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Raceday: Your guide to the Hollywood Casino 400

- dscott@charlotteobserver.com
Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012

Three Things to Watch

1. Kansass repaved track creates all sorts of questions for today’s race. Among them: Will a second racing groove appear? How much slower will speeds be Sunday from Friday’s qualifying with warmer weather in the forecast?

2. Points-leader Brad Keselowski starts 25th. In a race where passing might be hard to come by, let’s see how quickly he can work himself into contention from that deep in the field.

3. If Keselowski, second-place Jimmie Johnson (seven points back) and third-place Denny Hamlin (15) all have strong finishes today, that’s going to probably pare the championship race down to the three of them as the season concludes with races at Martinsville, Chicago, Phoenix and Homestead.

Observations

• There were a lot of interested Cup drivers watching Saturday’s Nationwide race to see how the track reacted to warmer temperatures and whether a second racing groove materialized.

• These are good times for Michael Waltrip Racing. Clint Bowyer won last week at Charlotte, and Friday he and teammate Mark Martin qualified second and third fastest for Sunday’s race.

• Regan Smith didn’t last long last week at Charlotte as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s replacement (the car’s engine gave out on Lap 61). Smith didn’t qualify well for Sunday’s race and starts 40thalthough he had the second-fastest practice lap Saturday (178.524). Earnhardt hopes to return next week at Martinsville.

Notes

Patrick’s not confident: Danica Patrick has three Cup races remaining this season, including Sunday’s race at Kansas. And she’s not feeling too confident as she prepares to go to a full schedule in 2013 for Stewart-Haas Racing.

“I’ve struggled in the Cup car,” said Patrick, who will start 41st today and was 41st of 42 cars in practice Saturday. “I don’t feel very comfortable. I’m going to figure out that I can feel more comfortable or what I’m doing wrong, because I’m sure there is a lot for me to learn.”

Patrick’s best Cup finish in seven Cup races this season has been a 25th at Chicago.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?” said Patrick.

SHR owner Tony Stewart purposely chose 10 of the circuit’s most challenging tracks for Patrick.

“We picked races that were going to be hard,” said Stewart. “They are not supposed to be easy. The learning curve that she has been going through has been a lot shorter that what it probably should have been. She may not see the benefit of it right now, but she will next year.”

Kenseth fast in practice: Warmer temperatures Saturday at Kansas meant significantly slower speeds than Friday. Matt Kenseth had the fastest practice lap Saturday at 182.760, followed by Regan Smith (in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car) at 182.550 and Jimmie Johnson (182.543).

David Scott gives you three picks for your fantasy race team:

Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer.

Just the facts

Hollywood Casino 400

Where: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.

Track type: 1.5-mile, paved, banked tri-oval.

Race distance: 267 laps or 400.5 miles

Green flag: 2:19 p.m.

Weather: Partly cloudy with high of 77.

TV: ESPN

Radio: Motor Racing Network

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