NASCAR Sprint Cup 2015 recap: Six takeaways from Kansas

Image courtesy of @NASCAR.

The SpongeBob SquarePants 400 might as well have been under water for several hours on Saturday night. But after the rain finally stopped falling, Jimmie Johnson stole a win during the final laps to become the first driver this season with three victories.

By placing his third winner sticker above the driver’s side window, Johnson proved he’s still the driver to beat. Then again, Kevin Harvick finished second to him for a third time at an intermediate track this season. Now that the checkered flag has waved on the SpongeBob 400, here are the six takeaways from Kansas.

 

1. Six-Time Chasin’ History

By virtue of his win on Saturday night, Johnson is now inching closer to surpassing another driver on the wins list. With 73 after Kansas, he’s four wins away from becoming sixth on the list in Sprint Cup history.

Oh, and the driver he would pass is Dale Earnhardt. He’d also put himself in great position to tie Earnhardt and Richard Petty with seven championships if he pulls out those victories.

There’s no doubt that JJ is already considered one of the best to ever grace the track in NASCAR, but he’ll soon reach even more elite company. It just feels like Six-Time is on track for another title, but he’ll still have to hold off a familiar driver in Harvick.

2. Tag Team Back Again

Speaking of that battle, the two Hendrick engines were on full display again on Saturday night. Johnson and Harvick weren’t up front all night, but they were battling for a win again just before the checkered flag waved.

In the last seven races on 1.5-mile tracks, Harvick has compiled three wins and four second-place finishes dating back to the fall Charlotte race. The winner in those other four races? You guessed it—Ole Six-Time himself.

Of the 10 races during the Chase, five are 1.5-mile intermediate tracks. That includes the final event at Homestead-Miami. If the rest of the field can’t break up this tag team by the end of the season, Johnson or Harvick will be hoisting another championship trophy in 2015.

3. Premature Ending for Erik Jones

On nearly every restart and long run, Erik Jones made it look like the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Toyota was shot out of a cannon. The 18-year-old driver was in contention for a top-10 finish and running inside the top five at one point.

Then it all went wrong.

Coming around a turn, Jones lost the rearend of the car and careened into the wall before smashing the nose into a SAFER barrier. His night was over and Jones’ final position in his first race was 40th.

Safe to say, the result in Kansas does not reflect how impressive he was in the SpongeBob 400. Much like Chase Elliott, who’ll be a full-time driver next season, and Ryan Blaney in Talladega, Jones has a bright future ahead. The Young Guns just keep on coming.

4. Three Up

Martin Truex Jr. – It’s hard to keep saying that his stock is growing, but Martin Truex Jr. just continues to impress. A late decision to pit for fuel cost him a win, but the No. 78 machine has 10 top-10 results in 11 races, and Truex should show out again on Friday night to make the Sprint All-Star Race.

Jeff Gordon – He didn’t earn the win we initially predicted, but Gordon did collect his 11th top-five finish in 19 starts at Kansas. With a fall race at the track during the Chase, Gordon will need a 12th later this season to compete for a fifth championship in his final season.

Aric Almirola – That elusive top-10 finish is so close Aric Almirola can taste it. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver came up just short by finishing 11th at Kansas, but moved up to 11th in points thanks to the result. He continues to make a slow climb, but will need a win or multiple top 10s to have a chance at making the Chase.

5. Three Down

David Ragan – Welcome to Michael Waltrip Racing, David Ragan. Despite having the luck of SpongeBob being plastered across the hood of his car, Ragan’s untimely spin out into the infield led to a disappointing finish. It also led to an awkward situation, as the Fox Sports 1 broadcast perfectly captured.

Danica Patrick – This was supposed to be the race where Danica Patrick solidified her spot on the Chase Grid. Instead, the No. 10 machine struggled just to stay on the lead lap. Patrick would finish two laps down and failed to capitalize on her seventh-place finish at Kansas last spring.

Trevor Bayne – Saturday was yet another off night for Roush Fenway Racing, but Trevor Bayne was the worst in the stable. The 24-year-old driver finished two laps down with Patrick in 31st place and continues to fall out of contention in his first full-time season with RFR.

6. Three Tweets

 

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