NASCAR Weekend Preview — Kansas

NASCAR+Weekend+Preview+--+Kansas

Are you ready kids?  I can’t hear you!  OOOO!  What’s the name of the NASCAR race this weekend?  SpongeBob SquarePants 400!

That’s right, this weekend at Kansas, the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series head to Kansas Speedway to hold the throttle down and run wide open around the 1.5 mile circuit.

But the overpowering storyline is the name of the race: The SpongeBob SquarePants 400!  Don’t ask me why they’re sponsoring this race, but I’m not questioning it.  Coming from somebody whose life is devoted to NASCAR and SpongeBob, this is heaven for me.

Anyways, back to what everybody is coming to Kansas to see: racing.  Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. make it back to back wins for the first time in his career?  Will his teammate, Jeff Gordon, finally get his first win of the season in his farewell tour?  How will 18-year-old Erik Jones fare in his first career Cup Series start?  Can anybody dethrone Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson from victory lane at intermediate tracks?  Will we see a first-time winner?  What about a hometown winner?  Storylines this weekend, pretty much just like every other weekend, are plentiful.

Carl Edwards (one top ten this season), Jamie McMurray (60+ race winless streak) and Clint Bowyer (50+ race winless streak) all consider Kansas Speedway their hometown track, as they’re all from either Kansas or Missouri.  All three drivers have won before, but none have won at Kansas.  They will start fifth, ninth and 21st, respectively, when the green flag flies on Saturday evening.

Gordon will roll off from the 11th starting spot, with his HMS teammates Earnhardt Jr, Johnson and Kasey Kahne starting in 17th, 19th and second respectively.  Gordon has won at Kansas before, as he is the defending winner in this spring race here, with Kevin Harvick finishing second.  Harvick is one of the favorites, per usual, this weekend (7/2 odds in Vegas), and he will start in sixth place.

Sam Hornish Jr., who quietly finished in the top ten last weekend at Talladega, comes into this weekend with a new man calling the shots atop the pit box.  Drew Blickensderfer, who has been offered a new position within the organization (Richard Petty Motorsports), has been replaced by Kevin “Bono” Manion, who was Jamie McMurray’s crew chief when he won those big races (Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, etc.) and is a proven winner.  Hornish’s teammate, Aric Almirola, will roll off 14th.

Erik Jones will pilot the No. 18 car for Joe Gibbs Racing in his first career Sprint Cup start.  After dominating the Truck race Friday evening, setting the record for the most laps led at a 1.5 mile track, fuel mileage caught up with Jones, as he had to settle for an eighth place finish after running out of fuel with six laps remaining.  Matt Crafton won that race, but Jones was fastest in a practice session in Cup and will start 12th.  His JGR teammates, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth will start 13th and 18th.

What about The Biff?  Greg Biffle will start seventh and his last win came in Kansas a couple years ago.  After saying that Roush Fenway Racing was “dying a slow death,” earlier this season, you have to believe a win would do wonders for RFR.

Joey Logano will start on the pole, his fourth of the young 2015 season, with a speed of 192.397 MPH (28.067 seconds).  His Team Penske teammate, Brad Keselowski, will start third.

Some other notable starting positions include Martin Truex Jr. (fourth), Kurt Busch (eighth), Kyle Larson (10th), Ryan Newman (15th), Tony Stewart (16th) and Danica Patrick (27th).  David Ragan will start 23rd in the No. 55 car, as he will be behind the wheel of that car for the remainder of the season, most likely, as Brian Vickers is recovering from more blood clots.  That means that Brett Moffitt is back in the No. 34 car for Front Row Motorsports after Chris Buescher subbed for that organization for a few races.

Kyle Busch is still rehabbing from his injury and there is no timetable for his return, despite reports that he would race at Hickory Motor Speedway in a rehab assignment.

Prediction time is upon us.  So who will be holding the SpongeBob SquarePants trophy at the end of the evening at Kansas?  A smart bet would be either the No. 48 or No. 4 car, as they’ve won the past eight races on intermediate tracks.  But that’s too mainstream, right?

That’s why I’m picking Martin Truex Jr. to grab his second career win.  Him and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team have been knocking on the door for wins, finishing in the top ten in almost every race this season.  Plus, he’s way overdue.

You can catch the race on Fox Sports 1 at 7:30 pm tonight.  Enjoy the race!