KANSAS CITY, Kan. The iconic No. 43 and it's unmistakable blue-and-red paint scheme is making its return to NASCAR this weekend in Kansas.
The modern version of the car made famous by "The King," Hall of Famer Richard Petty, will start Sunday's Sprint Cup race at the Kansas Speedway with AJ Allmendinger behind the wheel.
The move is part of a renewed push into the sport by Petty's longtime sponsor, STP, which is also sponsoring Sunday's 400-mile race.
"I wake up every day and I feel very fortunate to be able to get in the 43 and have such a huge fan base when it comes to the number and the history of NASCAR," Allmendinger said.
"To now having the paint scheme that especially all the old-school fans looked at and loved as they grew up and watched 'The King.' For me, I feel very fortunate to be a part of (it)."
Allmendinger is hoping his Petty Blue and Day-Glo Red machine can run like the one he had last week. Allmendinger finished fifth at Charlotte, one spot ahead of Richard Petty Motorsports teammate Marcos Ambrose.
"Every weekend we want to come here and win, and that's our ultimate goal. But you've got to be a contender first. You've got to show up every weekend and be a team that puts yourself in that position," Allmendinger said. "The best way you can do that is be there every weekend and be a top-10 team and I think that when we're at our best we can be as good as any other team out there."
KANSAS GROWING ON GORDON: Jeff Gordon has fond memories of the early days of Kansas Speedway after winning the first two Cup races here in 2001 and 2002, and he believes the track is getting better with age.
"I loved this track from the beginning, obviously, but like all tracks do over time as they settle in, you get some different characteristics that come into play."
As Kansas Speedway has aged, Gordon said it has become a place where fans can see a good deal of side-by-side racing.
"The way it wears the tires, the grip level just makes for multiple grooves, he said. "We already saw yesterday in practice: cars up against the wall, cars on the bottom, cars in the middle. That is going to make for a great race tomorrow."
Though Gordon has run well at Kansas in recent years and finished fifth in 2010, he qualified just 22nd for Sunday's race.
PRELUDE TO THE DREAM: The seventh annual Prelude to the Dream charity race, an event organized by Tony Stewart at the Eldora Speedway he owns in Rossburg, Ohio, is set for Wednesday.
The concept is to bring drivers from various series to the dirt track and pair them up in teams in late model cars. The stars in this year's lineup will include Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and IndyCar driver Tony Kanaan.
Stewart said the event has raised roughly $3 million for charity in six years, and teams now build special cars for the race instead of borrowing someone else's.
"It's a really neat opportunity for us to go have a good time, race with each other, have fun for an evening and raise a lot of money for charity," Stewart said.
WAIL TO THE REDSKINS: Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s winless streak reached 105 races in agonizing fashion last week when he ran out of gas with the finish line in sight in Charlotte. Many of his die-hard fans took the loss hard, with some of them expressing their emotions on YouTube afterward.
Earnhardt said Friday that he can understand the passion of his supporters because he feels the same way about his beloved Washington Redskins.
"That's the way I take a Redskins loss. I take a Redskins season the same way," Earnhardt said. "I can definitely relate."
Earnhardt's last win came in 2008, and the Redskins haven't had much luck since then either, going just 18-30 over the past three years.
LUG NUTS: Clint Bowyer hails from Emporia, Kansas, and Jamie McMurray and Cup points leader Carl Edwards are from bordering Missouri, so there's some extra motivation for those drivers to pick up a win on the cookie cutter just west of downtown Kansas City. "This is the most excited I have ever been to run this race in my Cup career," Edwards said. Bowyer got a head start on Saturday, winning the Trucks series race. ... After grabbing the pole last week, Brad Keselowski had to settle for the 25th spot in Kansas. But his Penske teammate, Kurt Busch, recovered from a practice spin and took the top spot for Sunday's race. ... The Kansas Speedway is about to get some company. Livestrong Sporting Park Stadium, the new home of Major League soccer club Sporting KC, is slated to open Thursday. Workers were busy over the weekend putting finishing touches on the complex, which sits across the street from the track.