Race: 5-HOUR ENERGY 400 Benefiting Special Operations Warrior Foundation
Date: Saturday May 10, 2014
Track: Kansas Speedway
Time: 7 pm ET
by Virginia Vroom, NASCAR Handicapper, Predictem.com
Somehow, someway Talladega turned into a short track on Sunday. That race started and ended with a lot of finger pointing. A good deal of that pointing led to Brad Keselowski. He initially became the center of concern when he made moves early in the race, passed Danica, but ended up spinning by getting caught on his quarter panel. Now, in my opinion, Danica came up the track and into his lane. If you watch the replay from the dash cam of the cars behind those two, it’s pretty clear that Danica moved up the track, but there are still naysayers who believe that Keselowski was making moves too early in the race. After that incident, we also have the issue with him being back on the track after repairs late in the race. He was up with the front pack, although 6 laps down, but still vying for position and the Lucky Dog. A wreck did end up happening, which resulted in Matt Kenseth stating that Keselowski had no business running up front being that many laps down.
Now here’s the problem I have with both of those incidents. When it comes to Danica and Brad, there was clearly evidence of Danica coming up the track, yet folks still stated that Brad had no business running that hard that early in the race. So I suppose he is just supposed to follow in line until lap 350 when everyone decides it’s okay to actually race? As a fan, I don’t want to sit around and watch cars follow in line. I am here to watch them race. If that means they are racing on lap 1 into turn 1, then so be it. That’s the idea of racing. It may interfere with some of the strategy of other drivers, but it’s really not valid to state that Brad shouldn’t be doing his job of racing. With regards to the incident that involved Kenseth, it was clear that Brad has a fast car, if not one of the fastest on the track. That being said, every driver has the right to race. Now, if Brad was clearly in the way of the lead pack and a lap or more down slowing the field, then he definitely needs to step aside. But if we resort to the mentality that drivers who are a lap or more down have no business racing, then basically, whenever a car gets lapped, that driver should just go to the garage. It’s time to suck it up and realize that every point counts. Brad really did nothing wrong. It may not have been in the other drivers’ favor, but he did nothing wrong.
This weekend, we are headed to Kansas for a Saturday night race. I wish I could say that the tempers were left at Talladega, but night races tend to bring out the worst in drivers. I have a feeling that a lot of the issues from this Sunday are going to translate into some form of retaliation this weekend. Kansas is a track that is fun and fast. It’s reminiscent of the local Saturday night races that we all go to. There’s a lot of action packed into a not so huge track. Why do I say not so huge? Well, coming from Talladega, where the track was well over 2.5 miles, Kansas pales in comparison at the standard 1.5-mile tri-oval. It has 15 degree banking in the corners and 10.4 degree banking on the frontstretch. The backstretch comes in at a mere 5 degrees. We still see relatively high speeds here. We approach speeds of 180 mph during qualifying.
With high speeds, we can expect to see tire wear to become an issue. Overall, it seems like Goodyear has been testing their packages across the board on all different tracks, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see that tires become a role in the winner here. Ultimately, I think that fuel position is going to be the most important factor. We’ve seen it a few times here where it’s come down to fuel strategy. When it comes to who has the best strategy, I’m going with Johnson this weekend. I think that he’s well overdue for his trip to victory lane this year. Kansas is a track where he’s got the second best average finish and driver rating, and he really just needs to solidify his spot in the Chase. This is the track to watch him on. Other notables are going to include Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, and Brad Keselowski.
My Pick to Win: Jimmie Johnson
Middle of the Road Pick: Carl Edwards
Dark Horse Prediction: Jamie McMurray
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This is Carl Edwards’ home track. He’s got a lot of motivation coming into this weekend, and he was definitely stoked when interviewed about coming to Kansas. Look for him to be a contender for the win for sure on Saturday night. McMurray is also one to watch. He’s a bit of a sleeper but one that could potentially surprise everyone. He finished top 10 last year, and I think that he will improve that stat this weekend. Although I didn’t mention him before, keep your eyes peeled for Joey Logano throughout the night. Penske may have been the best thing that ever happened to him. He’s got a lot going for him this season, including a spot in the Chase already.
Here are your current top 12 after last week’s race:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Kyle Busch
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5. Carl Edwards
6. Joey Logano
7. Jimmie Johnson
8. Greg Biffle
9. Ryan Newman
10. Brian Vickers
11. Brad Keselowski
12. Denny Hamlin
13. Kyle Larson
14. Austin Dillon
15. AJ Allmendinger
16. Marcos Ambrose
There are still a ton of these guys who really need a win to get into the Chase this year. Jimmie Johnson is the main culprit. I think that Kansas will be a place for him to do just that. With his success on intermediate tracks, look for him to be a top contender for the win this weekend. Stay tuned for an awesome night of Saturday night racing.