The Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Family Will Expand by One!

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn’t help himself.

When he heard his unborn daughter’s heartbeat for the first time, Earnhardt responded with an instinctive, spontaneous laugh of pure joy.

“It’s not like a funny ‘ha-ha’ laugh,” Earnhardt said before final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Kansas Speedway. “It’s more like something just comes out. I’d play it for you. You just burst out like joy. It wasn’t ‘ha-ha’ funny. It was just a joyful moment.

“Somebody says your wife is pregnant, that registers a little bit. But man, when you hear that heartbeat it’s like ‘Yep, it’s real. This is a real thing in there and it’s here. This is happening.’ So, just all this emotion just pops out.”

Earnhardt learned in August that wife Amy was pregnant with the couple’s first child, but didn’t make the news public until last Monday. Nevertheless, the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet recalls being consumed with anticipation while waiting for confirmation of the pregnancy.

“We went for a checkup, and Amy took a couple of tests, and the tests were saying she’s pregnant,” Earnhardt recounted. “We went to the doctor, and I’m still thinking, ‘Man, I’m not believing crap until this doctor tells me. So we’re sitting in there for like 20 minutes. And they’re talking woman language, and I’m not understanding.

“They are just talking about things, and I’m like, ‘Well, when is she going to say it?’ I want to hear it from the doctor’s mouth that she’s pregnant, so we can rejoice. It took them a while. I was scared to speak up. Finally, they said something that confirmed it for me and I was like, ‘Awesome!’”

“And then we had the ultrasound and got to hear the heartbeat and all that right there, and that was great. We go back for another checkup here soon, in a couple of days, and those are awesome. They are so much fun because it’s like the closest you can get to it before they’re born, and I’m looking forward to each and every one of them.”

So as Dale Jr. exits stage left from fulltime driving, and moves up to the NBC TV booth next season, he and his wife will  be welcoming a daughter into his life!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Inspections Issues Sends Blaney To The Tail End At Kansas

Image result for wood brothers racing kansas speedway

Ryan Blaney, who enters the final race of the Monster Energy Cup playoff’s Round of 12 in seventh place, had been among the fastest drivers in practice and qualifying on Friday at Kansas.

Now he’ll need all that speed to work his way up from his 40th starting spot in Sunday’s 400 miler.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said that in today’s competitive environment, teams tend to take chances when it comes to preparing their cars.

“The rules are pushed to the max in every area, and today the NASCAR officials found something they didn’t like about our car,” Wood said. “We’re not disputing their decision. We’ll own it and move on.

“We’ll work on our car in Saturday’s practice, line up in the back on Sunday and look forward to watching Ryan drive his way to the front.”

Blaney and his Wood Brothers team, participating in the NASCAR playoffs for the first time, enter the final race of the Round of 12 two points ahead of eighth-place Jimmie Johnson and nine ahead of ninth-place Kyle Busch.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kansas Is Do Or Die For Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch
Three weeks ago, after the Round of 16 elimination race at Dover, Kyle Busch was in a comfort zone.

Then Charlotte and Talladega happened.

In the first event in the Round of 12, Busch hit the wall at Charlotte and finished 29th, six laps down. In last Sunday’s thrilling race at Talladega, he crashed out in 27th.

Those two results wiped out the advantage he had built in playoff points and left him ninth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, seven points behind Jimmie Johnson in eighth.

With elimination looming in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, only 10 points separate Ryan Blaney in seventh from Matt Kenseth in 10th, with Johnson and Busch in-between. In all probability, two of those four drivers will advance to the Round of 8, and two won’t.

“I feel like I wouldn’t be worried about this if I didn’t have Charlotte or Talladega happen,” Busch said. “But that’s not the situation we’re in. We’ve just got to do a good job. This is our first ‘Homestead’ of this year.

“We’ve got to come through this race. It’s not a must-win, but it is a must-perform. We’ve got to do everything right in order to go out there and be the top guy all day out of the four legitimate candidates that are fighting for the two spots available. We’ve just got to concentrate on that and make sure we can get it done.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Lackluster Qualifying Puts Jimmie Johnson Behind The Eight Ball

Jimmie Johnson & David Ragan
Jimmie Johnson knows he needs to do better at qualifying, but he’s not sure how to accomplish that goal.

The numbers don’t lie. Johnson’s average starting position through 31 races this season is 17.0. His previous low mark was 14.3 in his 2002 rookie year.

The mid-pack starting spots have had dire consequences. The seven-time champion’s lackluster efforts in time trials have translated to a career-worst average finish of 15.8. Though Johnson has won three times this season, he has finished in the top five only one other time.

Only one previous time in his career has Johnson failed to crack double digits in top fives. That was 15 years ago, when he posted six top-five results in his rookie season.

But the real negative of mediocrity in time trials manifests itself in stage racing. Starting from an average of 17th on the grid, Johnson has had difficulty accumulating stage points to any significant degree.

As a consequence, he’s eighth in the standings, fighting to retain a spot in the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff. It doesn’t help that the driver who is seven points behind him—Kyle Busch—has eight poles this season and an average starting position of 7.1.

That’s an average advantage of 10 spots over Johnson, or 10 points, to start every race. That’s why qualifying is number one on Johnson’s to-do list of areas to improve.

“It hasn’t been a strong suit of mine, and over the last couple of years, it has slipped even more,” Johnson told the NASCAR Wire Service on Friday at Kansas Speedway, site of Sunday’s Round of 12 elimination race the Hollywood Casino 400. “This year, we knew before the season ever started that the importance of qualifying was going to ratchet up and be two to three times more important, essentially.

“Even with all that awareness and the thought process and attempts to raise our qualifying performance, we haven’t yet. And we’re looking at every option possible. Again, here this weekend, I personally am trying to find the right rhythm that is needed out there on the track to put up that lap time. Through practice and the three rounds of qualifying, at some point I can sneak the speed out of the car and post a good lap, and for whatever reason trying to back that up or do it lap after lap, just haven’t been able to pull that off.”

It’s not that Johnson has neglected qualifying in preparing for each race.

“We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on it, and we’re almost to a point now where we overthought it,” he said. “Are we slowing ourselves down from overthinking it in some regards?

“We’re aware and trying hard and have been trying hard to get that right. Hopefully, we get it.”

As an added incentive, Friday’s pole winner at Kansas Speedway will earn the No. 1 pit stall next week at Martinsville, where the stall closest to the exit from pit road is a huge advantage.

But Johnson can’t worry about that now. If he doesn’t survive Kansas in the top eight, Martinsville won’t matter, where a possible record eighth championship is concerned.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Martin Truex, Jr. Snags The Pole At Kansas

Martin Truex, Jr.
You can’t blame Martin Truex Jr. for looking ahead.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series leader didn’t need to win the pole position at Kansas Speedway, having already qualified for the Playoff’s Round of 8 with a victory two weeks ago at Charlotte.

But by posting the fastest lap in Friday’s knockout qualifying session at the 1.5-mile track, Truex got a leg up on a trip to the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, because the time trials at Kansas came with a significant bonus—first choice of pit stalls for the Oct. 29 Round of 8 opener at Martinsville Speedway.

For the record, Truex ran the fastest lap of the afternoon in the final round of qualifying for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, covering the distance in 28.719 seconds (188.029 mph) to beat Kevin Harvick (187.682 mph) for the top starting spot by .053 seconds.

But Truex had to push his car to the limit in the final round to earn his third Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his second at Kansas and the 15th of his career.

“I was shaking a little—I’m not going to lie,” Truex said. “My heart was beating. It gets the adrenaline going so high to put down a lap like that, to go the fastest you’ve gone all day in that final round.

“We put it all together. We got the balance better, and I stepped up and put it on the line out there, and it stuck. The commitment level was high, and the car handled it well. That’s always a good combination.”

Ryan Blaney qualified third, Matt Kenseth fourth and Denny Hamlin fifth, as Playoff drivers garnered the top five spots on the grid. Daniel Suarez was sixth, followed by Erik Jones and Kyle Busch, as Toyota drivers claimed six of the top eight starting positions, the only exceptions being the Fords of Harvick and Blaney.

Because qualifying at Martinsville is on the same day as the race, pit selection at the .526-mile short track was tied to qualifying at Kansas, where the No. 1 pit stall gives a driver unfettered egress from pit road.

“It was definitely on our minds,” said Truex, who has won a series-best six races in a dream season for the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team. “We talked about it. It was like ‘It’d be pretty nice to go to Martinsville and have the No. 1 pit stall.’

“It was definitely on our minds, but I don’t know if it really played into how we got the job done or not. But it was definitely good timing, more than anything, because that’s going to be huge for us going into the Round of 8 next week.”

Harvick, the 2014 series champion described his qualifying session as “three sketchy laps,” but feels he has a competitive car for the race that will trim the Playoff field from 12 drivers to eight.

“I think we have a car that can be capable of staying up there and hopefully having a chance to win the race at the end,” Harvick said. “It’s a good start to the weekend. That’s half the battle when you’re trying to collect stage points in the first stage and get pit stall selection and try and gain all the advantages that you can on Friday.

“That’s something that our team did a good job at this year. I feel like our cars are a lot faster from the beginning of the year on the mile-and-a-half race tracks, and we’re on the game. It’s been a fun few weeks.”

Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who currently leads Kyle Busch by seven points for the final spot in the Round of 8, and will start 13th after missing the final round by .020 seconds. Playoff driver Jamie McMurray qualified ninth in the fastest Chevrolet.

Playoff drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott will start 14th and 15th, respectively. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the only Playoff driver who failed to make the second round, will take the green flag from 25th.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch Faces Elimination At Kansas

Kyle Busch
The four-round elimination-style Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs can chew a driver up and spit him out in no time whatsoever!

Kyle Busch knows this as well as anyone.

The No. 18 Toyota driver entered the Playoffs third in the points standings and looked like the favorite to take the series crown after winning twice in the Round of 16.

But his situation changed rapidly in the Round of 12. Busch finished 29th at Charlotte, followed by a 27th-place performance at Talladega. Now, he sits on the brink of elimination – seven points behind Jimmie Johnson for the final Round of 8 transfer spot going into Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

“We are still some points out but we can go out there and try and get as many stage points as possible and, if we get a good run, we still have a shot to make it through,” Busch said. “We’ll just have to do what we’ve been doing all year and see where that puts us.”

Luckily for Busch, Kansas has treated him well recently. Although struggling at the 1.5-mile track early in his career, Busch has finished no lower than fifth in his last five starts there. His run includes a Kansas win in the spring of 2016.

“We’re going to do the same things we’ve always done – same preparation, nothing different,” Busch said. “I think we need to go in there and do our best to be prepared and when it comes to race time, try to limit our mistakes. I think that helped out there over the years and that has turned our team into a contender every time we race there, now. We’ll just do the same things this time around.”

The only way Busch can advance to the Round of 12 without the help of other drivers is to win Sunday’s race!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Ryan Blaney Thinks That Kansas Speedway Works In His Favor

If Ryan Blaney and his No. 21 Omnicraft team had their pick of race tracks to run the elimination race of the Round of 12 of the Monster Energy Cup playoffs, they’d likely pick Kansas Speedway, the site of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400.

Blaney made his Cup debut at Kansas in 2014, driving a Team Penske Ford. Since moving to the Wood Brothers No. 21 the next season, Kansas has statistically been his best track.

He has three finishes of seventh or better in four Kansas starts in the No. 21 Fusion with an average finish of 7.5. He won his first Cup pole there in May, and set a career record for points earned in a single race with 51.

In that Go Bowling 400, he led 83 laps, finished third in Stage One and won Stage Two before finishing fourth at the checkered flag.

Blaney, who will carry the colors of Omnicraft for the second time this season, enters this weekend’s 400-miler seventh in the points standings, two points ahead of eighth-place Jimmie Johnson and nine ahead of ninth-place Kyle Busch. The bottom four drivers in the playoff standings will be eliminated from championship contention after Sunday’s race.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he’s happy to have come this far in the playoffs and hoping to make it to the third round.

Wood said the team will be focusing on earning stage points, beginning with practice and qualifying on Friday. A top starting spot means there are fewer drivers to pass to be among the top 10 and thereby earn points in the first stage.

Stage points have been key to the success Blaney and the No. 21 team have enjoyed throughout the season.

Through Talladega, Blaney has earned 193 stage points. He’s won four stages, plus a win at Pocono Raceway, and scored 17 top-five stage finishes and 36 top-10s.

“We saw how important stage points are last week at Talladega, and it’ll be the same this week at Kansas,” Wood said. “The 18 points Ryan earned in the first two stages at Talladega allowed us to move up four spots in the standings even after wrecking out of the race.”

Wood also said he believes his team’s battle for a spot in the Round of Eight will bring extra attention to Omnicraft, which is Ford Motor Company’s new brand of quality replacement parts for non-Ford and non-Lincoln vehicles.

The Omnicraft brand, which made its debut in January, is Ford’s first new parts brand in 50 years and will give its dealers and the Quick Lane Tire and Auto Centers access to quality parts for any vehicle brought in for service.

“One of the perks of being in the playoffs is that it brings more attention to our car and its sponsor, and this weekend’s media coverage will raise awareness for the Omnicraft brand,” Wood said, adding that he’s cautiously optimistic about the upcoming weekend. “Hopefully we can build on our run at Kansas in May and make it to the Round of Eight.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Harvick Rolls Into Kansas With A 22 Point Cushion

Kevin Harvick

 Kevin Harvick is heading to Kansas Speedway in Kansas City for the Hollywood Casino 400, the third and final race in the Round of 12 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, with a 22-point cushion over the ninth-place driver.

The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) scored two stage wins and a third-place finish to open the Round of 12 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and a 20th-place finish last weekend at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway to open up his points advantage.

Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing won two weeks ago at Charlotte and Brad Keselowski of Team Penske followed suit last weekend at Talladega to secure their spots in the Round of 8. Now, 10 drivers are in contention for the final six positions with the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway as the stage for the final showdown. Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing holds a 29-point advantage over ninth place as the only non-secured driver ahead of Harvick. Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Rickey Stenhouse Jr. and Jamie McMurray all sit below the cutoff line heading into the weekend.

Harvick has reason for optimism heading into Kansas.

The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion won at Kansas Speedway in October 2016, when he started 11th, led 74 laps and beat runner-up Carl Edwards to the finish line by 1.183 seconds and it came in a must-win situation during that year’s NASCAR playoffs. After Harvick suffered a mechanical failure the week before in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte that resulted in a 38th-place finish, he was 12th in the standings. He trailed Denny Hamlin by eight points for the final transfer position into the Round of 8 with Talladega looming the following week.

It was the second Cup Series win for Harvick. He also won the NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas in October 2013, when he started from the pole position, led 138 of 267 laps and beat current SHR teammate Kurt Busch to the finish line by 1.140 seconds to score his first Cup Series victory at the 1.5-mile oval.

The Bakersfield, California native also owns the Cup Series qualifying record at Kansas, which he set May 9, 2014 with a lap of 27.799 seconds at 194.658 in the second round of qualifying. It was Harvick’s second of three consecutive Cup Series poles at Kansas from October 2013 through October 2014.

He also has three runner-up finishes in six Cup Series starts at Kansas since joining SHR in February 2014.

Harvick knows that the best way to finish up front is to start up front, which he has done four times so far in 2017. He has scored four Cup Series pole awards – three coming on 1.5-mile racetracks. He scored his first of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a lap of 29.118 seconds at 190.398 mph. His second of the season came at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, when he made a lap at 27.217 seconds at 198.405 mph. His third came at Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 with a lap of 27.918 seconds at 193.424 mph. The most recent came at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, where he posted a lap of 27.669 seconds at 177.730 mph.

Harvick also has four poles at Kansas, which are tied with Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne for most all-time at the 1.5-mile track. Harvick and Johnson are the only two drivers to win consecutive poles at Kansas Speedway. Johnson completed the task in 2007 and 2008, while Harvick scored three in a row starting in the fall of 2013 followed by a sweep of 2014.

While Harvick has raced up front and scored five stage wins this year, he is still in search of his first Cup Series race win at a 1.5-mile track this season. However, he has scored the second-most points of any driver over the last 10 races on a 1.5-mile track by knocking down five top-five finishes, nine top-10s and four poles.

This weekend, Harvick and the No. 4 Jimmy John’s team hope to repeat their performance from last October and return to victory lane in pursuit of a second NASCAR Cup Series championship.

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You’ve performed much stronger at Kansas the last couple of years. Is that because of the repave, or did you find something you were missing previously?

“The repave is definitely what changed and turned things around for us at Kansas. Really, I liked the racetrack the way it was before with the asphalt really worn out and cars sliding all over. But, once the repave happened, we were able to really hit on some things and, for whatever reason, it kind of fits my driving style and we have gotten some good results out of it. It has been a really good-performing racetrack for us and one that we look forward to going to and hopefully continue to get good results out of it because it’s been so good for us in the past.”

Take us on a lap around Kansas.

“It’s definitely a little bit different just for the fact the (corner) entries are a little different than at most places. Turns three and four remind me of turns three and four at Chicagoland Speedway, but there’s a lot more grip and fresher asphalt than what Chicagoland has nowadays. It’s a very high-speed racetrack. You run the middle to the bottom of the racetrack. But I’m sure, as time goes on, that the groove will move back up. But, for right now, it’s very fast and very sensitive to your line and, with all the speed and how tricky the entrance is into turn one, you can miss your line easily. So, you have to be very specific about where you put your car and pay attention to what you’re doing.”

 

Jimmy John’s Racing Team Report

Round 32 of 36 – Hollywood Casino 400 – Kansas

At-Track PR Contact: Ryan Barry, True Speed Communication (704-500-1553, Ryan.Barry@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
Primary Team Members:

Driver: Kevin Harvick

Hometown: Bakersfield, California

 

Crew Chief: Rodney Childers

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina

 

Car Chief: Robert Smith

Hometown: Whitewater, Wisconsin

 

Engine Builder: Roush-Yates Engines

Headquarters: Moorseville, North Carolina

 

Engine Specialist: Robert Brandt

Hometown: Mobile, Alabama

 

Spotter: Tim Fedewa

Hometown: Holt, Michigan

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:

Gas Man: Justin White

Hometown: Lynnville, Tennessee

 

Front Tire Changer: Eric Maycroft

Hometown: Algonquiin, Illinois

 

Second Gas Man: Marc Wulf

Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska

 

Front Tire Carrier: Matt Holzbaur

Hometown: New Egypt, New Jersey

 

Windshield: Matthew Custer

Hometown: Bedford, Pennsylvania

 

Rear Tire Changer: Daniel Smith

Hometown: Concord, North Carolina

 

Jackman: Stan Doolittle

Hometown: Ninety Six, South Carolina

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Mike “Shrek” Morneau

Hometown: Oxford, Maine

Road Crew Members:

Truck Drivers: Rick Hodges and Stephen Mitchell

Hometowns: Raleigh, North Carolina, and Woodville, Ohio, respectively

 

Tire Specialist: Dustin Keath

Hometown: Reading, Pennsylvania

 

Shock Specialist: Mike McCarville

Hometown: Kensington, Prince Edward Island, Canada

 

Engineers: Dax Gerringer and Billy Kuebler

Hometowns: Gibsonville, North Carolina, and Saline, Michigan,respectively

 

Mechanics: Richie Bean and Allen Mincey

Hometown: Bradford, Vermont, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida,respectively

 

Fuel Runner: Chris Clayton

Hometown: Modesto, California

Chassis Information – Chassis No. 4-986:
Kevin Harvick will pilot the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion built on Chassis No. 4-986 in the Hollywood Casino 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Built new in 2016, Chassis No. 4-986 made its NASCAR Cup Series debut in April at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where it started 22nd, led one lap and finished 10th. In its second appearance, Harvick started first after rain cancelled qualifying at Kentucky, led 128 laps and finished ninth. In its final start of 2016, Harvick started fourth, finished fifth and led 33 laps at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn in August. Chassis No. 4-986 finished sixth at Phoenix International Raceway in March in its lone start of 2017.

 

Kansas Speedway Notes of Interest:
· Earning It Since 2014: Harvick is in his 17th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and his fourth at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) with crew chief Rodney Childers at the helm. Since joining forces in 2014, Harvick and Childers combined to produce 13 victories, 14 poles, 64 top-five finishes and 93 top-10s; led 6,590 laps; won the 2014 Cup Series title; finished runner-up in 2015 to champion Kyle Busch and eighth in 2016.

 

· Points Position: Harvick arrives at Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 ranked fourth in the driver standings with 3,089 points after his 20th-place finish Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. He maintains a 22-point advantage ahead of ninth in the standings heading into the final of three Round of 12 races this weekend.

 

· Playoff Qualifier: Harvick clinched his position in the 2017 playoffs as he scored his first Cup Series win of the season at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in June. He started 12th, led 24 laps and had more than a five-second cushion when the final yellow flag waved to end the race under caution.Harvick and the No. 4 team scored one race win and three stage wins to account for eight playoff points. They finished fourth in regular-season points to pick up an additional seven points to earn the sixth seed for the 2017 playoffs. The No. 4 team scored two additional stage wins at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in October for two playoff points.

 

· 11,000 Laps Led: Harvick led 149 laps at Charlotte and has now led 11,016 laps in his NASCAR Cup Series career, becoming just the 17th driver in Cup Series history to surpass 11,000 laps led for his career. Johnson, Busch and Matt Kenseth are the only active drivers to accomplish the feat.

 

· Harvick at Kansas since Joining SHR:Harvick has seven Cup Series starts at Kansas since joining SHR at the beginning of the 2014 season and has one win, won the pole for two of the six races, finished runner-up three times and third in his most recent start. He won the NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas in October 2016, when he started 11th, led 74 laps and beat runner-up Carl Edwards to the finish line by 1.183 seconds. In May 2014, he won the pole with a speed of 194.252 mph, led 119 laps and finished second to Jeff Gordon by .112 of a second. He won the pole with a speed of 197.621 mph, led 61 laps and finished 12th in October 2014. He started sixth, led 53 laps and finished second to Johnson by .487 of a second in May 2015. In October 2015, Harvick started fourth, led 21 laps and finished 16th. In May 2016, he started 26th and raced his way to a runner-up finish, trailing race-winner Busch by 1.112 seconds at the finish line.

 

· Harvick in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas: The Hollywood Casino 400 will mark Harvick’s 24th career Cup Series start at Kansas. He has two wins (October 2013 and 2016), three poles (October 2013, May and October 2014), seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s at the 1.5-mile oval. The 41-year-old driver has led 559 laps, has an average starting position of 15.4, has an average finish of 10.0 and has completed 98.2 percent (5,980 of 6,091) of the laps he’s contested there.

 

· Track Record: Harvick set the track qualifying record at Kansas Speedway on October 3, 2014 with a lap of 27.304 seconds at 197.773 mph in Cup Series qualifying. Harvick’s four poles at Kansas are tied with Johnson, Kenseth and Kasey Kahne for most all-time at the 1.5-mile track. Harvick and Johnson are the only two drivers to win consecutive poles at Kansas Speedway (Johnson in 2007 and 2008, Harvick in the fall of 2013 followed by a sweep of 2014).

 

· Never Missed a Cup Series Start at Kansas: Harvick is one of four drivers to participate in every Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway. The other four drivers to have started all 23 Cup Series events are SHR teammate Kurt Busch, Kenseth and Ryan Newman.

 

· Three-Time Runner-Up: In addition to Harvick’s two wins at Kansas, he also leads the series in runner-up finishes there with three. Edwards, Kahne, Martin Truex Jr. and Newman each have two.

 

· Harvick in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Kansas: Harvick has made 11 starts in the Xfinity Series at Kansas. He has one win (October 2006), one pole (October 2008), six top-five finishes and seven top-10s. He has led 208 laps, has an average starting position of 9.5, an average finish of 9.3 and has completed 94.4 percent (2,080 of 2,204) of the laps he’s contested there.

 

· On The Pole: Harvick has scored four Cup Series pole awards in 2017 – three coming on 1.5-mile racetracks. He scored his first of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a lap of 29.118 seconds at 190.398 mph. His second of the season came at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, when he made a lap at 27.217 seconds at 198.405 mph. His third came at Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 with a lap of 27.918 seconds at 193.424 mph. The most recent came at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, where he posted a lap of 27.669 seconds at 177.730 mph.

 

· All-Time Wins List: Harvick scored his 36th career Cup Series win at Sonoma in June, which is ranked 22nd on the all-time wins list. His next Cup Series win will move him into a tie with Bobby Isaac for 21st on the all-time list. Among active drivers, Harvick ranks fourth behind leader Johnson’s 83 career wins, Kyle Busch’s 42 and Kenseth’s 38 wins.

 

· Career NASCAR Cup Series Totals: Harvick has 36 wins, 164 top-fives, 302 top-10s and 21 poles in 605 career Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s race at Kansas.

 

· Personal Announcement: On Tuesday, July 11, Harvick kicked off his SiriusXM Radio show “Happy Hours” by announcing that he and wife DeLana are expecting to add a daughter to their family around the first of the year.

 

· Harvick’s Happy Hours on SiriusXM Radio: On March 14, Harvick announced that he will hostHappy Hours on SiriusXM Radio. The show debuted March 28 and airs on Tuesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. ET, featuring Harvick’s distinctive perspective on his sport and life outside the track. Harvick and co-host Matt Yocum take calls from listeners and give NASCAR fans a unique view on the driver’s life and interests when he is away from the racecar.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kansas Has Turned Into A Major Challenge For Kyle

Kyle Busch

 If one were to look at Kyle Busch’s last seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, the difference for the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) couldn’t be any more stark.

The 1.5-mile oval built in 2001, which originally featured a constant 15 degrees of banking in the turns, underwent a massive renovation project leading into its October 2012 Cup Series event. The changes included repaving of the existing track surface, reconfiguration of the oval, and the addition of a new infield road course. The oval’s geometric shape also was changed to feature variable banking of 17 to 20 degrees in the turns.

To say that Busch didn’t take well to the new surface would be quite the understatement. From October 2012 to 2013, Busch had three consecutive DNFs (Did Not Finish) there, with accidents ending his day each time for final results of 31st, 38th and 34th.

Feeling snakebit on the new Kansas surface, Busch and his M&M’S Halloween team took a different approach starting with the April 2014 race there by starting from scratch with a brand new car. They attacked the track in the Heartland of America with hope that a fresh outlook would produce vastly different results. While a pit-road speeding penalty cost them precious track position and an even better finish in the race, the result was still much different than the three previous trips. They began to turn the corner in terms of competitiveness and results.

Starting with the October 2014 Cup Series race at Kansas, Busch brought home his first ever top-five finish at the track. Anyone who has ever followed Busch’s career knows the 2015 Cup Series champion never cared much for moral victories. However, the momentum carried over from the October 2014 top-five to his next Kansas race in October 2015, when he finished a solid third. It was a finish that helped vault him through to the next round of the Cup Series playoffs and eventually to the championship stage.

Busch keeps making strides each time he goes back to the Heartland, where he broke through for his first Cup Series win at the 1.5-mile oval in May 2016 as the surface finally started to wear and become more agreeable to Busch’s driving style.

Sunday afternoon in Kansas, Busch and the M&M’S Halloween team will look to tackle the final race of the Round of 12 of the 2017 Playoffs. Busch is looking to overcome a seven-point deficit to the all-important eighth-place spot in the playoff standings after bad luck struck when he was collected in a multicar accident Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The Las Vegas hopes for a strong run at Kansas in order to advance to the Round of 8.

So, as the Cup Series heads to the Heartland of America Sunday, a sixth top-five finish in a row at Kansas could be just what Busch needs to move on to the next playoff round. And even though Halloween is fast approaching, Kansas isn’t as scary as it used to be for Busch and his colorful M&M’S Halloween Toyota.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
With a seven-point deficit to eighth place coming into Kansas, what is the mindset going into this weekend as you go to place you have improved so much over the last three years?

“We’re going to do the same things we’ve always done – same preparation, nothing different. I think we need to go in there and do our best to be prepared and when it comes to race time, try to limit our mistakes. I think that helped out there over the years and that has turned our team into a contender every time we race there, now. We’ll just do the same things this time around. It’s no different than what we typically do each and every week, though. I know Adam (Stevens, crew chief) will have a good M&M’S Halloween Camry and we will keep doing what we’ve been doing well all year long and see where the points fall for us if we can’t get a win.”

What difference have the bonus points for stage wins and race wins made for you so far in the playoffs?

“We’ve obviously had a terrible round and we are still within striking distance. If we didn’t have those bonus points, we wouldn’t have much shot going into this weekend. So I’m thankful that the system is in place that rewards the good runs we had during the regular season. We are still some points out but we can go out there and try and get as many stage points as possible and, if we get a good run, we still have a shot to make it through. We’ll just have to do what we’ve been doing all year and see where that puts us.”

You won at Kansas in 2016 after all the trouble and so many close calls and so much bad luck. Does it help your confidence at all that you’re going into Kansas knowing that you finally hit on something there?

“It certainly did. Not that long ago I probably wouldn’t say those words but, you know, it’s suddenly become a really good place for us recently. We’ve had a good string of top-fives so, hopefully, we can go there and have another good run to give us a shot of making it to the next round. We just have to move on from the last two weekends, try to score the most points possible.”

Kansas had been a frustrating place for you during your career, but have you and your team turned the corner there with five top-five finishes in a row there?

“I think so. We ran third there in the fall of 2014. I wasn’t there in the spring race of 2015 since that was the last race I was recovering from my injury, but (Erik) Jones ran up front until he ended up wrecking. Last fall, Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the M&M’S guys did an awesome job and we ran top-five again. The last few several races there, the track really has started to change and the groove is starting to spread out, and it makes me more comfortable when a track gets worn in. Adam and the guys have been bringing really good racecars to the track every weekend and, when you have great cars and run up front, good things are going to happen.”

M&M’S Halloween Racing

Race 32 of 36 – Hollywood Casino 400 – Kansas

Car No.: 18 – M&M’S Halloween Toyota Camry

 

Teammates:  Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota Camry; Daniel Suarez – No. 19 Toyota Camry; Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota Camry.

 

At-Track PR Contact: Bill Janitz, True Speed Communication (704-875-3388 ext. 803 or Bill.Janitz@TrueSpeedCommunication.com).

Primary Team Members:

Driver: Kyle Busch

Hometown: Las Vegas

 

Crew Chief: Adam Stevens

Hometown: Portsmouth, Ohio

 

Car Chief: Nate Bellows

Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont

 

Race Engineer: Ben Beshore

Hometown: Hometown York, Pennsylvania

 

Engine Specialist: Mike Johnson

Hometown: Bozeman, Montana

 

Spotter: Tony Hirschman

Hometown: Northampton, Pennsylvania

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:

Gas Man: Kenneth Purcell

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia

 

Front Tire Changer: Clay Robinson

Hometown: Simi Valley, California

 

Jackman: Trey Burklin

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

 

Front Tire Carrier: Kevin Harris

Hometown: Winter Springs, Florida

 

Rear Tire Carrier: Matt Ver Meer

Hometown: Montezuma, Iowa

 

Rear Tire Changer: Adam Hartmann

Hometown: Oxford, North Carolina

 

Pit Support: Marcus Bonicelli

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

 

Pit Support: Jeff Koons

Hometown: Greenfield, Indiana

Road Crew Members:

Truck Drivers: Brendan Greene and Jamie Price

Hometowns: Midland, North Carolina, and Choteau, Montana, respectively

 

Tire Specialist: Jon Desrocher

Hometown: Plattsburgh, New York

 

Interior Mechanic: Wesley Lape

Hometown: Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania

 

Race Engineer: Tyler Allen

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

 

Ride and Handling Engineer: Chris Chase

Hometown: Nichols, New York

 

Rear End Mechanic: Chris Jones

Hometown: Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

 

Mechanic: Todd Foster

Hometown: Birmingham, Alabama

 

Front End Mechanic: Brandon Griffeth

Hometown: Pittsfield, Illinois

Notes of Interest:
  • The Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City will mark Kyle Busch’s458th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 20th NASCAR Cup Series start at Kansas.
  • Busch has career totals of 42 wins, 27 poles, 159 top-five finishes, 237 top-10s and 14,035 laps led in 457 career Cup Series racesHis most recent Cup Series win came three weekends ago at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Busch’s most recent pole, the 27th of his career, came last month at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. He has eight poles this season, a career high.
  • Busch has one win, five top-five finishes and seven top-10s and has led a total of 215 laps in 19 career Cup Series starts at Kansas. Busch’s average Kansas finish is17.7.
  • Clean Sweep Times Two: For the second time in his career, Busch swept a weekend in all three of NASCAR’s National Series –Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck –in August at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The first time Busch completed the feat also happened to be at Bristol back in 2010, and the 2015 Cup Series champion is the only driver to do so –now twice – in NASCAR history.
  • Starting Up Front: Busch captured another pole last month at New Hampshire, which was the eighth of 2017 for the Las Vegas native. Eight poles is the most Busch has captured during any season of his career with 29.6 percent of his career poles coming this season alone. In fact, prior to 2017, the most poles Busch had captured in a season was three, which he did on two different occasions –2013 and 2014.
  • 42 Career Cup Series Wins: With his Cup Series win at Dover, the 42nd points-paying win of his career, Busch now sits alone in 17th on the all-time Cup Series win list.With his 40th Cup victory coming at Bristol in August, Busch became the fourth-youngest driver to reach 40 Cup wins at 32 years, 109 days, behind only Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, and Herb Thomas.
  • Trimming the List: With wins at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Kansas added to the list last season, and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway crossed off the list in July, Busch has won Cup Series points races at 22 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. The only track remaining to conquer in the Cup Series is Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Busch, of course, was the winner of the All-Star non-points race at Charlotte back in May but is still chasing a points-paying Cup Series victory there. During his 2015 Cup Series championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Of the 22 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 11 of them.
  • All-Time JGR Wins Leader: With his Brickyard 400 win in July 2016, Busch passed three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart for most all-time Cup Series wins for JGR. Busch now has 38 wins for JGR to Stewart’s 33 following his most recent win at Dover.
  • 182 and Counting: Busch enters Kansas with 182 career wins among NASCAR’s top three divisions – Cup (42), Xfinity (91) and Truck (49) following his Cup Series win three races ago at Dover.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

David Ragan: “You Can Run All Over The Place At Kansas”

David Ragan

Ragan on Kansas

“The Goodyear tires have been a little more consistent and grippy as the Kansas track surface has aged over the last couple years. You can run all over the place — you can run the middle, run the top. It’s always a good event. A lot of race fans come out to Kansas. It’s always a fun weekend for us.

“It’s another mile-and-a-half track, and we finish our season on a mile-and-a-half at Homestead. So, for our Front Row Motorsports team, we want to keep trying to push it as hard as we can to get better on these intermediate tracks. We want to make sure we finish off the season on a high note. We had a top-20 at Kansas in the spring race, but there are always things we can improve on.”
Meet David
Sunday,  Oct. 22, 11am – Fanatics Ford Merchandise Hauler (Kansas Speedway Fan Zone)

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!