After what was a disappointing race last week in Texas, in terms of close racing, hopes were high for a competitive and exciting race at Kansas Speedway. A track that since it was repaved last summer has seen speeds of over 200mph, superspeedway speeds, and some hard racing, emphasised by the record 14 cautions at last years Autumn race. However that was last year now we have to see what the gen-6 will bring to Kansas but if the previous races this season are anything to go by than Kansas should not disappoint.
Speeds were again high in Friday’s qualifying session as rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr set a blistering pace to take provisional pole with a time of 28.164 seconds (191.734 mph) before team mate Carl Edwards set what looked to be unbeatable time of 28.162. However it was not to be as the penultimate driver to go, Matt Kenseth tore round the track, showing that he has still got the pace that took him to victory lane here last October, and took pole position with a time of 191.864 mph (28.145 seconds) and getting his second pole position of the season. The gen-6 car again showing its speed as the top 4 drivers all beat the old track record set last October by Kasey Kahne of 191.360 (28.219 seconds). It was not a good qualifying session for Jeff Gordon though who hit the wall and will, for the first time in his Cup career, start from the back of the pack in 43rd place!
At the green flag Kenseth shows that his car has lost none of it’s speed as he pulls away from the chasing pack with ease. Behind him Carl Edwards and Sam Hornish Jr battle briefly over second before Kyle Busch, who started in 6th, ends a great first lap by taking third, while Hornish Jr goes the opposite way to 6th. The tyres here need a few laps to come to their proper racing temperature but it doesn’t come soon enough for the 18 car as on only lap 5 he spins, with no help from anyone, to bring out the first caution of the day. While the leaders stay out Jimmie Johnson comes to pit row for two new tyres and fuel as does Brad Keselowski. But a problem with the fuel filler seemingly caused by a hit he got earlier on on the rear quarter sees him having come to back to pit row for another attempt at refuelling that sees him only just get off pit row before the pack get by. The restart sees Kenseth easily hold his lead but behind him Edwards and Martin Truex Jr battle it out for second. Further down the field Gordon is setting an impressive pace as he has already made up 13 places.
Up front Kenseth’s lead is starting to be reduced as he comes across back markers and Edwards is able to get onto his back bumper. One of those backmarkers is Brad Keselowski who’s earlier two stops has now cost him a lap to the leaders. For the usually competitive Hendrick Motorsport cars all four of them struggled in qualifying and by lap 19 Dale Earnhardt Jr is their highest place driver in 19th place, but there’s a long way to go. They get a chance to make up some more places when Dave Blaney’s car gets into the outside wall after getting a puncture and the second caution of the day comes out. The caution is awful timing for Kurt Busch who only a couple of laps earlier came to pit row under green to fix a vibration he was having and will now be at the back of the pack. But it is a great stop for Mark Martin who gains 9 places to get second off pit row just behind Kenseth. But the day goes from bad to worse for the 2 car as he came to pit row too early and is sent to the back of the pack.