caution came out again as Joey Logano slowed coming out of Turn Two with a flat left-front tire. The cars stacked up, with Matt DiBenedetto getting turned into the outside wall. Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon also suffered damage during the melee.
For the third consecutive restart, Hamlin led the field with Elliott to his inside. As with the prior restart, the caution came out before a lap had concluded. Christopher Bell got turned by Ryan Newman. In the spin, Ryan Preece spun to the inside and slammed hard to the inside wall, as Preece’s car became airborne before landing back on its wheels. Despite the violent wreck, Preece was able to walk away safely.
Hamlin brought the field back to green on Lap 187 with Blaney to his inside. Hamlin was able to hold the lead until Lap 194 when Truex Jr. marched by to re-take the lead. Ryan Newman then brought out the caution one lap later with a single-car spin. Under the caution, most lead-lap cars came down pit road for service. Denny Hamlin and Ryan Blaney exited first and second, taking two tires. William Byron chose not to pit and inherited the lead.
William Byron led the field back to green with Hamlin to his inside. Keselowski began to stalk Byron for the lead before manoeuvring around him on Lap 206. Byron was then able to take the lead back from Keselowski on Lap 222. The complexion of the race changed on Lap 228 as Ryan Blaney and Kyle Busch both came to the pit road suffering two different issues. Busch hit the wall and suffered a flat tire, while Blaney had a tire go down after making earlier contact with the outside wall.
The tenth caution of the night came as Corey Lajoie hit the wall coming out of Turn Two. With 32 laps left in the race, the leaders came down pit road for the last time. William Byron held the lead by taking two tires, with Alex Bowman exiting in second, mirroring Byron’s strategy. Byron, looking for his first series win, led the field back to green with 28 laps left.
Bowman was able to make his way around Byron for the lead as Harvick made his way to second. With 25 laps in the race, John Hunter Nemechek spun coming out of Turn Two, bringing out the 11th caution. Bowman chose the bottom line as he restarted the race with 22 laps to go. Bowman initially held the lead before being overtaken by Harvick for the lead with Hamlin making his way to second.
Harvick held the lead until Hamlin mounted a charge, culminating in taking the lead with 13 laps left. Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. also made their way past Harvick, hunting Hamlin. Though getting close, Hamlin was able to hold onto the lead and win for the fifth time this year.
The Super Start Batteries 400 provided something for everyone. From differing pit strategies to some vicious accidents and close racing, Kansas Speedway provided viewers with a good racing experience. What were your thoughts on tonight’s race?
The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series takes a breather as the series is off until August 2, when the drivers visit New Hampshire Motor Speedway.