Challenges await Chasers at Kansas
October 06, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
RELATED: Full Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Vastly different weather conditions, a new tire and the pressures of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup have combined to create what might be the perfect storm for today's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
And those pieces were in place before a pair of quarreling drivers, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, was added to the potentially volatile mix.
Busch and older brother Kurt, both Chase contenders, will be attempting to remain relevant by charging from the back, each having unloaded a second entry after damaging their primary rides during practice on Saturday in separate, but apparently equally damaging, incidents.
Points leader Matt Kenseth also spun Saturday, but avoided harm to his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson lost the handle a day earlier, but likewise escaped unscathed and his No. 48 Chevrolet intact.
Further fueling the fire was Saturday's incident in the final laps of the Nationwide Series race, in which contact from Kyle Busch sent Keselowski backing hard into the wall as the pair battled for second place.
Words, not actions, followed, with Keselowski all but promising retribution.
"I feel bad for the guys … that are going to have to fix his (stuff)," Keselowski said. "That is going to be part of racing and they are going to have to deal with it."
Those unseasonably warm temperatures that greeted teams Thursday (for an open test) and Friday have departed, with today's high not expected to climb out of the low 60s.
"We don't really know," pole winner Kevin Harvick said Friday when asked how the weather might impact today's race. "Because this is a new generation tire for us and has … thrown us all … a little bit of a curveball as to what we need in the car and what we're feeling and how we're feeling it."
Practice, he said, might provide a better idea of what to expect.
If that's the case, then hang on. Practice produced the spins by the Busch brothers and Kenseth. Along with a mixed bag of results that saw Roush Fenway Racing drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Carl Edwards pace the day's two sessions.
"Our car is not very good," Kyle Busch said moments after finishing fourth in the Kansas Lottery 300. "I'm not very good here and I don't know why I can be in Nationwide -- I had a great car today ... but my Cup car has never had that feeling here at Kansas."
Kenseth, who would have vetoed the tire change had the decision been left up to him, said the new zone tread tire provided by Goodyear "has a lot less grip."
"That right-side tire is going to make it very, very interesting," he said.
Saturday's Nationwide race was slowed by 11 cautions, with nearly half caused by single-car spins. Kenseth, who leads Johnson by eight points and Kyle Busch by 12, said he expects similar incidents to unfold in the Cup race.
"I would be surprised if you didn't see some basically single-car spins and maybe collect some other people," he said. "I think it's going to be fairly treacherous. But the Cup race is always a little bit different. I think passing will be easier … because we have so much more power. I think you'll be able to get a run and be able to pass a little bit better."
Goodyear officials say today's cooler temperatures won't affect the performance of the new tires. NASCAR officials describe it as a "learning curve" for drivers and teams.
"In the spring, we ran here in the mid-60s," Greg Stucker, director of race tire sales for Goodyear, said. "And we'll be close to that it sounds like on Sunday, maybe a few degrees cooler.
"And you have to remember … two-thirds of the tire is the same compound on the right side that we raced here in the spring. Of course we've got a more tractive left side. If anything, it should be a little bit more grip. Speeds will be up, just because of the cool temperatures."
The proliferation of spins, Busch said, isn't a result of the tire but a result of new pavement that was put into place last year.
"It's not the tires' fault," he said. "… It's frustrating because we know what kind of race this place put on before they repaved it. It was a great race track. (The groove) went from the bottom all the way to the wall and you could run anywhere you wanted to.
"For some reason somebody thought it was a great idea to repave it and cause single-lane racing and it sucks."