NASCAR at Kansas Speedway May 10 & 11

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Digital Ally 400
Kansas Speedway Distance: 400.5 miles (267 Laps)
Saturday, May 11 7:30 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 7:00 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267). 2018 Winner: Kevin Harvick

NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300
Charlotte Motor Speedway Distance: 300 miles (200 Laps)
Saturday, May 25 1:00 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200). 2018 Winner: Brad Keselowski

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Digital Ally 250
Kansas Speedway Distance: 250.5 miles (167 Laps)
Friday, May 10 8:30 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 8:00 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 167). 2018 Winner: Noah Gragson

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

No. 4 pursuing #4 at Kansas
Defending race winner Kevin Harvick couldn’t be more eager to return to Kansas Speedway for Saturday’s Digital Ally 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) where he (tied with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon) has earned a series-best three wins at the venue. This season in particular, Harvick is ready to revisit Victory Lane in the Heartland. He has eight top-10 finishes in the opening 11 races of 2019 but is still looking for his first win. To put it in perspective, his win in this race last year was his fifth victory in the opening 12 races. He ultimately hoisted eight trophies – a career-best single-season mark. Harvick has five top-eight finishes in the last six Kansas races, including two wins (2016 fall and 2018 spring), a runner-up (2016 spring) and a third place (2017 spring). Last year he won this race from the Busch Pole position and led 79 laps, taking the lead from Martin Truex Jr. with only two laps remaining. His 108.6 driver rating is tops among the competition – significantly better than the next best, fellow three-time winner Jimmie Johnson (104.1). Only Truex (726 laps) has led more laps (703) than Harvick and he is ranked first or second in all six of NASCAR’s key Loop Data standings. Harvick has shown himself to be master at starting Kansas races as well as finishing them. He’s won a track record four pole positions, including a record three consecutive from 2013-14. And Harvick has started on the front row in the last three Kansas races. The 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion is coming off a fourth-place finish at Dover – his fifth fourth place run in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang this season. He’s now ranked third in the points standings.

Kyle Busch looking for a dozen in the top 10
Kyle Busch earned his 11th straight top-10 finish (10th place) to start the season at Dover on Monday and can set a new single-season mark this week should he start the year with 12 consecutive top-10s. It would break a 29-year old record held previously by Morgan Shepherd. Yet, for all the success, the season’s three-time race winner is eager to return to Victory Lane. His lead in the standings is now only five points over defending Monster Energy Series champion Joey Logano heading to Kansas Speedway where Logano is a multi-time winner (twice). Busch won this spring race in

He has six top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 22 starts at Kansas, but his 91.1 driver rating is only sixth best in the field. His recent struggles have coincided with the track’s 2012 repave and reconfiguration. The first three races with the new track configuration, Busch was involved in accidents and finished no better than 31st in that timeframe. In October 2014, Busch earned his first top-five and he answered that with the win in 2016. He has top-10 finishes in the last eight races there and led a career best, race high 112 laps in the 2017 Playoff race, finishing 10th. “It’s a place we’ve really picked it up at ,’’ Busch said. “We’ve seemed to have gotten a setup or ahold of the place, I’d say, and hopefully we don’t screw that up this time around and we can continue our strong runs and fast pace of being able to have a shot to win.’’ And as for maintaining that historic top-10 run? Busch is proud of the mark, but hopeful this week to win. “It is good, it is cool,’’ Busch said “It is kind of on our mind right now going into every week. We want to win. That is what we strive to do every time we hit the track. We thought it would come to an end at a place like Talladega and it was close. We were right on the verge, but we made it through another one. “Hopefully at Kansas we can keep it going, but I would much rather us be up there fighting for the win with our M&M’s Red Nose Day Toyota than to just to finish in the top-10. That’s not what we come to the race track for.’’

Martin’s Momentum
With two wins in the last three races, Martin Truex Jr. is certainly showing a spring sweet spot and the 2017 Monster Energy Series champion certainly shows up at Kansas Speedway this week with good reason to assume that trend continues. Truex is a two-time Kansas winner and the only driver in history to sweep a season’s slate of races – doing so en route to his first Cup title two years ago. His consecutive race work puts him in an elite category at the track. He and fellow Monster Energy Series champions Jeff Gordon (2001 and 2002) and Matt Kenseth (Fall 2012, Spring, 2013) are the only drivers to ever win back-to-back races at Kansas. Truex, however, is more interested in continuing his current run of superiority. The 38-year-old has finished in the top-five in the last four Kansas races and led 380 laps in the last six races at the 1.5-mile track. In addition to his two wins, he has three runner-up finishes – second place in both 2012 races and this race last year. He’s won two Busch Pole positions and hasn’t started farther back than the fourth row in the last eight races.

Turn around for Larson
Perennial championship favorite Kyle Larson joked on social media how happy he was just to claim a top-10 in the rain-delayed race at Dover International Speedway on Monday. But after a string of bad luck, the popular driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 finished third and earned his first top five of 2019. Larson crashed out in three of the most recent five races and has only led laps in two of the 11 races this season. Larson led a race-high 142 laps at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway finishing 12th. But Larson has plenty of confidence as he arrives in Kansas. He led a race-best 101 laps in this race last year, finishing fourth. He capped the Kansas portion of the season with a third place in the fall race. His career best showing at the track is a runner-up finish in the fall of 2014 – his second career Monster Energy Series start there. His 93.3 driver rating is actually fifth best in the field as is his 13.233 average running position. “It was good to finally have a clean race,’’ Larson said of Monday’s Dover, Del. result. “I don’t think we’ve had a clean weekend all year long and we’re 11 weeks into the season. So, it’s good to finally get a clean day.’’

Revival for Hendrick Motorsports
Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega Superspeedway and Alex Bowman’s back-to-back runner-up finishes coming into Saturday night’s race at Kansas Speedway gives the Hendrick Motorsports team a lot of reason to be optimistic. On Monday at Dover International Speedway, Bowman was second, the race polesitter Elliott was fifth and the team’s second-year Cup driver William Byron finished eighth – giving the team three drivers among the top-10 for the first time this year. Seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson was 14th. This week’s Kansas Speedway venue has been historically good for the team as well. Hendrick is the winningest organization there with seven wins – three each by NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon and champion Johnson – and Elliott in last year’s Playoff race. Certainly, the effort at Dover earlier this week puts the team in a positive mindset. “It would be better if we had a trophy, right?’’ Bowman said following Monday’s rain-delayed Dover race. “But we needed this, for sure. Talladega is a speedway and it’s a lot of luck involved. But to come here, in my opinion, the hardest race track we go to and to run like that from the back of all things, was pretty special. “I’m just proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for all the improvement we’ve made over the last year or so and we’re going to keep it going.’’ Johnson has three wins and three pole positions at Kansas Speedway – his last victory coming in May, 2015. He has a pair of top-five finishes since and eight top-three finishes in his 25 starts. Elliott picked up his first Kansas win during the 2018 Playoffs and has top-10s in three of his six starts at the track. Bowman has two top-10 finishes in his last three starts at Kansas – a career best seventh place in the fall 2016 event. The 21-year old Byron had DNFs in his two rookie Monster Energy Series starts at Kansas last year, but he won the 2016 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kansas and had a fourth place in his only NASCAR Xfinity Series start at the track in 2017.

Home state favorite
There will be no mistaking the hometown favorite this week. The likeable and outgoing Clint Bowyer is from nearby Emporia, Kansas, and scoring a victory at this track has been a longtime mission for the 39-year old driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Bowyer convincingly won the 2011 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kansas – leading 124 of the 167 laps – but he’d like to put a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series trophy on the mantle, too. It would be helpful both for sentimental and practical reasons. He has six top-10 finishes in 21 Cup starts at Kansas and was 15th and 13th last year. And he arrives in his home state with good momentum scoring five top-10 finishes in the most recent six races of this season. A two-race winner in 2018, Bowyer’s best showing through 11 events this year is a runner-up at the Texas Motor Speedway 1.5-miler. “I’ve said before that if we ever win at Kansas, I probably wouldn’t be in very good shape for Mother’s Day,’’ Bowyer said laughing. “We would probably have to postpone that to Monday. “It would be huge to win a home and finally seal the deal after all this time. It would be ultra-special. This is where all my family and friends and people who helped me get to where I am today all live in this area and it would be cool to celebrate that with them. I think probably everybody would have an open invite.’’

Looking at the Sunoco Rookies

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie Ryan Preece answered a career-best third-place finish at the sport’s biggest track Talladega Superspeedway with a frustrating 28th-place finish at the Dover “Monster Mile.” The driver of the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevy remains ranked 24th in the points standings. This will be his Monster Energy Series debut on the 1.5-mile Kansas track. His previous best showing there is 21st driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

Richard Childress Racing’s rookie driver Daniel Hemric answered his career-best Cup finish (fifth) at Talladega with a 25th-place run at Dover on Monday in the No. 8 Chevrolet. He is ranked 26th in the Cup standings, but does have a positive track record at Kansas. He won the pole position and finished runner-up in last fall’s Xfinity Series race at the track.

Matt Tifft, who is third in the Sunoco Rookie standings, is looking for his second top-20 showing of 2019 in the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford. He was 20th at Phoenix. He had a pair of top-10 finishes in the Xfinity Series there in 2017 and 2018.

By the numbers at Kansas
Kevin Harvick has the top driver rating (108.6) at Kansas Speedway and the best average finish (9.7) among the top-16 in the standings. …. The top-seven drivers ranked among the current Playoff 16 have won previously at Kansas, eight of the remaining nine drivers have not (Ryan Newman is the exception, winning in 2003. …Harvick leads the series with four pole positions. …Jimmie Johnson’s nine top-five and 17 top-10 finishes are best at Kansas. …Joey Logano has the top average start (9.632 ) among active drivers. The late Jason Leffler (3.5) has the mark all-time. … Leffler and Ryan Blaney are the only drivers to earn their first career Cup pole position at Kansas. … Kurt Busch leads the series with most starts (26) at Kansas without a victory.

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media rotations
Seven drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Wood Brothers Racing’s Paul Menard, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Daniel Suarez, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones, Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer, Richard Petty Motorsports’ Bubba Wallace and Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Kansas Speedway in advance of Saturday’s Digital Ally 400 (7:30 p.m., ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Paul Menard, 38, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, comes to Kansas Speedway having scored a pair of top-10 finishes in the last four races of 2019, including a season best of sixth place in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford at Bristol, Tenn. last month. The popular Midwesterner has six top-10 finishes in 20 Kansas races including a mark of four top-10s in a five-race stretch between 2012-14. He was sixth in this race last year – his first season driving fulltime for the legendary Wood Brothers team.

Daniel Suarez, 27, of Monterrey, Mexico, has already earned four top-10s in his first 11 races driving the No. 41 Ford for the Stewart-Haas Racing team. His best showing is third place at Texas Motor Speedway – a 1.5-mile track, as is Kansas Speedway. He had immediate success at Kansas with a seventh-place run in his first race at the track in the spring of 2017, but has struggled in the series there since. He also has a pair of top 10s there in the Xfinity Series (third in 2016) and NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (sixth in 2015).

Erik Jones, 22, of Byron, Michigan, is coming off a 2018 season that saw top-10 finishes at both Kansas Speedway races – seventh in the spring and a career best fourth place in the fall. The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota is currently ranked 16th in the Monster Energy Series points standings. He has four top 10s on the year – bookending the season to date with a third place in the season-opening Daytona 500 and a sixth place in Monday’s rain-delayed race at Dover, Del. He’s ranked 16th in the points.

David Ragan, 33, of Unadilla, Georgia, is hoping Kansas Speedway will be the venue that kickstarts his 2019 season. The 13-year Cup veteran’s only top 20 so far was a 16th place effort at his “hometown” track, Atlanta Motor Speedway, a 1.5-miler. Ragan has a top-10 finish at Kansas, finishing eighth in only his second start at the track. He was 13th and 19th in the two Kansas Cup races last year. He has a third place in the 2008 Xfinity Series race here and a sixth place in the 2006 Gander Trucks race.

Clint Bowyer, 39, of nearby Emporia, Kansas, is unquestionably the hometown favorite at this track. The veteran has six top-10s on the Kansas 1.5-miler, including a career best runner-up finish in only his second Monster Energy Series start at Kansas in 2007. He dominated the 2011 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at the speedway, leading 124 of 167 laps en route to his lone NASCAR major series win there. This season Bowyer has six top 10s in 11 starts driving the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – including five top 10s in the last six races. His best showing was a runner-up on the Texas 1.5-mile track and he was third at Richmond the following week. Bowyer is coming off a ninth-place run at Dover in Monday’s rain-delayed race and sits 10th in the championship points standings.

Bubba Wallace, 25, of Mobile, Alabama, is looking for his first top-10 finish of 2019 in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet. He has a pair of top-20 showings, including a season best 17th on the Martinsville short track. The popular driver – who was runner-up in his first Daytona 500 start last year – scored finishes of 23rd and 26th in his two Kansas starts and led a pair of laps in the fall race. He has past success at Kansas earning a seventh-place finish in the 2013 Gander Trucks race.

Alex Bowman, 26, of Tucson, Ariz. is in the midst of his finest Monster Energy Series stretch – earning back-to-back runner-up finishes in the last two races – at Talladega and Dover. He’s already nearly matched a career high in season top-fives (three) and the season is only 11 races old. The driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has a pair of top-10 finishes in his last three Kansas Speedway races – a ninth in this race last year and a seventh place in the fall, 2016 event – both races in the No. 88. He’s had success on the 1.5-mile venues like Kansas, scoring his only major NASCAR victory at the Charlotte 1.5-mile track in the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Christopher Bell’s Xfinity wins keep adding up
The keepers of the NASCAR Xfinity Series record books best have their pens full of ink this season as Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell continues to rack up wins in just his second full-time season.

The Oklahoman already set the single season wins record for a Sunoco rookie in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last season when he won seven races, surpassing the previous record of five wins held by Greg Biffle (2001), Kyle Busch (2004), Carl Edwards (2005).

This season he already has three wins (Atlanta, Bristol, Dover), bringing his Xfinity career wins total to 11 in just 51 starts. Only four other drivers in NASCAR Xfinity Series history have scored 11 or more wins in their first 51 starts – Darrell Waltrip (12), Dale Earnhardt (11), Harry Gant (11) and Jack Ingram (11).

By the end of this season Bell will have made 74 NASCAR Xfinity Series career starts. The record for the most wins in the first 74 starts of a driver’s NASCAR Xfinity Series career is 18 wins held by Sam Ard (1982-1984). Bell will need seven more wins this season to match the record held by Ard.

This season, Christopher Bell has posted three wins, six top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 7.7.

Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick still on top
Despite Christopher Bell winning at Dover last weekend, ‘Mr. Consistency,’ a.k.a. Tyler Reddick, is riding a wave of seven consecutive top-five finishes and as a result is still holding the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championship standings lead by 23 points over second place Bell.

Ever since Reddick grabbed the No. 1 position in the series points standings following ISM Raceway back in March, he has yet to relinquish it. The California native has been lights out this season, posting one win (Talladega), eight top fives and nine top 10s. He also leads the series among title contenders in average start, 4.2 and average finish, 4.7.

Reddick became the third rookie in series history to win the title last season joining Chase Elliott (2014) and William Byron (2017). Now this season he’s looking to check off several more statistical accolades like becoming the seventh driver in series history to win back-to-back titles joining Sam Ard (1983-84), Larry Pearson (1986-87), Randy LaJoie (1996-97), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998-99), Martin Truex Jr. (2004-2005) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2011-2012). Or becoming just the fourth driver to bring Richard Childress Racing a Xfinity driver championship (Kevin Harvick 2001, 2006; Clint Bowyer 2009, Austin Dillon 2013).

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Truckin’ under the lights
The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series is full throttle this weekend at Kansas Speedway for the seventh race of the 2019 schedule, the Digital Ally 250, on Friday, May 10 at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Last season’s Gander Trucks winner at Kansas Speedway was Kyle Busch Motorsport’s Noah Gragson, who made the move up to the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the offseason and will not defend his win this weekend. Only two previous series winners are in the field this weekend – ThorSport Racing’s Matt Crafton (two wins: 2913, 2015) and Johnny Sauter (one win: 2010) – which means there is a good chance we see new Kansas winner.

Kansas Speedway has been known to be a track that has given drivers their first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win. Five drivers in series history have won their first series career victory at Kansas – Ricky Hendrick (2001), Jon Wood (2003), Eric Darnell (2007), James Buescher (2012) and William Byron (2016).

Sauter knocks out the Monster Mile
Last weekend at Dover International Speedway, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series returned to action after a month-long hiatus with ThorSport Racing’s Johnny Sauter winning his first race of the 2019 season. It was also Sauter’s third consecutive win at Dover, making him first driver in series history to win three in a row at the Monster Mile. This year marks Sauter’s 17th year in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and he is is currently second in the driver standings with 237 points; just four points behind Grant Enfinger in the series standings lead. Sauter has made 10 series starts at Kansas Speedway posting one win (2010), six top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 8.8.

Toyota looks to extend winning streak at Kansas
Kansas Speedway has seen just one manufacturer in Victory Lane over the last six NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races, and Toyota returns to this weekend to keep the winning ways rolling. From 2013 to 2018, a Toyota Tundra has been victorious at Kansas Speedway, a series record of six consecutive wins at the track – 2013 (Matt Crafton), 2014 (Kyle Busch), 2015 (Matt Crafton), 2016 (William Byron), 2017 (Kyle Busch) and 2018 (Noah Gragson). The Toyota camp will once again try to extend their streak of wins this weekend but this time around it will need to be done by someone new. Previous Toyota winners Noah Gragson, Kyle Busch, and William Byron are not entered in this weekend’s race and Matt Crafton will be piloting the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford this season.

Kyle Busch Motorsports is responsible for four of the six consecutive victories at Kansas and this weekend KBM will have four drivers in the field – Todd Gilliland (No. 4 Toyota), Harrison Burton (No. 18 Toyota), Riley Herbst (No. 46 Toyota) and Brandon Jones (No. 51 Toyota).

Enfinger overtakes Friesen to regain series standings lead
ThorSport Racing’s Grant Enfinger certainly knows how to make a comeback. With the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series making a return to Dover last weekend after a month-long spring break, Enfinger posted a solid fourth-place finish, vaulting himself back into the series standings lead. As the Gander Trucks head in to Kansas this weekend, Enfinger will have to keep the momentum going. The Kannapolis, North Carolina, native only has a slim four-point lead over last weekend’s winner and ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter. Enfinger has made two series start at Kansas, posting one top 10 (eighth in this race last season).

Expect the ThorSport teammates of Enfinger and Sauter to battle it out this weekend at Kansas. Enfinger’s average finish is a 9.5; while Sauter’s is slightly better at an 8.8. Both are the only drivers in the field with an average finish inside the top-10 this weekend.

Graphics & Photos Courtesy of NASCAR

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