This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads from the 2.66-mile superspeedway in Talladega to the 1.5 mile tri-oval in the heart of the United States, Kansas Speedway, for a Saturday night showdown under the lights. The race will be televised on Fox Sports 1 with coverage beginning at 7:00 (green flag around 7:45 p.m. ET.
Martin Truex Jr. will lead the field to the green flag for the 267-lap, 400-mile race, as he won the pole with a blistering speed of 190.921 MPH (28.284 seconds) in his No. 78 Toyota Camry.
“It kind of took us a while to figure out this three-round deal,” said Truex, talking about the qualifying procedure to FS1 after scoring the pole. “It feels good to get another pole. It’s been a long time. We’ve been really close with our Furniture Row team the past two years – we just haven’t quite figured out how to lead that third round. Hopefully we’ll be able to finish the deal (Saturday) night.”
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin will roll off second and third, respectively, with Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five starting positions. Making up positions six through ten are Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne.
Carl Edwards, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, and Tony Stewart, who will race the entirety of the GoBowling 400 after being replaced last week at Talladega, will roll off 12th-16th. Some other notable drivers starting positions include Dale Earnhardt Jr, in 22nd, Kevin Harvick in 26th, Kasey Kahne in 27th and AJ Allmendinger in 29th and Clint Bowyer in 33rd. Bowyer raced in the Truck Series race on Friday evening (won by William Byron in an absolutely unbelievable finish), and drove his No. 24 Georgia Boot truck to a third place finish.
As we all remember,the Matt Kenseth rivalry was ignited last season at this very race track when Logano tapped Kenseth to pin him out en route to the win. Kenseth then wrecked Logano at Martinsville, and was subsequently suspended. The question remains: is it over? We will find out this weekend, most likely, as the rivalry was somewhat rekindled last weekend.
Kenseth was unhappy with the No. 22 when he “ran [him] off”, and the two exchanged words outside the infield care center. You can bet your life savings that if the two are racing for the win, with the No. 20 running in second place, Logano will be taking a ride in the spin cycle, and Kenseth will ride off into victory lane. However, only time will tell.
NASCAR also announced the 2017 schedules for all three series this week. Some major changes include the swap of Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway dates in the Chase. The Alabama racetrack won’t host the elimination race in round No. 2, it’ll be Kansas.
Also, Dover International Speedway’s date in the spring (next weekend in 2016) will move to after the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where it’s accustomed to being, in 2017. Michigan International Speedway’s first date will return to August, and Texas Motor Speedway will have their Saturday evening race in the spring moved to a Sunday afternoon.
The sanctioning body announced that the main series will have only two off weekends throughout the grueling 36-race season to the dismay of many drivers, Crew Chiefs, and team members. However, the fans are happy as they get to see more racing on track.
The aforementioned Truex Jr., as well as the four JGR cars, will be the odds on favorites this weekend, as they are everywhere we go these days in NASCAR. However, don’t sleep on Jimmie Johnson and the entire Hendrick Motorsports brigade as the No. 48 happened to find victory lane in this very race last season.
But who do I think will end up in victory lane?
Kevin Harvick. Yup – that’s right, I went on record on the Victory Lane podcast earlier this week saying so, so I’ll stick to my guns. Despite a lackluster qualifying effort, and the No. 4 team not getting a handle on the car whatsoever this weekend, I think Harvick is due. He has dominated Atlanta and Fontana, which are similar tracks to Kansas, this season, but failed to find victory lane. He is leading the points standings and could easily have more than one win in 2016 as well.
Be sure to tune in to the GoBowling 400 on Saturday night (FS1, 7:45 p.m.), and enjoy!