KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The notion is that today’s race at Kansas Speedway is the final chance for Chase drivers to determine their fate in this round because of the unpredictability of next weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.
To say that, though, overlooks how treacherous Kansas Speedway can be.
This track has tormented Kyle Busch. This is where Kurt Busch Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Brad Keselowski each wrecked a year ago. This is where four of the 12 Chase drivers have failed to finish a race since 2013 – Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch.
So to think that today’s Hollywood Casino 400 is without challenge would be a mistake.
“This race can be really tough because the restarts are going to be insanity,’’ Carl Edwards said. “Everyone is going to fight for their positions like we saw last week (at Charlotte). It’s so fast – you’re going so fast in the center of the corners here that one wiggle, one problem that someone has can be a massive wreck, and we’ve seen that here. Anything can happen.’’
That’s just among the storylines for today’s race.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN? Will Brad Keselowski and his team be saying that later today? Keselowski starts on the pole and normally would have the pit stall near pit exit but his team has received four warnings since August and lost their chance to choose their pit stall this weekend.
Instead of having the best stall on pit road, Keselowski will pit with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in front and Greg Biffle behind. Earnhardt finished third in May at Kansas and Biffle was 12th, while Keselowski was seventh.
If all three run to form, they’ll be on the same lap throughout the race and will pit together during caution periods. That could make it challenging for Keselowski entering or exiting his pit stall. Any delay could cost him track position. Could this penalty play a role in keeping Keselowski from winning? Or will it not have an impact?
WHAT TO DO? May’s race at Kansas featured a caution with 11 laps to go, forcing crew chiefs to decide if to stay on track or pit. Jimmie Johnson, one of four drivers who did not pit, moved into the lead and won the race. Kevin Harvick, who pitted for tires, finished second. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who did not pit, finished third. Martin Truex Jr., who led a race-high 95 laps, pitted for fuel only, got held up on the restart and finished ninth.
If there’s a late caution, who will be willing to stay on track and who will pit for tires?
NASCAR OFFICIATING: As the stakes increase in the Chase, every decision by NASCAR could make an impact on who advances and who does not. Series officials thought they had cleared the track of oil last weekend at Charlotte, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch were among those who claimed they ran over oil and hit the wall, damaging their cars. NASCAR also has done more to better judge if drivers are jumping restarts but that remains a judgment call.
DO YOU REMEMBER? The last time Hendrick Motorsports won a Sprint Cup race?
It was July at Daytona with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Admittedly, a 13-race winless streak is not that much compared to the losing streaks for some other organizations, but it is the longest for Hendrick Motorsports since a 16-race winless drought from 2010-11.
Does the streak end or continue today?