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.