Back Seat Driver

Back Seat Driver: Kansas

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*Editor’s Note* Every Monday, after every race weekend, contributing writer Jacob Mullins will recap the top story lines from the track in our weekly feature, Back Seat Driver.

YOUNG GUN CONTIUES TO IMPRESS

Erik Jones, driver in all three of NASCAR’s top-tier racing series, continues to impress this year. Despite being winless in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series so far this year, the series in which he is running for a championship in, the young phenom continues to turn heads everywhere he races. This past weekend he took to the track in both the Truck and Sprint Cup Series, where he made his debut in the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, subbing for the injured Kyle Busch.

The weekend was off to a hot start for Jones as he showed speed in both series’ practices Friday afternoon. In Friday’s Truck Series qualifying, Jones continued to show that he had speed as he set a new track record of 30.101 at 179.396 MPH en route to claiming the 21 Means 21 Pole Award.

After leading a race-high 151 laps, the driver of the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra’s gas tank ran dry with five laps left in the Toyota Tundra 250 from Kansas Speedway. Forced to pit and surrender his lead, Jones finished a disappointing 11th place.

Also on Friday, Jones qualified his No. 18 Toyota Camry 12th for the SpongeBob Squarepants 400. Making his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut, Jones was running in the top-10 until a self-inflicted incident, a single car spin in turn 4 sent him to the garage. He ultimately finished 40th.

Up until his spin, Jones wasn’t only meeting expectations, but surpassing him. Jones will be back in a NSCS car for the Sprint Showdown with hopes of transferring over into the All-Star Race next Saturday from Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Jones has made a good name for himself so far in his NASCAR career. He will continue to turn heads. He will have to use his seat time subbing for Busch to show other owners that he is the real deal, which they already know.

BRAD KESELOWSKI RACING’S UP AND DOWN WEEKEND

The two entries for Brad Keselowski Racing – Tyler Reddick in the No. 19 and Austin Theriault in the No. 29 – were having a nice start to the weekend. Both cars were fast with hopes of contending for a win in the Toyota Tundra 250. However, an incident in the second session of knockout qualifying sent both team to back-up trucks for Friday nights race.

During the middle session of qualifying, Reddick got “scary loose” off 2 and went for a spin. With nowhere to go, the Theriault plowed into the No. 19 machine wrecking both Ford F-150’s in the process. Having to surrender their 22nd and 23rd starting positions to start at the back of the pack due to the truck change, Reddick rebounded for a 13th place finish followed by Theriault in 14th.

Reddick looked like he could have stole the win from ones when his tank ran dry with five laps to go, but Reddick suffered the same fate one lap latter surrendering the lead as Daniel Suarez took over the lead.

It is always good when a team can rebound from a poor start and finish strong. However, to have to team from the same stable, that is a feat unto itself. BKR will back to victory lane this year, and who knows it might be next Friday night in Charlotte.

MOTHER NATURE STRIKES AGAIN

For more times than I like to admit this season, Mother Nature disrupted a NASCAR race. We saw rainy conditions in Atlanta, Bristol, Richmond and now Kansas. Earlier this season we saw races start times moved back to accommodate the weather and track drying efforts and in the case of Richmond, the weather postponed the Toyota Owners 400 until the next day.

This time around at Kansas, rain started to come after the start of the race. When the rain came, it came in fast, powerful and quick. From start to finish, the race was postponed a total of 2 hours and 16 minutes from the first rain drops fell until the Air Titan’s had the track dry and ready to race agin.

There are many variables that NASCAR and track officials can control as it relates to the race. However, weather is not one of them. As any sport that conducts their business outside, you have to deal with the elements. Unlike other forms of racing i.e. F1, NASCAR will most likely never race with rain tires in the Sprint Cup on an oval. The governing body has run Goodyear rain tires in the XFINITY series, but only at road courses.

SO CLOSE YET SO FAR

This phrase describes Martin Truex Jr. year so far. Truex has been on a tear since the series unloaded in Daytona for Speedweeks and the Daytona 500. Up until last weekend in Talladega, Truex was one of three drivers to record top-10 finishes in every race this season.

Truex not only had one the fastest Chevrolet on Kansas’s 1.5 mile track Saturday night, but the best. However, when the caution flew late in the race, the No. 78 team decided to come to pit road and take gas only. That decision turned out to be the wrong decision as Truex started deep in the pack. He ultimately finished 9th on the night, another top-10 finish, but was disappointed as he led a race-high 95 laps.

Truex and everyone at the Furniture Row Racing team has to be pleased with the way things are going this year. The last few years for the No. 78 team based in Denver, Colo., has been tough and this year, has been the total opposite.

At the beginning on the year Truex made it known that his team would be a force to reckon with and I was one of the naysayers given their previous results. Truex has been driving like a man on a mission. The win will come, I’ll put money on it. As long as Truex continues to drive the tires off the car, he will be a contender for the Sprint Cup Championship.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

After his win in Saturday night/Sunday morning’s SpongeBob Squarepants 400, Jimmie Johnson placed a call to his wife, Chandra. Since it was past midnight local time, it was technically Mother’s Day. As Johnson made the call, he accidentally started FaceTiming with his happy, but not amused wife in victory lane. As Johnson celebrated with his team, Chandra was able to see and be seen by everyone on the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team at 1 o’clock ET.

With his win technically coming on Mother’s Day, Johnson becomes the first driver to win on Mother’s Day since Jeff Gordon at Darlington in 2007.

I bet that Chandra was excited for Johnson and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports for the win, FaceTiming at 1 in the morning doesn’t sound like the best of ideas, even it was a mistake. I bet that won’t happen again.

Since it’s now Monday and Mother’s Day was yesterday, I want to send out a belated “Happy Mother’s Day” to all the mom’s who are fans of RubbingsRacing.com.

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About Jacob Mullins

Jacob Mullins serves as the managing editor and senior NASCAR writer covering all three national touring series's. You can find him on on Twitter at @JMulls15. An intercollegiate athletic administrator by trade, Mullins can be found at the big tracks as well as the local short tracks in the Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania area. Mullins enjoys social media, photography and graphic design. A native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, Mullins follows all forms of racing, Major League Baseball (Baltimore Orioles) and college football (Virginia Tech Hokies).

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