If you have been listening to Kurt Busch's radio transmissions throughout the last two months, it would appear as if Penske Racing was a team on the brink of disaster and in desperate need of restructuring. Yet Sunday at Kansas Speedway, Penske Racing was the class of the field.
Busch gave the team its second consecutive pole of the season, following up teammate Brad Keselowski's effort last weekend in Charlotte. Leading four times for a total of 152 laps, for much of Sunday's race it appeared Busch would lead Penske Racing into victory lane. Instead, it was Keselowski that stretched the fuel mileage and gave team owner Roger Penske his first points win of the season.
Penske Racing: 1st, 9th
Despite Busch's critical comments on the radio over the past few weeks, Penske Racing has seen a resurgence as of late, and that was evident Sunday afternoon.
According to team owner Roger Penske, the changes within the organization have helped, but were not a direct result of Busch's comments.
"I don't think that anyone making comments publicly or internally are going to turn the team around in two or three weeks," Penske said. "Remember, when you've got two drivers and probably 30 cars that you can't just do things overnight, because we don't run the same car like we do on the IndyCar side. And I think it's progress.
"It's the crew chief and the driver working together," he said. "I think it's the transparency between the two teams. We've added more engineering capability this year. I think we're starting to see it now that we didn't have last year."
Hendrick Motorsports: 2nd, 4th, 7th, 21st
Although Hendrick Motorsports finished the day with three cars in the top 10, the Hendrick cars were unusually quiet at Kansas Speedway.
For the second week in a row, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the team's flagship driver. With a strong car, Earnhardt Jr. had to overcome a spin that left him mired in traffic. Using pit strategy, Earnhardt Jr. appeared to be on his way to his first win since Michigan in 2008 if Keselowski had run out of fuel.
Jeff Gordon had a solid day to finish fourth, his first top 10 since his third-place run at Talladega in April. Running up front for much of the afternoon, Gordon and crew chief Alan Gustafson struggled to keep up with the ever-changing track.
Richard Childress Racing: 11th, 18th, 19th, 25th
Sunday was a fairly uneventful day for the Richard Childress Racing bunch, with no driver finishing inside the top 10.
Aside from the on track action, RCR leaves Kansas Speedway with a black eye – no pun intended – stemming from an physical confrontation between team owner Richard Childress and Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch.
NASCAR will likely hand down further penalties and sanctions to Childress early this week, and for a team that is poised to make yet another championship run, this is not the kind of drama they need moving forward.