The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas was billed as being the first race in the Contender Round of the Championship Cup Chase. Instead it should be called the “What the Heck?” round.
Kansas promised some exciting racing and fans may have gotten more than they bargained for especially if you are a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, and Jimmy Johnson.
All three championship contenders suffered from setbacks that may be too tough to overcome before the end of the second round where four more drivers are eliminated. In the case of Earnhardt and Keselowski the horrible finishes may have been the result of faulty tires. In the case of Jimmy Johnson it was a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time when a wreck broke loose.
In the case of Earnhardt he was in the right place at the right time. He was in the lead with a nice cushion between him and other cars. He was simply cruising along when a tire on the No. 88 machine let go. It was something that Earnhardt said he could feel happening as he drove the corner even joking that it must have been a “recap” used tire.
"I don't know; just the whole surface of the tire unwound like a string," Earnhardt said while his car was being worked on following the blown tire.
"It just came off the tire and it popped off the corner. I felt it coming apart through the corner and the surface of the tire is gone. The whole cap came off. Must have been a recap.”
Similar Fate for others
Don’t think that Earnhardt was the only driver that had tire issues. The list was a long one which included some big names in the Championship Chase. Brad Keselowski was one such driver. Shortly after Earnhardt’s problem the No. 2 car was seemingly having a spotless run when it seemed to mimic Earnhardt’s crash into the wall.
Driver Brad Keselowski seemed visibly aggravated at the blown tire but in the end he said it was similar to playing Russian Roulette. Before the race started Keselowski suggested that the second round in the Chase would probably need to be re-named the “Heart break Round.” Who knew that his statement would fall so close to home?
"We blew a tire. I don't really know why. Just Russian Roulette and it was our turn."
Several drivers besides Earnhardt and Keselowski suffered tire issues during the race. Others include Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick. Now many are asking if Good Year brought some defective tires to the racetrack. In polite form none of the drivers really dared to jump off the deep end with blaming Good Year.
Even Steve Lartarte, Earnhardt’s crew chief, refused to state his personal feelings about the question when talking with his driver about the blown tire over the radio. That was probably a good decision. Why ask for a fine from NASCAR when you can keep your mouth shut?
"I don't know. I'm going to keep my opinion to myself," Letarte said over the team radio. "We'll just work on it, try to put it back together."
Can Jimmy Johnson, Earnhardt, Keselowski, and Kasey Khane bounce back from a horrible weekend at Kansas? It’s possible with Charlotte and Talladega up next anything can happen.
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