News & Media

New-look Kansas a Chase unknown for contenders

October 19, 2012, Holly Cain, Special to NASCAR.COM,

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A freshly paved, newly reconfigured race track gets the attention of any starting field, but for a handful of drivers this weekend, Kansas Speedway's new look could have a big impact.

There is a NASCAR championship on the line with four drivers separated by a mere 28 points with only five races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Who will win?

The Chase for the Sprint Cup? This week's race? Check out the up-to-date predictions.

Clint Bowyer, who sits fourth in the standings entering Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, calls his hometown track a "wild card," along the likes of unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway.

With new paving and reconstructed variable banking around the 1.5-mile oval and only two days of testing, no team has any extensive notes or experience on which to rely. Changing weather systems have complicated things, as well. Strong, gusty winds, cloudy skies and cool temperatures have affected the area all week. But a warming trend is forecast, with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s expected by race day.

* GarageCam Replay: Strong winds and gnomes

* HLN Weather Blast: Racing forecast for Kansas

"This is going to be a wild-card race,'' said Bowyer, who trails Chase leader Brad Keselowski by 28 points.

"Track position and playing your cards right -- no tires, fuel only, two tires, four tires, when to do that, how to set yourself up for the end if comes down to fuel mileage ... you're going to have to play your cards right and have a little bit of luck to see it through.''

It well could be the great equalizer for the championship contenders.

Keselowski, for example, will start Sunday's race 25th after struggling in qualifying and running mid-pack in practice.

His closest title challengers, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin, will roll off seventh and ninth, respectively. But Keselowski wasn't too concerned.

"We just have more work to do than we wanted for Sunday,'' Keselowski said. "Race day is what counts and we have some more practice time to work on the Miller Lite Dodge [on Saturday].''

Climbing out of his No. 48 Chevrolet, five-time champ Johnson was optimistic about his team's chances at Kansas and seemed undeterred by the "unknowns" the speedway presents.

"It's going to be a big guessing game,'' Johnson said.

"It is tough to work on a plan, but the 48 team has always adjusted well and I think our experience in pressure situations at different race tracks helps us.

"We welcome the change and the excitement. It's been a fun couple days and I'm looking forward to [Saturday] and Sunday, as well.

"I'm having a lot of fun in this championship battle. This has been a very competitive Chase. I've enjoyed racing the No. 11 [Hamlin] and the No. 2 [Keselowski] week in and week out and putting the pressure on.''