Playoff drivers Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney all found trouble early Sunday in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Busch’s No. 18 Camry was the first with an issue after contacting the outside wall exiting Turn 2 on Lap 22, cutting down the right-front tire of the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and sending him off the pace. He had a separate issue later in the race after he got loose with roughly 30 laps to go in Stage 2 in the same part of the track and again slid into the wall. Just a few hundred feet later, Busch ran the high line entering Turn 3 and had another tire give out, sending him back into the SAFER barrier and onto pit road. Busch finished the race in 28th place, six laps down.
Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion, found himself mired in traffic shortly after the ensuing restart and slid up into the outside wall off Turn 2 directly in front of Truex, who also scrubbed the fence. Keselowski was forced to pit at Lap 38 with a flat right-rear tire as a result of the contact while Truex’s No. 19 car lasted until Lap 53 when his right-rear also went down. Keselowski was caught off the lead lap for much of the rest of the race and came home 17th, one lap down. Truex was able to rebound with a seventh-place finish.
Blaney was the next victim of a flat right-rear tire with nine laps to go in Stage 1, costing him valuable stage points as he was running fourth at the time of his problems. Blaney entered Sunday’s race second in points and 17 points to the good.
The No. 12 team’s day went from bad to worse, though, on a restart at lap 224 that saw Austin Dillon get loose underneath Blaney and contact his left rear. Blaney pounded the outside wall exiting Turn 2 as a result and finished 37th, the only playoff driver to end with a DNF on Sunday.
All four drivers are in the Round of 8 and remain well in playoff contention. Busch leaves Kansas fourth in the standings just one point above the elimination line. Blaney heads to Martinsville one point out of a Championship 4 spot with Truex (-3), Keselowski (-6) and Joey Logano (-26) behind him. Those teams will try to rebound next weekend at Martinsville Speedway in their attempts to advance to the Championship 4 in Phoenix.