INSIDE MOTORSPORTS | COMMENTARY

NASCAR: A Chase spoiler on the way at Kansas Speedway?

jutter@charlotteobserver.comOctober 2, 2013 

  • More information Next race Hollywood Casino 400 Where: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan. When: 2 p.m. Sunday TV: ESPN Radio: Motor Racing Network Last year’s winner: Matt Kenseth

My two cents

We interrupt this year’s Chase … to bring you this season’s fall race winner at Kansas Speedway.

Throughout the Chase’s nine-year history, Kansas has often offered played a spoiler role in the Chase – providing an opportunity for non-Chase drivers to break into Victory Lane and steal – albeit briefly – some of the spotlight from their competitors.

Joe Nemechek was the first garner the honor, becoming the first driver not in the Chase to win a Chase race with his victory at Kansas in 2004. That trend continued when Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle – neither in the Chase at that time – won at Kansas in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, respectively.

The potential for a surprise winner may be small, considering current series points leader Matt Kenseth has won the last two races at the 1.5-mile track.

Also, it’s been nearly two years since a non-Chase driver won a race. The most recent was Kasey Kahne’s victory at Phoenix in November 2011 while he was at Red Bull Racing.

Not to mention the fact that last Sunday at Dover, Del., Chase drivers claimed the entire Top 10 finishing positions – the first since the Chase’s inception in 2004 that has occurred.

But if a surprise is to occur, there are some viable candidates for the honor this week. Try Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin for instance.

Hamlin, who missed the spring Kansas race with a back injury, won at the 1.5-mile track in 2012, and has three top-five finishes in his last six races there.

Keselowski, the reigning series champion who missed the Chase cut this season, won at Kansas in 2011, and has finished in the Top 10 at the track in four of his last five races.

And don’t forget Jamie McMurray. McMurray has never won at Kansas but has finished 11th or higher in four of his past five races. At moment, he is 14th in the series standings – best among driver who failed to qualify for this year’s Chase.

Notes

Austin Dillon within striking range

It is very possible the NASCAR Nationwide Series could crown its first champion without a race victory on the season.

Austin Dillon, who has yet to win a race this season, is just four points behind leader Sam Hornish Jr. with five races remaining on the schedule, including Saturday at Kansas.

Dillon, the grandson of NASCAR owner Richard Childress, has certainly shown consistency this season – he has 10 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes and has won six poles. Dillon has also led a personal-best 526 laps this season.

Hornish, however, will not go down quietly. He owns a victory at Las Vegas and has 13 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes this season. He also has three poles and finished second five times.

Big names headline pit party at CMS

NASCAR fans can get closer than ever to their favorite drivers before the Oct. 12 Bank of America 500 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame “Pit Party.”

Drivers Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski are scheduled to make appearances at the pit party, which will take place on pit road from 2 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. on race day.

The pit party is open to all fans with a pit pass or driver intro pass, and also includes appearances by radio personalities John Boy & Billy and live music. Paul Schadt, voice of 96.9 The Kat, will serve as emcee.

Kwasniewski to make ARCA debut

NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver Dylan Kwasniewski is set to make his first start in the Automobile Racing Club of America series on Friday at Kansas with Venturini Motorsports.

In 43 career K&N Pro West and East starts Kwasniewski has won 10 times and has 28 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes. He’s also won 10 poles.

Allgaier gets another Cup start

Justin Allgaier, currently sixth in Nationwide Series standings, will make his second career Cup Series start this weekend at Kansas. He will drive the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing. He finished 27th in his first start, at Chicagoland Speedway in September.

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