KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Hendrick Motorsports' four drivers held steady during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event to finish inside the top 10 at the newly repaved Kansas Speedway. Kasey Kahne led his teammates with a fourth-place finish, while Regan Smith scored seventh, Jimmie Johnson rallied to ninth and Jeff Gordon took 10th.
Here is the breakdown by team:
Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
Race finish: Fourth.
Chase position: Fifth.
Race recap: Kasey Kahne opened Sunday’s 267-lap event at Kansas from the pole position – his first at the 1.5-mile track – and almost immediately reported a handling issue. The No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet appeared to be tight on the left-front splitter, and by Lap 7, Kahne was running fifth. As the race unfolded, Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis worked through various handling issues. Notably, Kahne reported a vibration on Lap 90 after giving up six positions on a restart three laps prior. He held steady, and after restarting 13th on a Lap 147 restart, Kahne had a chance to find his rhythm with some green-flag racing. He improved to eighth by the time the eighth caution flag of the race was waved on Lap 156. During the ensuing yellow-flag period, Kahne proceeded to pick up three spots on pit road with a two-tire stop to improve to fifth among drivers who pitted. Kahne continued to run inside the top 15, avoiding incidents as they unfolded. With 46 laps to go, Kahne lined up third for the restart on fresh right-side tires. He continued to fight inside the top 10 as the race wound down, despite losing some track position by shutting off his engine in an attempt to save fuel. Kahne benefited from 23 laps of green-flag racing to record a fourth-place result at Kansas.
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
Race finish: 10th.
Chase position: Eighth.
Race recap: Jeff Gordon improved five spots in the opening six laps on Sunday at Kansas Speedway, quietly climbing to 14th at the newly repaved 1.5-mile track. He reported a vibration 12 laps later to crew chief Alan Gustafson that his No. 24 team addressed on a subsequent pit stop with two fresh tires. Gordon continued to improve his track position, but several circuits later, Gordon told Gustafson he thought he had hit something and requested the team check the front of the No. 24 Chevy. On the ensuing pit stop, the No. 24 team discovered that Gordon actually had cut a tire and loaded up a new set at just the right time. As the race unfolded, Gordon maintained his position inside the top 15 despite a plethora of yellow-flag periods for wrecks and took the lead on Lap 124 and 157. Gordon lined up on row four for the restart with 88 laps to go and navigated the final stretch of racing to score a 10th-place finish.
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet
Race finish: Ninth.
Chase position: Second.
Race recap: Jimmie Johnson lined up seventh for Sunday’s Cup event at Kansas and told crew chief Chad Knaus that his No. 48 Chevrolet was loose in the center of Turns 3 and 4. On Lap 28, Knaus told Johnson that he was turning lap times second only to the leader. Johnson continued his forward march, working with Knaus and the No. 48 team on the handling of his Lowe’s Chevrolet. He took second on Lap 45, and 32 laps later, he was lining up on the inside of the front row for the restart after a swift two-tire stop. The driver of the No. 48 Chevy immediately took the lead and maintained it through another caution period and restart. He held this position until he made a green-flag stop on Lap 119. The scheduled pit stop turned into an ill-timed one because the caution flag was waved toward the end of the stop. Johnson took the wave around to remain on the lead lap and restarted in 23rd for the Lap 127 restart. Nine laps later, Johnson’s No. 48 Chevy spun in the center of Turn 4 and he hit the wall. Johnson reported to pit road, where Knaus assessed the damage and the No. 48 team began repairs. The No. 48 team replaced the decklid and made various other repairs to the rear of the Lowe’s Chevy, but managed to keep Johnson on the lead lap. He restarted from the tail end of the field and was back in the hunt on Lap 163, when he restarted fourth after skipping a pit stop during the previous yellow-flag period. But completely refueling the No. 48 Chevy was a persistent issue because of the damage sustained, and Johnson took advantage of caution periods for new tires and more fuel as the race wound down. During the final 23 laps, Johnson rallied to a top-10 result.
Regan Smith, No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
Race position: Seventh.
Race recap: Regan Smith, filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., rolled off the grid 39th on Sunday at Kansas Speedway. Driving the No. 88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, Smith continually ticked off positions around the 1.5-mile track and was running 30th by Lap 5. When the caution flag waved on Lap 41, Smith had improved another five positions to 25th. Smith worked with crew chief Steve Letarte through adjustments on pit road and managed to avoid the wrecks that almost routinely unfolded on the 1.5-mile speedway. He was running eighth by Lap 87 and held his position inside the top 15 for the next 92 laps. When the field reset with 88 laps to go, Smith lined up on the third row and in the sixth position for the restart. Fifty-eight laps later, the driver of the No. 88 Chevy was third, preparing for another restart. Smith held on to record his first top-10 result in the No. 88 Chevy and the first of his career at Kansas.