Following a disastrous race day in Talladega, the Hendrick Motorsports camp is likely facing a must win scenario this weekend at the Kansas Speedway. They entered the last race as a heavy favorites to win the 1000Bulbs.com 500 after taking the top two finishing spots on the 2.66-mile superspeedway back in April while also qualifying 1-2-3-4 for the penultimate race of the second round of the playoffs.
Instead, the three championship eligible drivers lost a ton of points in the process and are facing a deficit likely too large to make up in a single race.
While leading Monday’s rain delayed race on Lap 106 in Talladega, Alex Bowman tried to make a big block on a Joey Logano run. Logano received big drafting help by fellow Ford driver Clint Bowyer on the backstretch in which Logano had no where to go when Bowman moved over to block his momentum.
The contact between the two pushed Bowman into the inside lane of Turn 3 and caused his No. 88 Chevrolet to spin back across the banking. That collected nine other drivers, one of which being Chase Elliott and another Jimmie Johnson.
Bowman’s day ended with a 37th place result. His run of three top six finishes in his last four starts was over. He went from +17 in the standings to -18, a 35 point swing.
Elliott, would continue on in his badly damaged No. 9 Chevrolet but only finished eighth. Due to his engine blowing last week in Dover, he went from -7 to -22 as he lost 15 points himself on Monday.
They hold spots nine and 10 in the standings with only eight moving on.
William Byron crashed on Lap 181 ending his day in 33rd. He’s 27 points out now. He was tied for the final spot at -0 coming into the weekend.
35 points lost for Bowman, 27 for Byron and 15 for Elliott. They started 1-2-3 on Sunday and lose that much ground.
Luckily for them, Elliott won the playoff Kansas race last year and has three top four finishes in his last four tries on the 1.5-mile track. Bowman, finished second in the spring race too.
Hendrick Motorsports is hoping to key in on some new found speed on their intermediate program to help them get at least one car though to the Round of 8. Sunday’s race at Kansas would be another place they could spotlight it. Their championship hopes may depend on it.
On a similar 1.5-mile track at Las Vegas last month, they finished 4-6-7-11. At Kansas back in May, they came home 2-4-6-20.
Other than his crash in Talladega, Johnson hasn’t finished worse than 11th since the playoffs started in Vegas. He was sixth at Kansas back in May. From 2007 through 2016, he had 14 top 10 finishes in 16 tries there. On 1.5-mile tracks this season, Johnson has scored a top 11 in five of his last six tries.
Byron hasn’t had a ton of success at Kansas but does have three top seven finishes in his last six tries on the season and four top 10 finishes in his last six tries on 1.5-mile tracks this season as well.
As said earlier, Bowman was runner-up in the spring race. He was also ninth in the playoff race last year. Furthermore, Bowman has three top six finishes in five playoff races run in 2019 too. On 1.5-mile tracks, Bowman has four top seven finishes in his last five tries on them this season.
That leaves Elliott who won this race last year and has six top 10 finishes in his last nine starts on the season.