Half of the Chase for the Sprint Cup is already in the books, and the unpredictable Kansas Speedway awaits NASCAR as the pack tries to gain ground on points leader Brad Keselowski.
Kansas isn’t just unpredictable, it’s dangerous after being recently resurfaced and could pose a problem to the safety of the drivers. Denny Hamlin crashed during a practice round and Dale Earnhardt Jr. was concussed during a test run on the track in late August.
Keselowski currently leads Jimmie Johnson by seven points while Hamlin is 15 points back at the midway point of the Chase.
There are only two other drivers who look to have a prayer at getting back into this thing: Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne. The next two unpredictable weeks could swing things back in their favor as they attempt to make a run at the Sprint Cup.
Take a look below at everything you should probably know before this weekend’s festivities.
Where: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.
When: Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. ET (Pre-race countdown at 1 p.m.)
Live Stream: TrackPass
Listen: Motor Racing Network
Full TV Schedule (via NASCAR.com)
Practice: Friday, Oct. 19 at 12:30 p.m. ET, SPEED
Qualifying: Friday, Oct. 19 at 5 p.m. ET, ESPN 2
Practice: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 11 a.m. ET, ESPN 2
Final Practice: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 2
Hollywood Casino 400: Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. ET, ESPN (Pre-race countdown at 1 p.m.)
*Click HERE for a full list of participants.
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Hamlin clipped the Turn 1 wall at 202 mph and then shot back into the wall after over-correcting himself. He was briefly checked out and then cleared to participate in the weekend’s events.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Junior will miss his second race after suffering two concussions. The first came on this very Kansas track during a tire test in August.
His second concussion, on the final lap at Talladega, prompted him to see a neurosurgeon who noticed a problem.
Drivers to Watch
Keselowski is the points leader and is fighting to continue to hold onto that position in the Chase standings. He’ll be racing the PRS-832 chassis for this race. The last time he employed it was during his victory at the initial Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Johnson trailed Keselowski by just seven points after finishing in third place at the Bank of America 500 last week. He’s got an excellent track record at Kansas and is racing at a very high level throughout the Chase thus far.
Johnson also has some good success at this track, although the uncertainty of the new surface may alter his performance. His last seven finishes at Kansas are third, first, ninth, second, seventh, first and third, in that order.
Kahne is currently sitting 35 points behind Keselowski in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings. He finished eighth at the Bank of America 500 last week but desperately needs a win if he is going to continue to contend.
He’s only won two races in all of 2012 and certainly has the odds stacked against him, as he has not performed greatly at Kansas. He has two poles but only an average finish of 16.10 in 10 races.
Predicted Winner: Kasey Kahne
Kahne has a lot of drive and was impressive in the qualifying round on Friday night. He currently holds the pole position and will use the momentum he’s built from that to earn a big win at Kansas.
Although he has struggled at Kansas and hasn’t won many races this year, this is the perfect time for him to rise to the challenge and make a move on the leaders.