FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Top 5 Shuffled as Cup Teams Prep for Race 8 in Kansas

Dwight DrumCorrespondent IIIApril 18, 2013

The No. 2 Ford waits to run in Daytona.  Credit: Dwight Drum
The No. 2 Ford waits to run in Daytona. Credit: Dwight Drum

Jimmie Johnson maintained his position as point leader in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heading into the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway while the top five dramatically changed as a result of racing and penalties.

Keselowski was nine NSCS points out in second place behind Johnson before a crew chief and point penalty was leveled against Penske Racing for improper rear-end housings during the Texas race. Suspensions and hefty fines affected Keselowski and Joey Logano crew chiefs while both drivers got 25 point penalties as well.

The result lifted Kyle Busch into second place and dropped Keselowski to fourth, now 34 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards also moved into the top five while Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne slipped out.

All drivers and teams will try to improve their positions on the 1.5-mile oval track with 17-20-degree variable banking in Kansas City this Sunday, April 21. Fans without a ticket to one of the 76,635 seats can view the action at 1 p.m. EST on Fox.

All fans can benefit from the comments by Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards as they have much experience with mile-and-a-half tracks. Kansas Speedway is one of eight tracks with that distance, but each track has its own characteristics. Drivers often define how track difference can make for racing differences.

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)

Point leader and precision driver Jimmie Johnson was quick to comment on the so-called cookie-cutter tracks.

"I know they all look the same, but Kansas has its own flow for sure,” Johnson said. “Maybe it is more like a Chicagoland (Speedway) feel the way the track drives. Charlotte (Motor Speedway) is different than any of them we run on. The banking feels more; the asphalt acts differently with the race cars. Texas (Motor Speedway) is an old surface, but the entry and exit of the corners is very narrow. You have to turn a lot sharper, especially on corner exit than you do at the other tracks, which is kind of odd because it looks very, very similar. There are differences between them all, but I would put Kansas and Chicago in the same group."

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota)

Kyle Busch and his team are always competitive, and their potential for winning seems as certain as the flutter in a green flag.

“I’m looking forward to Kansas with the roll that we’re on,” Busch said. “Kansas is newly repaved. It’s got a winter on it, now, so we’ll see how that changes things. But I still expect it to be fast. It’s a place that you want to run well at because it hosts a Chase race in the fall. So we’ve got to develop our notes in Kansas this weekend.

“It’s not that you might not like a track or might not like a race, or something like that. It’s just a matter of trying to figure it out. Once you kind of get it figured out or get the right situations kind of lined up, you can have a shot. I look at this place a lot like Michigan. That’s a place where I struggled for a long time, but we finally were able to break through there for a win two years ago. Of course, just like Michigan, as soon as I figure it out, they repaved it along with Kansas.”

Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ford)

Greg Biffle and his team are having a good season. The “Biff” isn’t a flamboyant character, but his skills always give him the potential to pull off a win.

“I’m really excited about going to Kansas this week,” Biffle said. “We’ve got a few wins there and we tested there a couple weeks back. We feel like we have a pretty strong program and pretty good handle on that race track. Kansas is really smooth, really fast and our cars handle well there. We’re looking for a win this weekend.”

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Ford)

Brad Keselowski has had an interesting week even for an NSCS champion. He was honored by the president at the White House. He wasn’t penalized for his profanity after the Texas race by NASCAR CEO Brian France. He was penalized 25 points for parts violations to his No. 2 Ford. Keselowski talked about his moments with President Obama and the next race in Kansas.

“Getting to spend some one-on-one time with the leader of the free world is something I never thought I would do in my life,” Keselowski said. “To have the focus just on Penske Racing was very cool. My goal is to make him tired of seeing my face year after year.

“As a race-car driver, it’s really hard to try to reflect back on past successes as you are trying to continue to move forward and progress. I’ve always said that past success, or failure for that matter, doesn’t guarantee anything for the future. (Crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) and I knew we could get it done at this level and that win at Kansas kind of validated that for us. For that reason, it will always be a fond memory of mine.”

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford)

Carl Edwards, a Columbia, Mo., native, could have some home-field advantage for the Kansas race; that is if home-field advantage exists at all for NASCAR drivers.

“There would be nothing better than winning in Kansas,” Edwards said. “That race track means a lot to me. Our team tested there a couple weeks ago. It went pretty well, but it was only our team, so we really don’t know how we stack up, but it’s lightning fast. I think we were 207 or 209 miles an hour at the end of the straightaway there at Kansas, which was really good and really fast.

"I’m excited to go back there. It’s amazing how much that area has built up and how much is going on there. It’s a neat place and I’ve got a lot of family and friends coming, so that would be huge to win there in the Aflac Ford.”

The new stingy NASCAR point system may not cause as many changes as this past week, but Kansas is a fast track. It’s highly popular with fans in that area as well. All that may make for a very fast show.

FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.