Splitter to Spoiler: Redemption for Truex in record-breaking Kansas race

Truex wins in return to Kansas, Almirola airlifted from track and Blaney script setting up perfectly

Jeffrey Becker—USA Today Sports
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. celebrates his victory at the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Last year, Martin Truex Jr. led a race-high 172 laps at Kansas and came into the pits for one final pit stop ahead of the last restart. He returned to the track with a chance to win, but quickly realized he had a loose wheel and returned to the pits, ultimately finishing 14th overall.On Saturday night, he exacted some revenge on the track that left him feeling snake bitten last year.Truex found his way to the front multiple times — leading a race-high 104 laps — but it was the final restart that sealed the win for Furniture Row Racing. Polesitter Ryan Blaney lost the lead on the restart and Truex pounced, taking the checkered flag ahead of Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Blaney and Kyle Busch.”It’s always good to get a nice beer shower, 5-hour Energy and whatever else they’re throwing on us,” Truex said. “Pretty awesome, awesome day, awesome weekend. This team rocks, man. They’re so good.”We just stuck with it all night. We had an awesome race car. There’s times, there, we looked like we weren’t going to have a shot at it. We just kept fighting and made it happen.”It was somewhat of a fitting win for Truex and his entire team given the circumstances. The caution flag waved a track-record 15 times on Saturday night and the No. 78 team was perfect on nearly every stop.The win on the night before Mother’s Day marked Truex’s ninth win of his career. It was also the eight overall win for Furniture Row Racing. Seven of those wins have come with Truex behind the wheel. Suffice to say, it’s a match made in Heaven for both sides.”Any of those restarts I could’ve got beat on,” Truex said. “I’m just so proud of everyone on this team; all my guys. … It’s just amazing. It’s awesome.”Truex is now propelled into the second overall spot in the NASCAR standings and joins Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski as the only drivers with multiple wins this season. More importantly, he now has the most playoff points this year, which carry over into the postseason for each individual driver.Oh, and don’t expect Truex and the No. 78 team to slow down any time soon. The next points race on the calendar happens to be the Coca-Cola 600, a race that Truex led for 392 of 400 laps — or 588 of 600 miles — last season.Almirola aftermath proves how dangerous NASCAR still isAric Almirola sat trapped in his car for nearly 15 minutes following a wreck that was started when Joey Logano made contact with Danica Patrick at Kansas. Emergency personnel eventually cut the roof off the No. 43 car to remove Almirola from the mangled machine.The wreck all started when Logano reportedly had a brake rotor blow, sending him down into Patrick’s rear quarter panel. With Patrick and Logano log jammed at the top of the track, Almirola had nowhere to go and slammed into both cars.Almirola was carried off the track in a stretcher before being airlifted out of Kansas Speedway to Kansas University hospital, where he was kept overnight for further evaluation. It was revealed on Sunday that Almirola suffered a compression fracture to his T5 vertebra, located in the middle of his back. Almirola is mobile and was released from the hospital on Sunday morning.The contact couldn’t be prevented, but it was a terrifying reminder of just how dangerous NASCAR racing can be.”Just saying a lot of prayers for Aric [Almirola] right now,” Logano said. “… “I just hope everyone is okay. I hope Aric is alright. That’s the last thing you want to see, a big hit like that for anyone. It’s unfortunate for everyone. Let’s hope that Aric is alright.”NASCAR has come a long way since the on-track deaths of several drivers, including Dale Earnhardt 16 years ago. But there is still clearly the risk of serious injury, as evidenced by Kyle Busch’s broken leg in 2015 and Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s concussion last season.As for Patrick’s response to the scary scene, well, it was something.”We were having a really good race and having fun out there and had a lot of speed,” Patrick said. “I kinda felt like Wonder Woman for a little while. All I know is that I all of a sudden crashed. … I am just frustrated for the lack of breaks I get. It seems like every time things are going better and something happens I get crashed or am in a crash. Especially a place like this, a brake rotor, when we are using 200-300 pounds of pressure seems odd.”Unfortunately there were two of us that got collected and while I am okay, one of these times one if these really big accidents someone is not going to be okay. Aric (Almirola) is not okay and his car looked the best of everybody. You never know when it is going to be the wrong hit. I have a team that works hard and put another car on the track and I hope we are saving up for a really good run of good luck.”While Patrick’s post-wreck comments were a bit self-centered — especially considering Almirola was carried off the track on a backboard — she’s saying what most drivers would in any other situation. It could literally happen to anyone. And while Almirola’s hit may have been a freak accident, NASCAR knows it’s possible. No better time than now to act.Script written perfectly for Blaney, Wood BrothersFor the second time this season, Ryan Blaney won a stage but didn’t win the race. Saturday was also the second time this year he’s led more than 80 laps, only to watch someone else surpass him at the end.Even with the heartache of another unfortunate loss, Blaney’s script couldn’t be written more perfectly. After all, he heads back home to Charlotte over the next two weeks with two chances to make a statement.”It was nice to show our muscle this weekend and prove that, like I said, this is where the 21 team deserves to be, so it’s just nice to get back on track,” Blaney said. “Going to a few racetracks that are pretty good for us, Charlotte and then we’ll keep moving on. It’s nice to have a good run today. Yeah, of course we wanted to win, but at the same time, you look at the gains we made all weekend and really being fast all weekend, that puts us back to where we need to be for sure.”Blaney and Wood Brothers Racing have had their most success this season at 1.5-mile tracks in Las Vegas, Texas and Kansas. Charlotte is a 1.5-mile track that Blaney has plenty of experience at in the Xfinity and Cup levels.Though he’s never won at Charlotte in any of the top three series, he also led a total of 16 laps over the last two seasons at the Cup level. This is a completely new Blaney and Wood Brothers Racing team. A win in the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race of the year, would likely wipe away any doubts of his talent