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Raceday: Your guide to Sunday's STP 400

- dscott@charlotteobserver.com
Saturday, Apr. 20, 2013

Three Things to Watch

1. There should be a lot of speed, with records broken in qualifying and a relatively new surface at Kansas Speedway (it was redone before last fall's race).

2. Points-leader Jimmie Johnson loves Kansas. He's won twice and his average finish of 5.5 in his last 10 races is better than any other driver.

3. Although he qualified 23rd, Kyle Busch figures to be a factor. He's got five consecutive top-five finishes, including a victory last week at Texas.

Observations

• You get the feeling that if either Clint Bowyer or Carl Edwards wins Sunday's race, it would be a really big deal. They're both from the region - Bowyer from Emporia, Kan., and Edwards from Columbia, Mo.

• Pole-winner Matt Kenseth has had a pretty-good last two days of competition at Kansas. He won last fall's race, then took the pole for Sunday's race on Friday.

• Will Dale Earnhardt Jr. resurface Sunday? After his strong start to the season, which vaulted him to the top spot in the standings, he's finished 24th and 29th in the last two races.

Fantasy racing picks

David Scott

Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson

Notes

• Carl Edwards is from nearby Columbia, Mo., and would love to win at what he considers his home track.

"I want to be on top of the sheet as badly as ever every time I get in the race car here," said Edwards. "It's a special place. A Cup win here, truly, would be as big as the Daytona 500 or any other race for me. It's a really special place for me."

Edwards has never won at Kansas in 11 starts. He finished second in 2008, which is as close as he's come.

•K ansas Speedway is increasing its police presence this weekend in the wake of the Boston Marathon explosions. NASCAR is supportive of the track's security decisions, but doesn't play a direct part in them.

Each track handles its own security, with NASCAR checking in each week on what is being done. There was a meeting Friday morning at Kansas Speedway to go over the track's plans.

"They didn't change anything about how they're doing things, but we wouldn't be saying anything about it if they did," said Kristi King, NASCAR's director of competition communications. "We're comfortable with what they're doing."

• Denny Hamlin told reporters in the garage Saturday that there's a 50-50 chance he will return to racing next week at Richmond and is virtually certain he'll be back the following week at Talladega.

Hamlin has a compression fracture of the lower back from a wreck at California on March 24. He was expected to miss at least six weeks.

"I feel I've gotten stronger," Hamlin said. "Everything is a lot better. Last week, I would have said probably not. But this week I feel a lot better."

• Jeff Gordon starts at the rear of the field Sunday after he tapped the wall in Friday's qualifying.

"For a second I thought I was going to save it," Gordon said. "I lit the tires up to keep it from hitting too hard and now we have a car and an engine that are pretty much done. It's been a while since I wrecked qualifying."

• Joe Nemechek didn't make the field for Sunday's race, and things didn't get much better for him afterward. His hauler apparently broke down on the way back to Mooresville. It was pulled to the side of Interstate 70 in Kansas City, Mo., early Friday evening with the hood up.

• Victor Gonzalez Jr. will drive Tommy Baldwin Racing's No. 36 Chevy at the Sprint Cup races in Sonoma, Calif., in June at Watkins Glen in August. Gonzalez, a native of Puerto Rico who now lives in the Dominican Republic, became the first Caribbean driver to race in a Nationwide race in 2009 at Montreal. He made his oval-track debut in 2010 at Phoenix.

Just the facts

STP 400

Where: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.

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

Race distance: 267 laps or 400 miles.

Green flag: 1:17 p.m.

Weather: Partly cloudy with high of 67. Chance of rain 20 percent.

TV: Fox.

Radio: Motor Racing Network

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