Richard Petty’s blue and red No. 43 back at Kansas

The iconic No. 43 car and it’s unmistakable blue-and-red paint

scheme is making its return to NASCAR this weekend in Kansas.

The modern version of the car made famous by ”The King,” Hall

of Famer Richard Petty, will start Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at the

Kansas Speedway with A.J. Allmendinger behind the wheel.

The move is part of a renewed push into the sport by Petty’s

longtime sponsor, STP, which is also sponsoring Sunday’s 400-mile

race.

”I wake up every day and I feel very fortunate to be able to

get in the 43 and have such a huge fan base when it comes to the

number and the history of NASCAR,” Allmendinger said. ”To now

having the paint scheme that – especially all the old-school fans –

looked at and loved as they grew up and watched ‘The King.’ For me,

I feel very fortunate to be a part of (it).”

Allmendinger is hoping his Petty Blue and Day-Glo Red machine

can run like the one he had last week. Allmendinger finished fifth

at Charlotte, one spot ahead of Richard Petty Motorsports teammate

Marcos Ambrose.

”Every weekend we want to come here and win, and that’s our

ultimate goal. But you’ve got to be a contender first. You’ve got

to show up every weekend and be a team that puts yourself in that

position,” Allmendinger said. ”The best way you can do that is be

there every weekend and be a top-10 team and I think that when

we’re at our best we can be as good as any other team out

there.”

KANSAS GROWING ON GORDON: Jeff Gordon has fond memories of the

early days of Kansas Speedway after winning the first two Cup races

here in 2001 and 2002, and he believes the track is getting better

with age.

”I loved this track from the beginning, obviously, but like all

tracks do over time as they settle in, you get some different

characteristics that come into play.”

As Kansas Speedway has aged, Gordon said it has become a place

where fans can see a good deal of side-by-side racing.

”The way it wears the tires, the grip level just makes for

multiple grooves, he said. ”We already saw yesterday in practice:

cars up against the wall, cars on the bottom, cars in the middle.

That is going to make for a great race tomorrow.”

Though Gordon has run well at Kansas in recent years and

finished fifth in 2010, he qualified just 22nd for Sunday’s

race.

PRELUDE TO THE DREAM: The seventh annual Prelude to the Dream

charity race, an event organized by Tony Stewart at the Eldora

Speedway he owns in Rossburg, Ohio, is set for Wednesday.

The concept is to bring drivers from various series to the dirt

track and pair them up in teams in late model cars. The stars in

this year’s lineup will include Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch

and IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan.

Stewart said the event has raised roughly $3 million for charity

in six years, and teams now build special cars for the race instead

of borrowing someone else’s.

”It’s a really neat opportunity for us to go have a good time,

race with each other, have fun for an evening and raise a lot of

money for charity,” Stewart said.

WAIL TO THE REDSKINS: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s winless streak

reached 105 races in agonizing fashion last week when he ran out of

gas with the finish line in sight in Charlotte. Many of his

die-hard fans took the loss hard, with some of them expressing

their emotions on YouTube afterward.

Earnhardt said Friday that he can understand the passion of his

supporters because he feels the same way about his beloved

Washington Redskins.

”That’s the way I take a Redskins loss. I take a Redskins

season the same way,” Earnhardt said. ”I can definitely

relate.”

Earnhardt’s last win came in 2008, and the Redskins haven’t had

much luck since then either, going just 18-30 over the past three

years.

LUG NUTS: Clint Bowyer hails from Emporia, Kansas, and Jamie

McMurray and Cup points leader Carl Edwards are from bordering

Missouri, so there’s some extra motivation for those drivers to

pick up a win on the cookie cutter just west of downtown Kansas

City. ”This is the most excited I have ever been to run this race

in my Cup career,” Edwards said. Bowyer got a head start on

Saturday, winning the Trucks series race. … After grabbing the

pole last week, Brad Keselowski had to settle for the 25th spot in

Kansas. But his Penske teammate, Kurt Busch, recovered from a

practice spin and took the top spot for Sunday’s race. … The

Kansas Speedway is about to get some company. Livestrong Sporting

Park Stadium, the new home of Major League soccer club Sporting KC,

is slated to open Thursday. Workers were busy over the weekend

putting finishing touches on the complex, which sits across the

street from the track.

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