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Oct 17

NASCAR National Series News and Notes + Fast Facts

Picking Kansas winner easy as One-Two-Three

NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesKansas SpeedwayEasy to pick the favorites in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. Just check the top of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ standings. 

Picking Kansas winner easy as One-Two-Three

Easy to pick the favorites in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. Just check the top of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ standings.

Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin remain one, two and three as NASCAR’s post season rolls into its second half. Hamlin, Johnson and Keselowski are Kansas Speedway’s three most recent race winners. Coincidence? Perhaps; perhaps not.

Sunday’s race marks the first time in the Chase era – and the 21st Century – that the top three in NASCAR Sprint Cup standings go to a track where they’ve won the past three races.

It’s happened seven times, most recently on Sept. 26, 1999 at Dover International Speedway. Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin were the points leaders/three most recent race winners.

Keselowski saw his Chase lead halved at Charlotte Motor Speedway where a fuel-mileage miscalculation – heretofore the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge team’s strong point – resulted in an 11th-place finish. Not the end of the world for Keselowski’s championship hopes but certainly a misstep, especially after he led the most laps (139) of the Bank of America 500.

Keselowski’s first victory (of eight) for Penske Racing came at Kansas in May 2011. His average finish in five Kansas races is 10.2. Oh – and he won on fuel mileage. He finished 11th in April.

Johnson is among four drivers with two Kansas victories. Last fall’s victory didn’t lead to a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup title. Winning in 2008 did make Johnson the only driver with a Kansas victory and a championship under the Chase format.

While statistics may be a subject measurement with the 1.5-track repaved and reconfigured since May’s STP 400, Johnson’s results can’t be ignored.

His average finish (7.9 in 12 races) is best among active drivers. Johnson’s Driver Rating (120.7) also is best, as is his 373 Fastest Laps Run, Average Green Flag Speed (162.892) and 425 Quality Passes.

Johnson finished third in May’s Kansas stop.

Hamlin’s May victory was solid in every respect: A start of fourth, twice a leader including the final 31 laps and a Driver Rating of 128.6 – fractionally lower than that of second-place Martin Truex Jr., who paced the most laps.

The Virginia native has three top fives at Kansas and an average finish in nine races of 14.4, 11th-best among active drivers. His other Loop Data stats are in the mid-range – none better than seventh (342 Quality Passes).

Toyota’s one-two finish in May was unprecedented. The manufacturer never had won at Kansas Speedway, let alone sweep the top two positions. Hendrick Motorsports’ four victories – two each by Johnson and Jeff Gordon – are the most by a team in Kansas.

 

Bowyer Heads Home Truly A Championship Contender

A hero’s welcome awaits Clint Bowyer’s return to his native Kansas this week.

And why not? Bowyer, who switched teams at the conclusion of 2011 – from Richard Childress Racing to Michael Waltrip Racing – is riding a high that well could take the Emporia native straight to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Bowyer’s third and latest victory of the year last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway boosted the 33-year-old veteran to fourth in Chase standings, 28 points behind leader Brad Keselowski. He’s enjoying a career-best season – most wins, top fives (eight) and top 10s (19).

For Bowyer – and MWR, in the Chase for the first time – change is good. He’s among active drivers who’ve boosted their competitive standing by swapping teams. Among them are Kyle Busch, eight victories in his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing; Mark Martin, a five-time winner in his debut with Hendrick Motorsports and Tony Stewart, whose decision to co-own Stewart-Haas Racing was good for four wins in 2009 and a third NASCAR Sprint Cup title two years later.

Bowyer has three top 10s at the “old” Kansas Speedway including a second place in 2007. He finished seventh in last year’s Hollywood Casino 400 but was 36th in May’s STP 400. His Driver Rating is 85.7 – 15th best among active drivers.

Momentum, the will to win and a brand-new racing surface could make Bowyer a tough driver to beat in Sunday’s race and beyond. “If we could possibly pull this off again in Kansas, it would be, that’s my, do you dare say Daytona 500? But it truly is. That’s the biggest race you can possibly win in front of your hometown,” said Bowyer following his Bank of America 500 victory.

 

Teams Confront Entirely Different Kansas Speedway

Loose the Dragon. That’s as in Kansas Speedway’s Tire Dragon, a device that’s been in use around the clock since the completion of the track’s repaving and reconfiguration in late summer. The machine uses more than 200 Goodyear tires to “rubber in” the new surface, which will see cars on track with testing by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

Additionally, a number of drivers – Randy LaJoie, David Green, Brian Keselowski, Steve Grissom, Justin Labonte and Brad Noffsinger – have been circling the 1.5-mile track in retired NASCAR Sprint Cup cars running higher lines to encourage multiple grooves with additional rubber. The same two processes were employed successfully in 2011 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Teams will see two major changes when they arrive in Kansas City, Kan. There’s the brand-new asphalt surface eliminating the seams that previously held the winter-ravaged and deteriorating pavement together and upset the handling of the race cars.

Kansas Speedway’s turns also have been reconfigured, relegating teams’ previous set-up manuals to the rubbish bin. The track’s turns were banked 15 degrees from apron to SAFER barrier. Variable banking of 17 through 20 degrees, much like that of Homestead-Miami Speedway, should create multiple racing grooves. Computer modeling based on the geometry of the track after the reconfiguration was completed has all three lines within 0.1 seconds of each other. The computer says the highest line – 20 degrees – is the fastest way around the track.

 

Edwards Will Take Any Victory, Especially In Kansas

It’s hard to think of Carl Edwards as “spoiler,” especially at his home track, Kansas Speedway.

But that’s the Columbia, Mo. resident’s role on Sunday, Edwards having failed to qualify for the Chase for just the second time in 2012 and without a victory since March 2011. But perhaps it’s Edwards’ time to get his due – where winning would be among his greatest achievements regardless of championship implications.

Edwards has the credentials to become Kansas Speedway’s first “outsider” winner since Greg Biffle crashed the Chasers’ party in 2007. His sixth consecutive top-10 finishes include a second in 2008, and at 10.5, his Kansas Speedway average finish ranks fourth among active drivers

Edwards isn’t the only outlier thirsting for a Chase-busting victory. Mark Martin, racing a part-time schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing, has been on the cusp of Victory Lane all season.

Were Martin, a Kansas winner in 2005 a Chase qualifier, he’d have championship buzz: two top-five and four top-10 finishes plus a Coors Light Pole in his most recent six races. Martin is a Kansas winner (2005) and finished 10th in last year’s fall event.

 

Stewart, Gordon Facing Must-Win Scenarios

Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart has five races in which to display last year’s magic. There’s still time to mount a successful defense of his third title – but not much and it’s running out.

And he’s going to have to get some cooperation from his competition.

Stewart stood fifth at the mid-point of last year’s Chase, three positions higher than currently ranked. The deficit to Carl Edwards was 24 points. Stewart currently trails by 50 points, following a 13th-place finish in Charlotte.

Stewart opened this year’s Chase with back-to-back top 10s leading laps at both Chicagoland and New Hampshire. He’s led one lap and finished 20th or worse in two of three subsequent races. Kansas offers opportunity. Stewart twice has won at the track where his Driver Rating (102.9) is third best. .

The Hollywood Casino 400 likely is Jeff Gordon’s last stand. Gordon failed to take advantage of Brad Keselowski’s fuel-mileage miscue at Charlotte and is 50 points behind the Chase leader. Gordon also is a two-time Kansas winner (2001-02) and posted five consecutive top-five finishes between 2007 and last year’s spring race. On the flip side, Gordon was eliminated from last year’s Chase race by engine failure and finished three laps down in 21st this May.

 

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Etc.

Chevrolet can mathematically clinch its 10th consecutive NSCS Manufacturers’ Championship (and 36th overall) on Sunday in Kansas. If Chevrolet leads the manufacturer standings by 25 points leaving the race, it will clinch. Chevrolet currently holds a 24-point lead over Toyota. Finishing ahead of Toyota will guarantee the title. … Michael Jackson of Duluth, Minnesota, will enjoy a VIP experience at Kansas as one of four national finalists for the 2012 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, given annually to a NASCAR fan who has had an impact on children in the local community. Jackson will take a pace car ride and garage tour and will meet Denny Hamlin, and other NASCAR Toyota drivers. Jackson’s chosen charity, Starlight Children’s Foundation, will receive $25,000 from The NASCAR Foundation. The national winner, chosen by a fan vote on NASCAR.com/award, will receive $100,000 for his or her charity and be recognized at the awards banquet in Las Vegas in Nov. 30.

 

Uncertainty Looms At “New-Look” Kansas Speedway

When the NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to Kansas this week for Thursday’s extended practice and the Kansas Lottery 300 on Saturday afternoon it’s anyone’s guess as to who will capture the checkered flag. The 1.5-mile track underwent a repaving project shortly after the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series visited in April that has made it difficult to predict possible frontrunners.

The “new-look” Kansas Speedway will have a reconfigured track featuring corners with variable banking ranging for 17 to 20 degrees in lieu of 15-degree banked corners. Based on early computer modeling, it appears that the highest line should be the fastest line

Of the drivers in the top 10 in the standings, only Mike Bliss (eighth place, 307 points behind current leader Elliott Sadler) has ever won at the track in a national series event. He won the NCWTS race in 2002.

In addition to the new surface, the lack of NNS regulars visiting Victory Lane in series events at the track adds to the uncertainty of what the standings will look like after the race.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has the best average finishing position (5.5) among the top 10. In two NNS races at the Midwest track his best finish is fifth place. Stenhouse is currently second in the standings, only 13 points behind Sadler, who in two races has an average finishing position of 22.5. Sadler finished third in last year’s race. His best finish in 10 NSCS races is fourth place (2004).

Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Austin Dillon, third in the points (-29), has never competed in an NNS event at Kansas, but has a sixth-place finish in the 2010 NCWTS race. Sam Hornish Jr. and Cole Whitt, fourth and seventh place in the standings, respectively, have also never competed in a series race at the track. Hornish is 93 points outside of first, while Whitt is 222 back.

One might have to look outside the NNS regulars to find a favorite for Saturday’s race. In four series races at Kansas, NSCS regular Joey Logano has two wins and four top 10s. He has won eight of the 18 races he’s entered this season, including the last two.

 

Dillon Impresses On 1.5-Mile Tracks

Even though Austin Dillon is only a rookie in the NASCAR Nationwide Series he is quickly proving that he belongs, especially at 1.5-mile tracks. In nine starts on tracks measuring 1.5 miles he has an average finishing position of 5.1, better than the other drivers in the top five.

Two of those starts are victories, sweeping both events at Kentucky this season. Even though Dillon’s never competed in a NNS event at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway, the site of Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300, he has a streak of six top-10 finishes at 1.5-mile tracks. He has competed twice at Kansas in the NCWTS finishing sixth and 12th.

Comparatively, Elliott Sadler, the current points leader, has an average finishing position of 16.4 in 52 NNS starts at 1.5-mile tracks. At tracks 1.5 miles in length reigning champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has an 11.4 average finishing position in 31 starts. He is currently in second place, 13 points behind Sadler.

Fourth- and fifth-place contenders Sam Hornish Jr. and Michael Annett have average finishing positions of 16.4 and 17.7, respectively, at 1.5-mile tracks.

 

Long Returns To The Track At Kansas

Twenty-year-old Johanna Long has come a long way during her rookie season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In 18 races in 2012, she has an average finishing position of 21.9, which may not seem like big news, but it’s an improvement on her last two seasons running partial schedules in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (26.4 in 2010 and 23.6 in 2011).

Long took the last two NNS races off, but returns to action for the Kansas Lottery 300 Saturday afternoon at Kansas Speedway.

In her last outing, she had a strong showing in the Kentucky 300, finishing 12th. Her finish at Kentucky tied her career-high; she also placed 12th in the SUBWAY Jalapeno 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona in July.

She currently sits in 19th place, well outside of championship contention at 699 points behind leader Sadler. However, with a strong showing at Kansas and in the remaining three races she could catapult herself over her nearest competitors in the standings. Timmy Hill is 17 points in front of her.

 

NASCAR Nationwide Series, Etc.

On Friday, NNS driver Justin Allgaier will be onsite at the Ronald McDonald House of Kansas City when they, along with The NASCAR Foundation, reveal a new mosaic sign for the facility’s playground. … Chevrolet can mathematically clinch the Bill France Performance Cup Friday. If Chevrolet leads the standings by 19 points leaving the race, it will clinch. It currently holds a 22-point lead over Toyota. Chevrolet guarantees a clinch by earning second-place manufacturer points or better. …The first driver in NASCAR’s three national series to hail from Pakistan, Nur Ali, will attempt to qualify for the Kansas Lottery 300.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship contender James Buescher has stayed sharp by racing literally every weekend. This week’s Kansas Lottery 300 marks his 20th NASCAR Nationwide Series start beginning with a victory in the season opener at Daytona.

Buescher finished ninth at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week – his eighth top 10 of the season. He hopes to improve significantly on his prior two NNS starts at the Kansas track where his best is an 18th-place finish.

Kansas Speedway will always be special for Buescher, who posted his first NCWTS victory at the 1.5-mile track in May. All of Buescher’s four victories have come on intermediate tracks: Kansas, Texas and a season sweep at Kentucky.

Two of the season’s final races – Texas on Nov. 2 and Homestead on Nov. 16 – are on intermediate tracks. Buescher likely will be in a Turner Motorsports NNS car at both venues.

“I feel like racing in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series has been beneficial to me for technical aspects,” said Buescher, who figures to do double duty at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. “There are certain style tracks you can learn more from than others, like lines and lifting points. Some of those aspects I feel I can apply to both series.”

Buescher trails leader Ty Dillon by a single point entering the Oct. 27 Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway, the first of four consecutive races that will determine the 2012 champion.

 

Busy Buescher Kindles Title Hopes On Bye Weeks

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship contender James Buescher has stayed sharp by racing literally every weekend. This week’s Kansas Lottery 300 marks his 20th NASCAR Nationwide Series start beginning with a victory in the season opener at Daytona.

Buescher finished ninth at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week – his eighth top 10 of the season. He hopes to improve significantly on his prior two NNS starts at the Kansas track where his best is an 18th-place finish.

Kansas Speedway will always be special for Buescher, who posted his first NCWTS victory at the 1.5-mile track in May. All of Buescher’s four victories have come on intermediate tracks: Kansas, Texas and a season sweep at Kentucky.

Two of the season’s final races – Texas on Nov. 2 and Homestead on Nov. 16 – are on intermediate tracks. Buescher likely will be in a Turner Motorsports NNS car at both venues.

“I feel like racing in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series has been beneficial to me for technical aspects,” said Buescher, who figures to do double duty at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. “There are certain style tracks you can learn more from than others, like lines and lifting points. Some of those aspects I feel I can apply to both series.”

Buescher trails leader Ty Dillon by a single point entering the Oct. 27 Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway, the first of four consecutive races that will determine the 2012 champion.

 

Remaining Tracks Play To Strengths Of Bodine, Hornaday

Fair to say the “young guns” have more than made their mark on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season. The season’s record, eight first-time winners have an average age of 22.57 years.

The vacuum they’ve filled previously was occupied by veterans or “visitors” from other NASCAR national series.

Two former champions, Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday Jr., are experiencing uncharacteristic “off” years. Although Bodine won at Dover, he’s suffered mechanical failures and accidents and is outside the top 10 in points – 14th – for the first time as a full season campaigner.

Bodine closes out the year on three of his favorite tracks. He counts a combined nine victories at Homestead, Phoenix and Texas.

Hornaday likewise is mired in his most difficult season. The four-time champion, fourth in points a year ago, ranks 13th. He continues to search for his first victory of the year and increase to 13 the record number of full-time seasons with at least one win.

Odds are on Hornaday’s side. He’s won at least once on all four final stops on the schedule including a season sweep (2008) at Texas, multiple victories at Martinsville and Phoenix and a single win at Homestead.

“Doubting myself right now? That’s not happening,” said Hornaday. “Yeah, I’m 54 years old but I still have the drive to do it, still have the desire.”

 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.

Kansas City, Kan. resident Jennifer Jo Cobb also will compete in the Kansas Lottery 300 as will Ryan Blaney. Blaney finished 14th in Charlotte’s Dollar General 300. … Justin Lofton spent his bye weekend competing in the Best in the Desert Off-Road Association’s BlueWater Desert Challenge, a two-day event run over a 26-mile course. He was sidelined by mechanical issues.

 

Home Tracks Roundup:

NASCAR crowned three more champions over the past weekend, including a historic first European champion.

Spain’s Ander Vilarino capped Euro-Racecar’s first year under the NASCAR banner with a pair of top 10s in the finals weekend at LeMans in France to claim the inaugural crown. Vilarino had six wins, eight top-fives and 11 top-10 finishes in 12 races.

Doug Coby of Milford, Conn., came home sixth in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour finale at Thompson (Conn.) International Raceway to win his first title. He led the tour with five wins. George Brunnhoelzl III of West Babylon, N.Y., won for the sixth time in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour finale at Charlotte Motor Speedway to claim his third title in five years.

Dylan Kwasniewski won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race at All-American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., to take the points lead over teammate and defending champion Greg Pursley. Kwasniewski leads by two with heading to the last race of the season at Phoenix International Raceway in November.

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine is underway in Hampton, Va. The drivers will be on track at Langley Speedway on Wednesday and Thursday as they compete for spots on the 2013 Rev Racing team.

Fast Facts

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

  • The Race: Hollywood Casino 400
  • The Place: Kansas Speedway
  • The Date: Sunday, Oct. 21
  • The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
  • TV: ESPN, 1 p.m. (ET)
  • Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
  • Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps)

NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES

  • The Race: Kansas Lottery 300
  • The Place: Kansas Speedway
  • The Date: Saturday, Oct. 20
  • The Time: 3:30 p.m. (ET)
  • TV: ESPN, 3 p.m. (ET)
  • Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
  • Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)

NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

  •  The Race: Kroger 200
  • The Place: Martinsville Speedway
  • The Date: Saturday, Oct. 27
  • The Time: 2 p.m. (ET)
  • TV: SPEED, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
  • Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
  • Distance: 105.2 miles (200 laps)

source: nascar.com



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