Throughout the Chase’s nine-year history, Kansas Speedway has often offered a welcome opportunity for non-Chase drivers to enter back into the spotlight.
Joe Nemechek boasts the title as “first-ever spoiler,” becoming the first non-Chaser to win a Chase race – at Kansas Speedway in 2004. The trend continued in 2006 and 2007, with Kansas Chase victories by Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle, respectively.
So we may be in store for a surprise in Kansas – but the odds remain heavily in favor of Chasers going 4-for-4 to open the Chase. For one, it’s been almost two years since a spoiler won a Chase race. The last came at Phoenix in November of 2011, when Kasey Kahne won while driving for Red Bull Racing. And secondly, Chase competitors are dominating in an unprecedented fashion. At Dover last Sunday, Chase drivers made up the entire top-10 – the first time in Chase history that has happened.
But two names, in particular, could play the spoiler role : Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin, who missed the spring Kansas race with a back injury, won at the 1.5-mile track in 2012, and has three top five finishes there in the last six races. Keselowski won at Kansas in 2011, and has finished in the top 10 at Kansas in four of the last five races.