Mash The Gas – Kansas Preview

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series visits another mile and a half oval this weekend at the Kansas Speedway for the STP 400. Jimmie Johnson won the last race at Kansas in the fall while Brad Keselowski took home the victory in the spring race last year. The Sunday afternoon race comprises of 267 laps with the green flag scheduled to wave at 1:16pm eastern on April 22nd.

Kansas Speedway hosted its first NASCAR Sprint Cup race in 2001. In the 12 races contested here, two drivers stand high and above the rest when it comes to success at Kansas and ironically, they finished first and second last week at Texas.

We look at who’s hot in the season so far combined with who runs well at the upcoming track as well as hunches to come up with the following list and discussion.

#16-Greg Biffle
Dan Margetta – With an average finish of 8.3, this is one of Biffle’s most successful tracks, having scored 2 wins and eight top ten finishes in eleven races. This team finally broke through for a long anticipated win last week and now with that hurdle cleared, the flood gates could be open. It’s going to be tough to keep Biffle out of victory lane. Las Vegas opening odds: 8-1.

John Wiedemann – After this weekend Greg Biffle will be set for the Chase. A win would give him his second of the season and keep him at the top of the standings. A third place finish at Vegas and win last week at Texas coupled with previous history makes him the front runner on intermediate type tracks. In fact, you can keep him penciled in as a favorite for a number of races coming up on the schedule.

#48-Jimmie Johnson
JW – Hold on there, Jimmie Johnson would probably tell me. Johnson won at this racetrack last fall, scoring the 199th Cup Series win for Hendrick Motorsports. The entire Hendrick team has a shot to take the win this week at Kansas, but I think that Johnson will be the one to get the long awaited 200th win, if he can out-duel Biffle.

DM – Just like last week’s finish, Johnson is right behind Biffle on the stat sheet at Kansas, with an average finish of 8.4 and having scored two wins and nine top-tens in eleven races. Johnson ran toe-to-toe with Biffle last week until issues with lapped traffic allowed Biffle to pull away at the finish. This team has been so close to victory the last two weeks only to have it slip away and they are tired of being reminded no Hendrick Motorsports team has scored a win yet this year. Johnson is the favorite of Las Vegas oddsmakers, listed at 6-1.

#24-Jeff Gordon
DM – Gordon won the first two races held at Kansas and has virtually run well there ever since. While the #48 team with Jimmie Johnson may be everyone’s favorite this week, it could very well be Jeff Gordon who captures Hendrick Motorsports elusive 200th cup win. Vegas odds: 10-1.

JW – Gordon was able to make up for a horrible qualifying result, 34th, and drove up through the pack to run and finish with the leaders at Texas. But, has he gotten rid of the bad luck cloud that has overshadowed any good runs this team has had? Gordon won the first two races held at Kansas Speedway and in twelve races there has finished in the top five eight times. Gordon doesn’t need a win, a top five will help him continue his climb out of the cellar of the point standings.

Other Stories:
Tony Stewart – What Tony Stewart will show up this week? The one that dominated Las Vegas or the one that looked to be just in the way at Texas? Stewart has a strong history at Kansas and the Vegas oddsmakers list him as a co-favorite with Jimmie Johnson at 6-1, but last week’s dismal performance leaves many questions. One thing’s for sure, the green (supposedly bad luck in racing) will be off the paint scheme this week. (DM)

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski was the top performer in both Kansas races last year, scoring a win and a third place finish. Keselowski’s win last year came as a result of stretching the fuel mileage to the finish while this season, the team experienced problems with the fuel system at both 1.5 mile tracks at Las Vegas and Texas. A good run at Kansas will show everyone the fuel system problems have been rectified. (DM)

Roush Fenway Racing vs Hendrick Motorsports – Everyone else can go home, one of these teams will be in victory lane at the end of the STP 400. Well, on paper it looks that way. Maybe Stewart-Haas will show up, but they didn’t really have it going on at Texas. Richard Childress Racing doesn’t seem to be there either. Realistically the one team that is ready to challenge Roush and Hendrick is Michael Waltrip Racing. (JW)

Michael Waltrip Racing – Last week we wondered if Michael Waltrip Racing was for real and apparently they are as Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr. were third and sixth respectively at Texas. Both have respectable track records here, plus Clint Bowyer is from Kansas and considers this his hometown track. I think all three run well here and judging from the early Las Vegas odds (Martin 35-1, Truex 30-1, Bowyer 30-1), they’re still flying under everyone’s radar. (DM)

Joey Logano -Quietly lucking outside the top 10 in points, he is tied for twelfth, Logano needs to get back to early season form and score some top 10 finishes. This year could be the end of Logano driving for Joe Gibbs Racing and either Logano needs to do well to stay with the team or he needs to pad a resume to try and find a quality Sprint Cup Series ride for 2013, and there won’t be many of those available. This is a driver and story to watch as the year goes on. (JW)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. -Another top ten finish last weekend keeps him second in the standings. Tied with Matt Kenseth just nineteen points behind Biffle, Earnhardt keeps producing solid finishes and should find himself back in the Chase for the Championship. (JW)

Go Or Go Home And Top 35 Check
Sam Hornish Jr. returns to the Sprint Cup Series this weekend, driving a third Penske car #12 with sponsorship from SKF and will have to qualify for the race on speed as the team is not in the top 35 in owner’s points.

Tony Raines will be behind the wheel of the #33 car marked on the entry list as owned by Richard Childress again this week. The car is currently just a single point out of the top 35 in owner’s points, in 36th and will also have to qualify for the race on speed.

Among those locked in, the #10 team with David Reutimann is in 34th place in points, three points ahead of the #83 team and driver Landon Cassill in 35th place, the final guaranteed spot. (DM)

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