Entering the world of NASCAR

3 Jun

Somewhere in our old family photo albums, there’s a picture of me as a baby, with a big happy smile on my face, proudly holding up an issue of Car & Driver with “10 Cars for under $10,000” as the cover story. Now, 20 years later, I’m headed out to Kansas Speedway to cover two NASCAR races – the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 of the Camping World Truck Series on Saturday, and the inaugural STP 400 of the Sprint Cup Series on Sunday.

This fall will mark 10 years of racing at Kansas Speedway, which will host two Sprint Cup Series races this season, a first for the track. Having lived in Kansas my entire life, it doesn’t seem like the track has been around for a decade already, but the first Cup race there happened a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to put the time frame into perspective.

The favorites for this year’s Kansas 400 include Jimmie Johnson (shocking, I know), Jeff Gordon, and Greg Biffle. All three average top 10 finishes at this track, and they rank third, 11th, and 16th in the points standings, respectively. Johnson and Gordon have both won a race in 2011, while Biffle’s last victory came at Kansas Speedway last season.

While the track’s history favors drivers who start near the front of the pack – 7 of 10 races at Kansas Speedway have been won by a car that had a starting position of 10 or better – this season has been kind to those who have patiently worked their way through the ranks during a course of a race. 7 of the 12 races run so far this season have been won by a car that started from a position of 20th or lower.

Other racers to keep an eye on are the ones who will be on their home track this weekend. Clint Bowyer hails from Emporia, Kansas, and is eighth in the points standings. Carl Edwards is first in the points and a native of Columbia, Missouri. Jamie McMurray, whose hometown of Joplin, Missouri, was recently ravaged by an EF-5 tornado, is 26th in the points.

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