Half of Chase field struggles at Kansas, several due to tire issues, including Earnhardt and Keselowski

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Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 was the start of the Contender Round for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

But as much of a story as it was with Joey Logano taking the checkered flag, Logano’s win was overshadowed by half of the 12 Chase contenders suffered significant problems that could greatly impact their ability to advance to the next round two weeks from now.

Chase contenders Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all suffered issues – most tire-related – that impacted their hopes to start Round 2 of the Chase on a good note.

More: Joey Logano dominates en route to second Chase win; Jimmie Johnson wrecks, worst Chase finish since 2005

Speaking of the tire issues:

“We saw what we think were a couple of right fronts that obviously went down,” Greg Stucker, Goodyear director of racing, told ESPN. “We’re trying to figure out what the issue is.

“Obviously in a race like this in the Chase, everybody’s on top of the wheel and pushing the envelope. We started the race with a full green run and the tires really looked beautiful up and down pit road.

“We’ll have to sit down with the teams and try to make sure we understand if they made the adjustments or what were different about those particular runs vs. what we’ve seen before those incidents happened.”

Kurt Busch, who was eliminated from the Chase after last week’s race at Dover, also suffered tire failure and a resulting wreck.

Gordon, who had contact with Jamie McMurray about halfway through the race, finished 14th in the race and leaves Kansas essentially on the elimination bubble, tied with Matt Kenseth for seventh place, both drivers 17 points behind race winner and points leader Logano.

“It was a handful, that’s for sure,” Gordon told ESPN. “(McMurray) got loose and got into our left rear. He was just way over his head. I know he had a good car, he’s been running good, but got loose and got me into the wall. We had a little damage and lost all the track position, which is so hard to get at this place.

“…We just fell back and struggled. Today was a real survival day. I felt we could have finished better today. We had a real good race car.”

Here’s how things played out:

Kurt Busch blew a tire on Lap 78 that pushed him into the wall, sustaining moderate damage to the right side of his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. He immediately took his ride to the garage for repairs.

Then on Lap 123, Dale Earnhardt Jr. also suffered tire failure, hitting the wall and causing significant damage to his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

The incident couldn’t have come at a worst time: Earnhardt was leading the race when the tire let go.

“The whole surface of the tire just unwound like a string,” Earnhardt told ESPN. “It just came off the car and it popped off the corner.”

More: Kansas Update: Flat tire puts Dale Jr. into the wall while leading

Busch and Earnhardt weren’t the only Chase drivers to have problems.

On Lap 159, Brad Keselowski suffered an almost identical issue as the elder Busch brother and Junior. His right front tire blew and sent Keselowski’s Team Penske Ford into the wall.

More: NASCAR: Brad Keselowski goes into the wall at Lap 159

Six-time and defending champ Jimmie Johnson was next to experience difficulty – not due to tires, but being taken out by another driver.

Johnson was in the middle of a big pack on Lap 85 when it appeared that he was tagged from behind by Greg Biffle, causing a four-car wreck that not only wrecked Johnson, it also collected the cars of Justin Allgaier and Josh Wise.

“I’m fine, obviously a big hit in the championship points,” Johnson told ESPN. “That’ll put a premium on next week and the week after. We have to be on our game at Charlotte and Talladega. There’s still a lot of racing left.”

More: Jimmie Johnson’s Chase hopes take big hit after wreck with Greg Biffle

Johnson, who also told ESPN that he hoped his team could make repairs to get his car back on track sometime later in the race, had started 32nd but had moved up significantly in the pack when the wreck occurred.

Biffle suffered minor damage and was able to continue on.

Interestingly, less than 20 laps prior to the wreck with Johnson, Biffle had other issues, getting sideways with a gaggle of other cars around him.

In one of the best driving moves of the season, Biffle made an outstanding save, moving down the track, while others dodged around him.

A couple of laps before the Johnson-Biffle tangle, Jamie McMurray got into the left rear of Jeff Gordon, sending the latter into and skimming the outside retaining wall.

While both drivers fell back several spots, it appeared Gordon’s damage was not that bad.

Late in the race, pole-sitter Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Biffle also had issues. Harvick thought he had a tire going down, but that proved not to be the case.

Kenseth, however, did have a tire issue but was able to get to pit road before he could have had a blowout.

Biffle, meanwhile, lost a tire and skimmed the wall, but damage was minimal.

With just over 20 laps to go, Kasey Kahne hit the wall, although it’s not clear if it was because of a tire going down or if he simply got loose.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Anaheim 2: Ken Roczen is consistency’s king

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Strength is found not only in outright wins, but also through consistency, which contributed to the rise of Ken Roczen in the SuperMotocross Rankings after Anaheim 2.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with the knowledge that he urgently needed change, so he declared himself a free agent, signed with Suzuki during the offseason and set upon 2023 with renewed determination. It worked. Roczen is one of three riders in the 450 class with a sweep of the top five and that consistency has given him the lead in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

SuperMotocross Rankings Anaheim 2
Like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield wall, Ken Roczen pointed his way to the Power Rankings lead. – Feld Motor Sports

This formula rewards riders who compete at the front of the pack at the end of the Mains, in their heats, or in last week’s case, the three motos that make up the Triple Crown. Roczen has improved his overall performance each week with a fifth in Anaheim 1, a fourth in San Diego and his first podium of 2023 in Anaheim 2. Can he keep the trend alive with a first- or second-place finish in Houston?

A fall is all it takes sometimes. Last week, Eli Tomac tumbled hard when he pushed wide on the exit of a turn and jumped on top of a Tuff Blox. He remounted after that incident in Race 3 of the Triple Crown, but could only manage a 13th-place result in the moto. It could have been much worse and resulted in an injury, but coupled with a sixth in the overall standings at Anaheim 2, it pushed him down a spot in the SuperMotocross Ranking.

Along with Roczen (and Chase Sexton), Cooper Webb swept the top five in Supercross’ first three rounds. He is knocking on the door of a win and it won’t take long for him to ascend to the top of the box. Webb has two victories in Houston and each of them came during a championship season.

If there is a more determined rider than Jason Anderson, get out of his way. His path to the front of the pack is not always lined with primroses since he often has to pass multiple riders with whom he has had a run-in during his path, but the SuperMotocross Power Rankings are concerned only with raw results – not intention – and Anaheim 2 was Anderson’s best race of the season. He earned his first top-five and first podium with a second-place finish that was aided by a moto win.

MORE: Triple Crown format shakes up A2’s finishing order

Dylan Ferrandis has also been a model of consistency. Last week his Triple Crown effort of 4-6-5 gave him an overall finish of fifth. That came on the heels of a fourth-place result in the season opener and a sixth in San Diego. With no result worse than sixth this season, the numbers add up quite well.

Sexton’s position just outside the top five this week is entirely attributable to his last-place result in the San Diego heat. The SuperMotocross Rankings looks at the past 45 days, so that will affect him for a while, but if he continues to ride like he did in Anaheim 2, he’s going to climb quickly despite that albatross around his neck.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Ken Roczen 84.63 3 2
2. Eli Tomac
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
83.25 1 -1
3. Cooper Webb 82.25 2 -1
4. Jason Anderson
[1 Heat win]
80.63 5 1
5. Dylan Ferrandis 78.75 4 -1
6. Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat wins]
77.75 9 3
7. Justin Barcia 67.88 6 -1
8. Aaron Plessinger 67.63 8 0
9. Adam Cianciarulo 67.25 7 -2
10. Joey Savatgy 61.00 11 1
10. Marvin Musquin 61.00 12 2
12. Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat win]
58.75 13 1
13. Christian Craig 56.13 14 1
14. Colt Nichols 56.00 10 -4
15. Dean Wilson 47.50 15 0
16. Tristan Lane 41.00 18 2
17. Grant Harlan 40.67 19 2
18. Justin Hill 40.57 16 -2
19. Logan Karnow 36.50 20 1
20. Alex Ray 36.00 21 1

Supercross Points


The 250 West riders get a couple of weeks off before heading to Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 and several of them need the rest. Tough weeks for Cameron McAdoo and RJ Hampshire forced them to lose ground in the SuperMotocross points to Jett Lawrence at a time that could prove to play mental games.

Lawrence also had his share of issues at Anaheim 2, but overcame early falls in the first two motos and finished no worse than sixth. Considering that he dropped to the tail of the field in Race 2, that was a remarkable accomplishment and he entered the final race with a shot at the overall win. He narrowly missed that mark, but still has not finished worse than second in three rounds. His lead in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings is safe.

Cameron McAdoo rode with injury in all three Triple Crown motos, so his sixth-place finish was a moral victory. Cameron McAdoo, Instagram

McAdoo said it best in an Instagram post this week: “Woke up feeling grateful that I’m relatively healthy after my big mistake during qualifying yesterday. We made the decision that it would be safe for me to race so I did everything I possibly could to get through the night ending up [sixth overall]. We will work on getting healed up in these few weeks off to come back strong for Oakland!”

With results of 8-7-5 in the Triple Crown and his combined sixth-place result, McAdoo lost significant ground to Lawrence in both the points’ standings and our Power formula. The Oakland race is going to be critical if he wants to stay in the championship hunt because the series will have a long break before returning in Seattle for Round 11. No one wants to sit with negative feelings for that long.

Mitchell Oldenburg has quietly amassed some impressive numbers. His name has not been called a lot during broadcasts, but he has not finished worse than seventh in any of the first three rounds. Themes develop during a season and weekend – and for the moment, this one revolves around reliability. Oldenburg finished 5-4-6 in Anaheim 2 which means he has consistently amassed SuperMotocross Power Rankings points.

Stilez Robertson won his first race of the season in Moto 2 of the Triple Crown. Coupled with a third-place finish in the final race, he leapfrogged Hampshire and Enzo Lopes, both of whom had disappointing outings. He stands fifth in the points’ standing mostly due to a ninth-place finish in the season opener, but each race has been progressively better and that is a good sign.

Sometimes, all it takes is a taste of success. Prior to Anaheim 2, Levi Kitchen’s best Supercross finish was a seventh earned in this year’s season opener. He scored a ninth at Minneapolis last year, but that was not enough to put him on the radar. This early in the season, one strong run can sway the SuperMotocross Power Ranking significantly, but Robertson has earned his way into the top five. More importantly, he’s going to be the object of interest when the West series returns to Oakland.

Next week the 250 East riders mount up in Houston, Texas before they head to Tampa, Florida. The Power Rankings will combine the two divisions, so the riders below are likely to shift dramatically.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Driver Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1. Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat wins]
89.13 1 0
2. Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 3 1
3. Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 5 2
4. Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat win]
76.75 6 2
5. Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main win]
73.75 12 7
6. RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat wins]
70.00 2 -4
7. Max Vohland – W 69.29 8 1
8. Derek Kelley – W 63.75 10 2
9. Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 4 -5
10. Pierce Brown – W 61.29 13 3
11. Phil Nicoletti – W 59.25 7 -4
12. Dylan Walsh – W 56.00 9 -3
13. Cole Thompson – W 51.00 11 -2
14. Robbie Wageman – W 50.75 15 1
15. Anthony Rodriguez – W 49.00 14 -1
16. Ty Masterpool – W 47.50 16 0
17. Kaeden Amerine – W 47.50 16 -1
18. Dominique Thury – W 47.00 18 0
19. Austin Forkner – W 43.00 20 1
20. Derek Drake – W 42.33 21 1

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage