As one of the newer tracks on the circuit, Kansas Speedway has had its share of races that have both been exciting and those that have been, well, not so exciting. The 1.5 mile track, which boasted 15 degree banking in its turns when added to the Sprint Cup Series schedule in 2001, underwent a facelift in 2012 to increase the banking to progressive banking ranging from 18 to 20 degrees.
In this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday Theater”, we’ll take a look back at one of the more exciting races to take place at the track, the 2008 Camping World RV 400, which occurred on the track’s original configuration.
Heading into the race, both Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson were neck and neck in the points standings, with Edwards holding a 10 point advantage over Johnson. However, the weekend couldn’t have started any worse for Edwards, who would start the race in 34th, while Johnson was on the pole.
Johnson took off from the pole and led the first 16 laps before being surpassed by Matt Kenseth, who looked to be Johnson’s biggest competition early in the race. For the next 118 laps, the lead would swap between Kenseth, Johnson, Martin Truex, Jr., Michael Waltrip, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Casey Mears.
Meanwhile, Edwards was busy making his way through the field and cracked the top-10 by lap 135, and found himself in the lead by lap 176. After a two lap stint up front, green flag pit stops would get underway and Johnson would resume the lead after the pit stops cycled through. For the remainder of the race, it would be the Johnson and Edwards show.
By lap 191, Edwards was nipping on Johnson’s heels once again and took his No. 99 Ford to the front for the second time of the day for a total of 29 laps, which was Edwards longest stretch in the lead. When the sixth caution of the day flew with 50 laps remaining, both drivers took the opportunity to come down pit road for their final pit stops of the day. Johnson’s crew was able to get him off of pit road fastest and allowed him to resume the lead for the ensuing restart.
Over the final 48 laps, Johnson was able to hold his lead over Edwards through the remaining green flag laps and final caution period. While Johnson was dominant up front, Edwards was not going to be denied as he found some speed running up high and was able to close the gap on Johnson and the two cars were bumper to bumper as they took the white flag.
Johnson had moved up high to try and slow Edwards’ momentum, so as they entered Turn 3 for the final time, Edwards made a daring move and divebombed low into Turn 3 and completed the pass on Johnson. However, the amount of speed Edwards was carrying into the turn was too much for the car to be able to stick and Edwards slid up the track and got into the Turn 4 wall, allowing Johnson to get back by Edwards and go on to score the win.
After the race, both drivers laughed about the last ditch move that Edwards had made to try and win the race.
“I knew instantly, there was no damn way he’s making the turn. Just stayed on the brake, tried to get redirected and turned down. I was so in awe of how fast he drove it in, I watched him pound the wall and jump back on the gas. I thought, Man, he’s serious about this win, I better get back on the gas myself (laughter). Got off the turn well and got back to the start/finish,” Johnson said.
“With two to go, we had a nice comfortable lead. Thought we were in great shape. He found a line or found some grip somewhere, and just destroyed us those last few laps. Just thankful we got it done.”
Edwards would talk about the move, which he said he learned from playing video games.
“There at the end my car was just a little too loose. I could just hang with Jimmie. I couldn’t get him until the last couple laps when I just started bonsaiing it around on the top there. He saw what I was doing, so he went up there to block. That last lap, I just figured, hell with it, I don’t want to finish second here, I want to win this race more than anything in the world, so I kind of bonsaied it in there. I wanted to make sure I cleared Jimmie. I went probably just a little too far and hit the wall harder than I planned on hitting it, he got back by me,” Edwards said.
“It was fun. Always wanted to kind of try to do that. Now I know it doesn’t work quite the same as video games. But it was fun (smiling).”
Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR