NASCAR’s Cup Series makes the first of two scheduled trips this year to Kansas Speedway this week, setting up shop for a Thursday night show that marks the official start of the 36-race season’s second half.
The Super Start Batteries 400 Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) will be the opening act in a busy three-day stretch, with the Xfinity Series, Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series also in action at the 1.5-mile Kansas City venue. The Gander Trucks tour will conduct a weekend doubleheader, with back-to-back events set Friday and Saturday. The Cup Series race was originally slated for May 31 before the coronavirus outbreak forced competition officials to overhaul the 2020 schedule.
With many miles to run in the Sunflower State, here’s a primer with helpful information for the 19th Cup Series race of the season.
Kansas Speedway is a 1.5-mile oval developed by International Speedway Corp. Construction began in May 1999, and the facility opened for motorsports in 2001. The track went from one annual NASCAR Cup Series race to two in 2011. In the years since the speedway was built, the surrounding grounds have been the site of tremendous growth with retail locations, a casino and a Major League Soccer stadium all becoming its neighbors.
Kansas Speedway was repaved and reconfigured in between its 2012 race weekends, with the most dramatic change affecting the banking. The turns were changed from a 15-degree tilt to variable banking that spanned from 17 degrees in the low groove up to 20 degrees in the top lane. The back straightaway (measuring 2,207 feet) remained at roughly 5 degrees with the curved frontstretch (2,721 feet) banked at 10 degrees.
Frank Kimmel won the first race at Kansas Speedway, edging Jon Wood in what’s now called the ARCA Menards Series West on June 2, 2001. Jeff Gordon won the inaugural Cup Series race at Kansas later that year, besting rookie Ryan Newman, who placed a career-best second in his sixth Cup Series start.
Stage 1 is set to end at Lap 80, Stage 2 at Lap 160, and the final stage is slated to conclude on Lap 267.
The NASCAR Cup Series race will again be structured without practice and qualifying as the sanctioning body attempts to limit exposure for on-site personnel to control COVID-19’s spread. Sunday’s starting lineup will be determined by a random draw among groups in the team owner standings:
- Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points
Pit-stall selection is based on the finishing order from last Sunday’s event at Texas Motor Speedway.
The 2020 NASCAR rules package for intermediate-sized tracks will be in effect with a tapered spacer used to achieve a target of 550 horsepower. The cars will use aero ducts in addition to other aerodynamic devices to increase downforce.
Goodyear Racing will provide the same tire combination for all three NASCAR national series races this weekend at Kansas. On the Cup Series side, teams will run the same left-side tire that was used at Kansas last October and at Charlotte’s events in May. The right-side tire, which features a construction update, is the same code and compound that was deployed at 1.5-mile tracks at Las Vegas, Kentucky and Texas this season.
“The track surface at Kansas has weathered over the past several years, and teams now have to plan their race strategy to include tire wear,” said Greg Stucker, director of racing for Goodyear. “The tire set-up we will run has two tire codes that are well known to the teams. While the Cup and Xfinity cars ran this left-side tire at Kansas last fall, teams have run this right-side tire the past two weeks at both Texas and Kentucky. Those tracks are very smooth and don’t wear tires as much, so this right-side is designed to wear and lay rubber on the track. Combine that with the slightly more abrasive surface at Kansas, and tire management will be a factor.”
Each Cup Series team will have eight sets of Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials allotted for Sunday’s race. Xfinity Series teams will have five sets for their Saturday event; Gander Trucks teams will have a four-set allotment in each race of their Friday-Saturday doubleheader.
STATS TO KNOW
— There’s a three-way tie atop Kansas Speedway’s all-time win list, with Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick all claiming three victories there. Only three drivers have competed in all 28 Cup Series races at Kansas to date: Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Harvick.
— The last five Kansas races have been won by five different drivers with five different organizations. The list, in chronological order from October 2017: Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin.
— Aric Almirola enters Thursday’s 400 with a seven-race string of top-10 finishes, best in the Cup Series. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has six top 10s in 16 Kansas starts.
— Kevin Harvick heads the all-time list of Kansas Speedway lap leaders with 855 laps in front. He also leads the Cup Series this year with 691 laps led, topping Team Penske’s Joey Logano (560) and Ryan Blaney (497) in the top three on the stat sheet.
— Hendrick Motorsports has seven Kansas victories and placed three drivers in the top 10 in both Kansas races last season. They enter Thursday’s event on a recent slide, failing to register a top-10 finish in each of the last three Cup Series races.
Source: NASCAR statistics, Racing Insights
Tune in to television coverage Thursday on NBCSN (7:30 p.m. ET) or on the NBC Sports App. For full radio coverage from Kansas Speedway, listen in to MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Channel 90.
RELATED: Ways to follow the races
For a more interactive experience, steer over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR app to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
2019 RACE WINNER
Brad Keselowski surged ahead in overtime, denying Alex Bowman his first career win in a two-lap sprint to end the Digital Ally 400 on May 11. Keselowski dedicated the victory to Mike Mittler, a longtime Gander Trucks team owner who helped Keselowski and others launch their careers. The outcome marked Bowman’s third straight runner-up finish; his breakthrough Cup Series win arrived five races later at Chicagoland.
RELATED: 2019 Digital Ally 400 recap
ACTIVE KANSAS WINNERS
Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson (three each); Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. (two); Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Ryan Newman (one).