|SOURCE: Chris Trotman, Getty Images|
The finish was Bliss’ fourth of the season and his first since Chicagoland, three races ago. With six races to go, he now leads the 2014 LASTCAR Cup Series Driver’s Championship by a single finish over Dave Blaney, who did not race on Sunday.
Last week at Dover, Bliss finished the race under power for the second time in his four previous starts in Tommy Baldwin’s #37, coming home nine laps down in 36th. Prior to that, he’d finished 35th at Richmond, six laps down. The other two runs were last-place finishes at Atlanta and Chicago. At Kansas, the #37's sponsorship from Accell Construction, Inc. went to teammate Michael Annett in Baldwin’s #7, and with 43 cars on the entry list, it appeared likely Bliss would park the car once more.
In practice, Bliss was 37th fastest in the opening session, then in qualifying timed in 41st with an average speed of 188.416 mph. In Saturday’s two practice sessions, Bliss found more speed, improving to 34th in the second session and 32nd in Happy Hour.
At the start of Sunday’s race, Mike Wallace started 43rd in his third-consecutive start for Identity Ventures Racing. Wallace’s #66 435 Overland Park Place Hotel Toyota held the 43rd spot four seven laps before he was passed by last week’s last-place finisher Timmy Hill. Hill, whose #33 retroinfinity.com Chevrolet carried the same paint scheme as his Nationwide car last week at Dover, was the first driver to lose a lap on Lap 16. One lap later, Bliss, who had by then slipped to 42nd, pulled behind the wall to take the last spot. Wallace and Hill finished 33rd and 34th, respectively.
Finishing 42nd Sunday was Kurt Busch and his #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet. One week after being eliminated from the Contender Round of the Chase, Busch had a miserable weekend. He qualified 24th, then in Happy Hour spun his primary car into the grass, which caused enough damage for the team to go to a backup car. In the race, an unscheduled stop left him 3 laps down in the early laps, and a blown right-front tire stuffed the backup int the wall, ending his race after 75 laps.
40th and 41st went to Jimmie Johnson and Justin Allgaier, respectively, who were two of four drivers involved in a grinding accident on Lap 84. Johnson, who averted disaster after a spin in qualifying, was trying to claw his way from the 32nd starting spot when he was spun by Greg Biffle off Turn 2, sending Johnson hard into the inside wall. Allgaier, his #51 Brandt Chevrolet hooked into traffic by Johnson, spun into the path of Josh Wise, damaging his #98 Westside Vapor / Vapor Station Chevrolet. Allgaier did not return to the track, but Wise returned on Lap 137 followed by Johnson on Lap 156. This allowed Wise to bump Johnson from 39th to 40th on his way to a 38th-place run.
Between Wise and Johnson was 39th-place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who led 45 of the race’s first 123 laps and was still leading when a blown right-front tire sent his #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet into the outside wall. Earnhardt returned to the track as well to finish 63 laps down for his first bottom-five finish since Bristol in August.
*This is the first last-place finish for both Bliss and the #37 in a Cup Series race at Kansas. It is the first for Tommy Baldwin Racing at this track since April 21, 2013, when Dave Blaney’s #7 SANY Chevrolet crashed after 36 laps of the STP 400.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
43) #37-Mike Bliss / 17 laps / vibration
42) #41-Kurt Busch / 75 laps / crash
41) #51-Justin Allgaier / 84 laps / crash
40) #48-Jimmie Johnson / 180 laps / running
39) #88-Dale Earnhardt, Jr. / 204 laps / running / led 45 laps
LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Mike Bliss (4)
2nd) Dave Blaney (3)
3rd) Timmy Hill (2)
4th) A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Travis Kvapil, Kyle Larson, Michael McDowell, Joe Nemechek, Clay Rogers, Johnny Sauter, Morgan Shepherd, Tony Stewart, Martin Truex, Jr., Ryan Truex, Brian Vickers, Cole Whitt, J.J. Yeley (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) #37-Tommy Baldwin Racing, #93-BK Racing (4)
2nd) #77-Randy Humphrey Racing (2)
3rd) #11-Joe Gibbs Racing, #14-Stewart-Haas Racing, #15-Michael Waltrip Racing, #21-Wood Brothers Racing, #26-BK Racing, #32-Go FAS Racing, #33-Circle Sport, #38-Front Row Motorsports, #40-Hillman Racing, #42-Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, #43-Richard Petty Motorsports, #44-Team XTREME Racing, #47-JTG-Daugherty Racing, #55-Michael Waltrip Racing, #66-Michael Waltrip Racing / Identity Ventures Racing, #78-Furniture Row Racing, #83-BK Racing, #87-Identity Ventures Racing, #88-Hendrick Motorsports, #95-Leavine Family Racing (1)
LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (12)
2nd) Toyota (11)
2nd) Ford (7)