It probably did not look like the race he was likely to win, but that has been Jeff Gordon’s point all season. He has been in position to win many times but come out short, although he has been the Sprint Cup series points leader during recent weeks. He never seemed down about not getting the win because he said he believed if you put yourself in position enough times, it will come. He was right. Saturday night’s win wasn’t one in which he led the most laps – in fact, he led only nine. But he again was in position to win, and that’s what mattered most.
Observations• Danica Patrick had the kind of weekend at Kansas Speedway it appeared she was in prosition to get this season at Las Vegas. That weekend, she was fast during practice and qualified well and seemed primed to put it all together. Instead, she finished 21st. Saturday night, Patrick finished the job – capping a strong weekend with a career-best finish of seventh. The most important thing she did during the race was hold her own, particularly on restarts. The key now is whether she can take what she accomplished this weekend and build on it.
• Whether Carl Edwards re-signs with Roush Fenway Racing or not, he clearly has handled the situation much better this time – something he readily admits. Edwards’ last venture into the free-agent market turned into a circus sideshow at times before he finally re-signed with RFR. This season, Edwards has remained quiet, unwilling to engage in the speculation game the media and fans enjoy. It might not make interesting reading, but it will serve him best down the road.
Patrick earns career-best finish: Danica Patrick finally was able to put a complete weekend together – she was fast during practice, qualified well and earned a strong finish on race day.
Patrick ran among the top 10 almost the entire race and finished a career-best seventh – her second top-10 of her 57-race Cup career.
“It felt good. My goal was just to stay up in that lead group (and) generally average out to where I was starting, and I feel we did all that,” she said.
“I’m really overall proud of the team for building cars like these. This was a new car. It was so good. It shows when the runs were long, I got to show this was a quick car.”
Patrick said her run at Kansas was a much-needed confidence booster.
“I guarantee we’re going to work even harder now. It’s not time to sit back. We’re going to work harder because we love where we’re at,” she said. “This is what we work for, and now they can taste it, you don’t want to let it go.”
Harvick comes up short: Kevin Harvick again had a dominant car, leading 119 of the 267 laps – the most of any driver.
After twice getting caught by cautions shortly after making green-flag pit stops, Harvick found his way back to the front late in the race. He came out behind Jeff Gordon after their last green-flag pit stop.
“There at the end, we ran out of gas coming to pit road there, and I was looking at the fuel pressure gauge instead of the tach and lost a bunch of time down pit road and off of pit road and wound up getting stuck behind” Gordon, he said.
“I just ran out of laps at the end.”
Kahne gets best finish: Kasey Kahne would prefer a win, but his third-place finish was his season’s best and a welcome change from his early-season struggles.
“Our biggest deal is we’ve just been slow this season. Really haven’t been inconsistent or anything like that, we’ve just been slow each week,” Kahne said.
“We tested here. We had that Goodyear tire test, and I felt like from that point on, we’ve actually had really fast cars.”
Disappointing result for Bowyer: Clint Bowyer was fresh off completing a contract extension with Michael Waltrip Racing and racing at his home track, but again he left Kansas disappointed.
Bowyer spun on Lap 47, fell two laps down, and never recovered. He ended up 23rd.
Five key moments
1 . Just as NASCAR was about to signal for engines to be fired, a large thunderstorm moved into the area, delaying the start by almost 30 minutes.
2 . Pole-winner Kevin Harvick led the first 41 laps, showing he was going to be a strong contender.
3 . Jeff Gordon led Lap 44 during green-flag pit stops – the only time he led the race until the end.
4 . Harvick held the lead going into his final green-flag pit stop, but he came back on the track behind Gordon.
5 . Once everyone made their final pit stops, Gordon cycled into the lead and held off a last-lap charge by Harvick to win his first race of the season.