Will familiar cast of frontrunners rule at Kansas Speedway?
I think it’s safe to say that we haven’t been to a mile-and-a-half track this season like Kansas Speedway, where we are racing on Saturday night (7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Now sure, we’ve already raced at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Texas Motor Speedway, all one-and-a-half mile tracks, but Kansas really isn’t similar to any of those three.
While the aero platform might have a few similarities to those other three tracks, Kansas is still a much newer surface to race on. It has a ton of grip which will only increase the further we get into the race Saturday night. So that’s going to be different than those other three tracks.
With all that said, I just simply believe it’s going to be "more of the same" as to who is up front. Kevin Harvick will be tough there. I expect Kurt Busch to be extremely strong. Don’t discount their teammate, Danica Patrick, who had a great run there last year. I don’t think anyone will be surprised if Hendrick Motorsports is strong there as well.
Speaking of that, I don’t think very many folks have paid much attention to what Jimmie Johnson has done these past four weeks. He has put four top three finishes up on the board. After Sunday’s second-place finish at Talladega, Jimmie has also moved up to third in the points.
Saturday night at Kansas will be another real good test for Joe Gibbs Racing. Does the organization have its act together? In addition to that, a lot of eyes are going to be on young Erik Jones as he takes over the No. 18 car belonging to injured Kyle Busch. Sure, Jones filled in at Bristol when Denny Hamlin had the neck cramps during the red-flag period, but still this will be his first official NASCAR Sprint Cup start.
While the race is Saturday night, practice and qualifying are during the day, so the drivers and crew chiefs across the board are going to have to rely on their notes from last year and from some of these other nighttime races we’ve had this season so far. So it will be very interesting to see who nails the setup for both qualifying and for the race.
Keeping up with the changing racetrack is going to be something you are going to hear us talk a lot about these next three weeks.