NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

 
                 === This Week in Auto Racing Oct. 19 - 21 ===
 
 By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
 
 Philadelphia,  PA (Sports  Network) - The start  of the second half in the 10-
 race  Chase  for the Sprint  Cup championship takes  place this weekend on the
 newly repaved Kansas Speedway. The Nationwide Series will also be at Kansas.
 
 
 NASCAR
 
 Sprint Cup Series
 
 Hollywood Casino 400 - Kansas Speedway - Kansas City, Kan.
 
 After  winning last  Saturday night's event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Clint
 Bowyer  is  riding high  into his  home race this  weekend at Kansas Speedway,
 which has recently been repaved.
 
 Bowyer,  who  hails from nearby  Emporia, Kan.,  gave his championship hopes a
 huge boost by winning at Charlotte -- the fifth round in the 10-race Chase for
 the  Sprint Cup.  The first-year Michael Waltrip Racing driver moved to within
 28 points of leader Brad Keselowski in the Chase standings.
 
 He has scored a career-best three wins, eight top-five finishes and 19 top-10s
 this season.
 
 "Coming off of the win obviously rolling into your hometown is a lot of fun, a
 lot  of confidence, a lot of momentum and everything that comes off of a win,"
 Bowyer said.
 
 Bowyer  has posted  three top-10 finishes, including a second-place run (Sept.
 2007),  in eight  Sprint Cup Series races at Kansas. This time, Bowyer returns
 to  his  home track with  a whole lot  of momentum, and  a win there on Sunday
 could be the biggest one of his career.
 
 "If  we could possibly  pull this off again in Kansas, it would be, that's my,
 do  you dare  say Daytona 500?" he  said. "But it truly is. That's the biggest
 race you can possibly win in front of your hometown."
 
 After suffering engine failure and finishing 36th in the spring race at Kansas
 earlier  this  year, Bowyer  is hoping for  a much better  result in the first
 event to be contested on the new pavement there.
 
 This  1.5-mile track  has also  been reconfigured.  The turns  were banked  15
 degrees,  but variable banking from 17 degrees to 20, which is very similar to
 the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, should create multiple racing grooves.
 
 A  Goodyear  Tire test  was conducted at  Kansas the last  week in August. But
 NASCAR  has  granted Sprint Cup  teams additional  practice time this week for
 them to get familiar with the new surface and the reconfiguration.
 
 "There's  definitely  a lot more  practice on  the racetrack, but it's because
 it's a repave, and nobody has seen it before," Bowyer said. "More importantly,
 the track needs to get rubber burnt into it and get cleaned off."
 
 With  the exception  of a few drivers  who participated in the tire test, most
 competitors  got  their first look  at the new  Kansas track on Wednesday. The
 first  day  of testing,  though, was shortened  from four hours  to two due to
 rain. Testing will continue on Thursday morning, and teams will practice again
 on Friday and Saturday.
 
 Of  the 47 cars  that were on the track on Wednesday, 30 of them posted speeds
 faster  than  the current track qualifying  record of 180.856 mph, set by Matt
 Kenseth  in 2005.  Greg  Biffle, who  is Kenseth's  teammate  at Roush  Fenway
 Racing, turned the fastest lap in the session at 184.900 mph.
 
 "This  track went from  being pretty abrasive and wearing the tires out to now
 it's  smooth and just  super fast," said Chase driver Jeff Gordon, who won the
 first  two  Cup races  at Kansas from  2001-02. "The times  don't fall off. If
 anything,  they  get  faster.  It's  basically  like  going  to  a  whole  new
 racetrack."
 
 Among the 47 cars that tested, four were the redesigned 2013 models. The teams
 testing  the future cars were Michael Waltrip Racing, Penske Racing, Earnhardt
 Ganassi Racing and Wood Brothers Racing.
 
 Kansas  is the third track to receive a new coat of asphalt this year, joining
 Pocono  Raceway  and Michigan International Speedway. NASCAR officials believe
 the  racing grooves  at Kansas will multiply as more rubber accumulates on the
 track, which was the case earlier this season at Pocono and Michigan.
 
 "Eventually,  the  groove will  move up  naturally, and I  think the second or
 third  groove very well  could be one of the fastest ways around," NASCAR vice
 president  of competition  Robin  Pemberton said  after  Wednesday's test  had
 concluded.
 
 Teams  and race  officials are hopeful the upcoming weekend at Kansas will not
 feature  the same  issues that occurred in the June event at Michigan. Several
 teams  experienced  tire blistering in  the first  two days of practice there.
 NASCAR and Goodyear were forced to use a tougher left-side tire for that race,
 which prompted an extra practice session the evening before the event.
 
 "We don't need to go into a racetrack and have an issue," said title contender
 Jimmie  Johnson. "I know there was a tire test, but it's always different when
 the  entire field  is there pushing one  another. We seem to have other things
 surface from a tire standpoint or even the asphalt itself. There's always that
 risk of it pulling up, so it's nice that we go there.
 
 "We  all get acclimated  with the new surface and re-design. I guess there are
 some  small little  changes and things; and validate the tire and validate the
 track  and get everything right, so that when we show up Friday, we can put on
 the show that we need to."
 
 Johnson,  who  won last year's fall  race at Kansas, is presently seven points
 behind  Keselowski. Denny  Hamlin is 15 points  out of the lead. Hamlin won at
 this track in April.
 
 Forty-six  teams  are on the  preliminary entry  list for the Hollywood Casino
 400.
 
 
 Nationwide Series
 
 Kansas Lottery 300 - Kansas Speedway - Kansas City, Kan.
 
 Saturday's  race  at Kansas Speedway begins  the final four for the Nationwide
 Series.
 
 Elliott  Sadler  comes to  Kansas with  a 13-point  lead over defending series
 champion  Ricky  Stenhouse Jr.  Sadler's  third-place  finish in  last  Friday
 night's  race  at Charlotte Motor Speedway  allowed him to gain four points on
 Stenhouse, who placed seventh.
 
 Nationwide  teams  will arrive  at Kansas  one day earlier  than normal to get
 familiar with the track's new pavement and configuration. NASCAR has scheduled
 a  four-hour  practice session for  teams on Thursday afternoon, shortly after
 Sprint Cup Series practice has concluded.
 
 The  1.5-mile racetrack  underwent a repaving project following the Sprint Cup
 and Camping World Truck Series races there in April.
 
 "This  is definitely the wild card left on our schedule," Sadler said. "No one
 really knows what to expect after Kansas Speedway was repaved, so the practice
 sessions on Thursday and Friday are very important."
 
 Sadler  finished third, while Stenhouse placed fifth in last year's Nationwide
 race at Kansas. Stenhouse posted a sixth-place finish there in 2010.
 
 "We  need  to have a  strong top-five run  this weekend," Stenhouse said. "I'm
 confident  in my  team going into the  final four races. We are only 13 points
 out  of the championship lead. We will keep chipping away at that deficit each
 week to regain the points lead."
 
 Rookie  Austin  Dillon enters  this race  29 points behind  Sadler, who is his
 teammate  at Richard  Childress Racing.  Dillon will  compete in  a Nationwide
 event at Kansas for the first time. The 22-year-old driver has been impressive
 on  the  mile and a halfs  this season, recording  an average finish of 5.1 on
 them,  which is  better than any other driver currently ranked in the top-five
 in points. He won both races at Kentucky this year.
 
 "The  No. 3 team has performed very well on 1.5-mile tracks in the past, and I
 expect  this weekend will  be no different," Dillon said. "Our goal is to gain
 maximum points, and the way you do that is by winning races. I'm excited to go
 to Kansas Speedway, and I definitely have high expectations."
 
 Sam  Hornish Jr.  is presently fourth in the point standings (-93) and Michael
 Annett is fifth (-146).
 
 Kyle  Busch, Joey  Logano and Paul Menard are those Sprint Cup Series regulars
 competing in this race. Logano claimed his eighth Nationwide win of the season
 at Charlotte. He won the Nationwide event at Kansas in 2009 and '10.
 
 Forty-four teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Kansas Lottery 300.
 
 10/17 22:38:51 ET

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