Top Five Contenders For STP 400 At Kansas

KANSAS CITY, KS – APRIL 22: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, celebrates with the trophy in victory lane after he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series STP 400 at Kansas Speedway on April 22, 2012 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

This is the 13th year that Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, has hosted a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.  The past two years have seen the series run both in the spring and in the fall at the one-and-a-half mile tri-oval.  In 14 races to date, no driver has more than two victories, plus the last four races have been by four different manufacturers.  In other words, no one has really dominated the facility that sits almost smack-dab in the middle of the Heartland.

With that said, someone has to be considered the favorite … right?  Here are the top five potential winners (from fifth to first) for the STP 400 — Sunday (4/21) with a starting time of 1:00 p.m.  There’s also a longshot thrown in at the end of this list.

5. Kyle Busch – This has to be considered one of his worse tracks on the schedule.  Kyle has no top fives and only two Top 10s in 11 appearances with an average finishing spot outside the top 20.  Yeah, not good.  However, this is the hottest driver in NASCAR right now and he doesn’t seem to be able to do any wrong.   The deduction here is that Busch will continue his current momentum and be near the front most of the day.

4. Tony Stewart – The Stewart-Haas clan hasn’t started the season off very well but that may turn around at Kansas.  Nobody is talking much about Stewart other than his wild charge regarding Joey Logano a couple weeks ago, but this is a track where he knows how to win.  In 14 starts at Kansas, Tony has 12 top 15s.  Furthermore, he has two wins and was fifth last year in the fall.  Anticipate Stewart once again being near the front when it matters.

3. Matt Kenseth – Here’s a driver that looks like he’s going to win very soon.  Kenseth has been very racy with his new team at Joe Gibbs Racing, averaging an eighth place finish in 2013 (along with a victory) when he wasn’t crashing or blowing up an engine.  However, even a better reason than that for why you should keep an eye on Matt is the fact he has five straight top sevens and won the last time the Sprint Cup drivers visited Kansas (source: Examiner).  He should be near or at the front all day with a shot at winning.

2. Greg Biffle – He’s been very competitive all season including a fourth last week at Texas.  Before his 27th place last fall – due to hitting the wall – Biffle had seven straight Top 10s including two wins.  He was fifth here last spring and should be one of the cars to beat this year.  The prediction here is that the ‘Biff’ will once again be near the front with an excellent chance at winning.

1. Jimmie Johnson – It’s hard to go against ‘Five Time’.  First, he has two wins this season and leads in the point standings including five top sixes in the first seven races of 2013.  Secondly, Johnson has won twice at Kansas and has eight straight Top 10s.  Jimmie also has three poles here and if not for a crash back in 2004, his worse finish would be 14th.  There’s no reason to not expect Johnson to be at the front when the checkers wave.

The longshot choice at first glance may appear to be a very long shot but he has five straight Top 20s at the track.  Paul Menard has a knack for being in the front half of the pack and this season hasn’t changed with six straight top 20s.  Maybe more importantly, Menard was third last fall in Kansas.  A top five isn’t out of the question and then who knows.

By the way, last years event winner in the spring, won’t be defending his race win.  Denny Hamlin won after Martin Truex Jr. led most of the race but a late caution allowed Hamlin to take the lead when it mattered.  However, Hamlin has a broken back and it’s not known when he’ll be back.

Additional sources: NASCAR – Racing Reference

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