Kansas mixes up Chase, drivers head

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 6, 2007

You ain&8217;t in Kansas anymore. That&8217;s the best news the Chase drivers have heard in a long time. In a topsy-turvy race at Kansas last weekend that had plenty of sub-plots, 11 of the top 12 positions changed hands.

When the dust settled and the sun was setting, Jimmie Johnson moved to the top of the standings, overtaking teammate Jeff Gordon.

Seven of the Chase drivers finished 29th or worse. There were mulligans galore and guess what, Talladega is next, where many driver&8217;s fate is in the hands of others. This week could be another shake-up among the leaders. The worst of the worst was Kyle Busch, who finished 41st by virtue of being bumped in the rear by his successor, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

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Tony Stewart tried to overcome a wheel rub and a bad decision by crew chief Greg Zippadelli but slowed on the track and was hit by Kurt Busch. Martin Truex, Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin also had troubles during the race.

The rain delay, the shortening of the race (twice), impending darkness and Greg Biffle coasting across the finish line out of gas all added to the weirdness of the race. NASCAR officials have really taken it on the chin the last few weeks. Of course, Biffle was declared the winner, and rightfully so, but other drivers began questioning the outcome as soon as the cameras rolled after the race.

It would have been pretty cool if Clint Bowyer could have won his second career race in his home state of Kansas, and he would have if NASCAR followed its own procedure by calling for a green-white-checkered finish. But, Bowyer finished second and sits in third position, only 14 points out of the lead.

Chip Ganassi added to his international roster of drivers this week by signing Scotsman Dario Franchitti to drive the No. 40 car vacated by David Stremme. Ganassi will now have two Indianapolis 500 in Franchitti and Juan Pablo Montoya. It&8217;s amazing to me that, finally, drivers in other forms of racing don&8217;t really think NASCAR is a redneck sport anymore. Now, everyone from motor cross drivers to open wheel drivers wants to drive those &8220;taxi-cabs.&8221;

The driver movement for the 2008 season, while not a level of a couple of months ago, continued this week. Scott Riggs finally decided that Evernham probably would not have a seat for him next season and signed with Haas CNC Racing. Haas&8217; current drivers are Jeff Green and Johnny Sauter. The announcement did not indicate which ride Riggs would take over next season, but if Haas lets Johnny Sauter go, it will be a mistake. The guy has big time talent, and I think he will win races in competitive cars.

What used to be the Busch Series will be known as the Nationwide Series next year. Nationwide Insurance agreed this week to sponsor the series for the next seven years. I don&8217;t know about you, but this change will probably be harder for me to get used to than the Nextel name change several years ago.

The winged car makes its debut at Talladega Sunday. Expect a wild and wooly race with plenty of slam drafting. This is also Tony Eury&8217;s last race as a crew chief at DEI. He is moving to Hendrick to get a head start on next season after this race. Junior wins for the first time in forever at a track that he should be competitive at every race. The No. 8 is my pick to win this weekend.

Jeff Findley is a BNI News contributing columnist.