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Race Day: There Are 1.5 Reasons Why Kansas Is Important

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 4 2009
The crew of Juan Pablo Montoya puts final touches on their car in garages at Kansas Speedway, site of today's Price Choper 400. (RacinToday photo by Tony Bush)

The crew of Juan Pablo Montoya puts final touches on their car in garages at Kansas Speedway, site of today's Price Choper 400. (RacinToday.com photo by Tony Bush)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Kansas City, Kan. – Today’s Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway is the third of the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, but it’s the first at the type of track which is the most prevalent in the 10-race playoff. Kansas Speedway is an intermediate.

It’s 1.5 miles around and it’s moderately banked. It is, that is, similar in drivablility to four other tracks at which Chase races will be held – California (2 miles around), Lowe’s, Texas and Homestead-Miami.

As a prototype of what’s to come, Kansas is attracting a lot of attention from drivers and teams.

Here is what selected Chase drivers had to say about beginning the Tour de Intermediate:

Carl Edwards: “Like I was saying, we do run better at these style of tracks, historically, so we need to tap into that right now, we need to run well – here, California – those are pretty good tracks for us, hopefully.”

Greg Biffle: To be perfectly honest with you, I was more looking forward to Dover than here – simply from the fact that if you look at my last three finishes at Dover – a third, a win and a third, and leading the race in the spring with five laps to go – I felt like a left a little unfinished business, you know what I mean? And so it was disappointing to go there and finish 13th – really disappointing.

If you would’ve said I’m going to finish ninth at Loudon and 13th at Dover, I would’ve told you that you were crazy, because Dover is like it’s our house. We’ve run so well there. And this is a race track, stats show, ironically this is my best track for finishes, even though I’ve got three wins at Homestead and multiple wins at other places and only one here, state-wise, this is our best track, I guess. So, I guess we’ll just see what happens.”

Juan Pablo Montoya: “We normally run pretty good on the 1.5-mile tracks. This is pretty close to Chicago. We had a decent race there, not the best. We were I think top-10 there. You just got to see how good the car is. I think it’s a new car, I’m not 100 percent sure but I think it is. It’s one of those deals. I really just don’t know.”

Fast Facts

The Race: Price Chopper 400

The Place: Kansas Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

The Date: Sunday, Oct. 4

The Time: 2 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 267 laps / 400 miles

TV: ABC, 1 p.m.

Radio: MRN and Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 128

2008 Winner: Jimmie Johnson

2008 Polesitter: Jimmie Johnson

2009 Polesitter: Mark Martin

Notes and quotes

The Chase: Week 3
 – Sunday, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup continues with the third of its 10 championship-deciding races, at Kansas, with the following developing storylines:

Martin Vs. Johnson Battle At The Top
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Mark Martin, who came out of retirement to join Hendrick Motorsports this season, started the Chase as this year’s top seed on the strength of four victories during the 26-race “regular season.” Martin has never won the NASCAR Sprint Cup title; he has finished as the series runner-up four times. Now, after winning the first Chase race at New Hampshire and finishing second at Dover, he takes a 10-point lead into Kansas over three-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, who won at Dover and is seeking an unprecedented fourth-straight title.

JPM In The Hunt

Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth at Dover this past Sunday and moved up to third in the series standings, only 65 points behind Martin. The former Indianapolis 500 champion and Formula One star is in the Chase for the first time.

Gordon Has History At Kansas

Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon won the series’ first two races ever held at Kansas Speedway, in 2001-02. Gordon needs to turn back the clock; he’s eighth in the Chase standings, 122 behind Martin.

Time To Rally For Stewart

Tony Stewart led the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after 26 races were complete, then started the Chase as the second seed, 10 points behind Mark Martin.

Two races into the Chase, Stewart needs to start rallying. He comes to Kansas fifth in the standings, 106 points behind the leader, Martin.

Home Sweet Home

Kansas Speedway is considered the “home track” for two drivers – Columbia, Mo. Native Carl Edwards and Emporia, Kansas native Clint Bowyer. Both would love to win Sunday, especially considering their respective frustrating seasons.

Edwards is in the Chase but falling out of championship talk; he comes in this week 11th in the points and still winless in 2009. Bowyer is 15th in points.

Edwards, the runner-up in last year’s final series standings, lost a monumental battle with Johnson last year at Kansas, trying a dramatic last-lap, low-dive pass that worked briefly but resulted in Edwards sliding back up high and hitting the wall.

“If I can win at Kansas, that would be the biggest win on the schedule for me,” Edwards said. “The Daytona 500 would be great. The Brickyard 400 would be great. But Kansas, I don’t know if you could top that just because it’s so close to home. Last year was such an amazing race and I thought we were going to get it. It was so close.”

There’s Non-Chase Precedent For Bowyer To Follow At Kansas
Bowyer may be out of the Chase but that doesn’t mean he should be considered out of contention for a race win at Kansas.

Here’s why: Since the Chase’s 2004 inception, a non-Chase driver has won 11 times;

Three of those 11 have come at Kansas.

Chevrolet Close To  Title

Depending on the outcome of Sunday’s Price Chopper 400, Chevrolet could clinch the 2009 manufacturers’ title this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

If so, it would be the 33rd such title for Chevrolet and the seventh consecutive one. The manufacturers’ championship debuted in 1950.

What’s necessary for Chevrolet to clinch: Chevy’s top-finishing driver on Sunday must finish ahead of Toyota’s top-finishing driver.

Office Depot, Stewart Team Up For Charity

Office Depot and Tony Stewart joined  the Office Depot Foundation on Wednesday to donate more than 2,200 backpacks to Kansas City-area nonprofit organizations and schools.

“Back-To-School Backpack Celebration,” happens at 4 p.m. CT at the Office Depot store at 4851 North Oak Traffic Way in Kansas City. Guest included Kansas City mayor Mark Funkhouser and Shawna Searcy, Clay County Field Representative for Congressman Sam Graves.

Up Next: Auto Club Speedway

Auto Club Speedway hosts the fourth race in the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup — the Pepsi 500 — next Sunday, Oct. 11 (3:15 p.m. start on ABC).

Jimmie Johnson is the defending winner and polesitter.

Johnson is tied with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for most wins at Auto Club (three).  Kurt Busch leads all drivers with three poles there.

Gordon and Johnson share another track mark — the most top fives (eight). But Roush Fenway Racing’s Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DeWalt Ford) has the most top 10s there, with 10.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 4 2009
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