Kansas is behind us, and so too are the playoff hopes of four more drivers. But this wouldn’t be NASCAR if there wasn’t some controversy, and this time around, the hammer dropped on the No. 20 Toyota of Matt Kenseth. During pit stops, Kenseth had too many men over the wall, and that was enough to disqualify him. Without a ride announced for next year, this might be the end of the line for the former champion, and if so, that’d be a tough way to go out.
The weekend’s Up/Down breakdown leads with the first surprise elimination of the playoffs. Down and out goes Kyle Larson, victim of wrecks the past two weeks. Also down: Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., all of whom missed the cut. They’ll still race—those sponsors aren’t going to pay themselves—but they’re out of championship contention.
At the other end of the spectrum, Kansas winner Martin Truex Jr. is riding as high as anyone ever has since NASCAR began its playoffs. Three wins in the first six races will do that for you. Also Up: Kyle Busch, who raced his way into the third round despite being on the wrong side of the bubble coming into Kansas.
That leads us to this weekend’s race at Martinsville. Now, Sundays at the Paperclip often look less like a race, and more like cars circling a mall parking lot at Christmastime looking for a space, but all that means is we’re in for some bumping and banging. There’ll be hot brakes and even hotter tempers, so for this race, we’re riding with the hottest temper of them all: Kyle Busch himself. Bank on it: Busch is going to book his ticket to Homestead this weekend.
Enjoy the race, friends, and remember: always count your crew.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.