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Kansas Cup Race To Feature Plenty Of Speed

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 9 2014

Kevin Harvick got the pole and the track record in qualifying at Kansas Friday night. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

KANSAS CITY, Kan.– The fastest field in the 13-year history of Kansas Speedway will usher in the inaugural Sprint Cup race under the lights on the 1.5-mile oval Saturday night.

Less than two years after the first complete repaving job in the history of the facility, more than half of the field shattered Matt Kenseth’s previous track record of 191.864 mph established in April 2013 during qualifying on Friday for Saturday night’s 5-Hour Energy 400.

Kevin Harvick’s lightning-quick speed of 194.658 mph in round two of Cup qualifying Friday afternoon was enough to land him on the pole for the 400. It was the sixth time this season a Sprint Cup track record fell.

As the ribbon of asphalt that was laid on the racing surface at Kansas Speedway during the summer of 2012 continues to age, it has brought plenty of speed. But it remains to be seen how racy the surface when 43 cars line up to go to war under the lights on Saturday.

“Hopefully, (the groove) will widen out some,” said rookie driver Kyle Larson, when asked about the corners. “I thought (Turns) one and two widened out during practice. (Turns) three and four are still pretty narrow.

“But I think for a freshly-repaved track, this is a pretty exciting place.”

Jeff Gordon admitted during this week’s NASCAR teleconference that he wasn’t a big supporter of Kansas Speedway being repaved.

“Kansas has always been one of my favorite racetracks,” Gordon said. “But when they repaved it, it moved a little further down my list.

“It seems like every year we go there, it ages, goes through the winter, gets back to the type of Kansas that I excel at, that I really like.”

A fairly harsh winter here in Kansas has caused the asphalt to slowly begin losing some its grip, which is a welcome sign to many drivers who prefer slick racing surfaces.

However, Ryan Newman, a degreed engineer, said tracks in warmer climates actually show signs of aging quicker than those in colder pockets of the country such as Kansas, Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire.

“I don’t think you get the harsh winters here as you get harsh weather at, for instance, Talladega, Ala.,” Newman said. “It has aged more because of the sun in the summer. And I think the race track here just gets covered-up with the snow and it just sits. It’s insulated. It’s got a jacket on all winter.

“To me, I think that tracks that are up north kind of get that shelter from the snow that helps them get through the winter. They have hot summers here, but if you look at a place like Talladega, which to me has aged quicker than some of the other race tracks.

“The heat is more of a factor with respect to the oils and the aggregate that it affects the way that the racetrack ages.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 9 2014
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