Track history: In 1996, International Speedway Corporation began exploring the Midwest region of the country to find a suitable spot to build a NASCAR race track. After deciding on the Kansas City area, construction began in the spring of 1999 on the Kansas Speedway.
When the 1.5 mile tri-oval track was completed, it had 15 degree banking in the turns, 10.4 degrees in the 2,721 foot frontstretch and 5 degrees in the 2,207 foot backstretch. There were 75,000 seats at that time. Currently there are over 82,000 grandstand seats and plans are to increase that to a total of 150,000.
NASCAR’s Cup, Nationwide (Busch) and Camping World (Craftsman) Truck Series committed to run events at the new facility beginning in 2001. The Indy Racing League joined NASCAR with a planned 2001 event as well. Four stock car racing schools (Richard Petty Driving Experience, Dale Jarrett Racing Adventure and 2 others) and one open-wheel school (Mario Andretti Racing School) were offered at the Kansas Speedway.
A dozen cars were taken out of the 2001 race in wrecks due to blown tires or blown engines. Passing was a problem since the new track only had one groove at the bottom and this was the case in 2002 as well. Second and third grooves came into play after those two races and since then, drivers were able to do some side-by-side racing.
On June 5, 2011, the inaugural spring race at Kansas Speedway was run. It was the first year that NASCAR held two races on the Sprint Cup Series schedule at this venue.
Right after the April 22, 2012 STP 400, the speedway began removing the track's oval racing surface to repave it with variable banking. Also, the plan was to construct a new road race course through the infield. All of this had to be completed before the October 2012 race weekend.
In October 2012, race teams took to the newly reconfigured track for the first time and in Sprint Cup qualifying, Kasey Kahne set a new track record topping the old track record by nearly 11 mph. Also, GRAND-AM road racing teams took to the new infield road course for the first time.
September 30, 2001: After driving the No. 01 Cingular Wireless Dodge to a 176.499 mph qualifying lap, Jason Leffler started on the pole for the first NASCAR Cup race, the Protection One 400. The No. 01 was one of the dozen cars involved in wrecks mentioned above and Leffler placed 28th. Rusty Wallace led a race-high 117 laps and brought the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford home in fourth place. Jeff Gordon, in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, started second and won the race. The average race speed for that event was 110.576 mph.
October 21, 2012: Matt Kenseth (17 Ford) won the Hollywood Casino 400. It was his third victory in 2012 and first in 14 races at Kansas Speedway. Pole-sitter No. 5 Kasey Kahne led one lap and finished in fourth place. Drivers leading 15 or more laps: No. 48 Jimmie Johnson 44 laps, finished ninth; No. 55 Mark Martin 60 laps, finished 24th; No. 43 Aric Almirola 69 laps, wrecked on lap 212 (credited with a 29th place) and Race-winner Kenseth led the most (78 of 267 laps).
April 21, 2013: Matt Kenseth (20 Toyota) won the STP 400 from the pole. It was his 26th victory in 480 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races; his second win in 2013 and his second victory in 15 races at Kansas Speedway. Drivers leading 5 of more of the 267 laps: No. 48 Jimmie Johnson nine laps, finished third; No. 99 Carl Edwards 19 laps, finished 17th; No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 26 laps, finished 11th, No. 56 Martin Truex Jr. 46 laps, finished fourth and Race-winner Kenseth led the most laps (163).
Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Matt Kenseth 4/21/13, Matt Kenseth 10/21/12, Denny Hamlin 4/22/12, Jimmie Johnson 10/9/11 and Brad Keselowski 6/5/11.
First Cup start here (Active drivers): Denny Hamlin 10/9/05 and Austin Dillon 10/9/11.
First Cup pole: Jason Leffler 9/30/01.
First Cup win: None so far.
Fantasy games won’t allow you to pick all track favorites so Mid-Pack Attack is here to help. A mid-packer may not win the race but has as good a shot at a top 20 finish as track favorites Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski. There were 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s STP 400 in Kansas City, Kansas.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has limited but successful history at Kansas Speedway. On the old surface (prior to the regrading), he finished second in his lone ARCA Racing Series start (2008). He also finished sixth and fifth in his 2010 and 2011 Nationwide Series starts at the track. How has Stenhouse handled changes when racing resumed in October 2012 after the repave? He started 10th in the field, led 25 laps and won the 2012 Nationwide Series race. In his Sprint Cup debut at Kansas, he started third, led 26 circuits and finished 11th. We think this is the best week so far this season to put the Rookie of the Year contender's No. 17 Ford in your lineup for Sunday's race.
Martin Truex Jr. holds a mid-pack 19.2 average finish in 10 Kansas Speedway starts but his last three resulted in finishes of second, second and fourth. The 127 driver points he scored in those races bettered the four track favorites noted above. That includes Kenseth who earned 125 points even with two wins in those races and 'five-time' with 120. Truex said he and his team "really have nothing to lose. We are taking a list of things we want to try during the (Thursday tire) test. We’re in it to win at this point in our season." They may not earn their second victory of the season, but this is a good track to use the No. 56 Toyota Camry team on your personal team.
Paul Menard's first three Kansas Cup races averaged out to a 28th place finish. His last six at the track improved to an 11.7 average finish (all top 20's). He started the 2012 edition of this race in 14th place and scored a third place finish; his best finish to-date at the track. Menard also earned a 10th place in the April 2013 event from 12th in the lineup. Over in the Nationwide Series, four of his last five finishes here were all top 10's (the other was a 16th place). Menard is pulling double-duty again this week in both series so the extra laps on Saturday will be a definite advantage in the Cup race. Look for the No. 27 Chevrolet to finish somewhere in the top 20 on Sunday.
In eight Cup starts at Kansas, Marcos Ambrose has one top-10, two top-15 finishes and posted his track-best of ninth in October 2011. So far this year, he has consistently reeled in good results on the mile-and-a-half tracks. He averaged a 16.5 finish on those venues including a best of 10th in the 600-miler at Charlotte and worst of 22nd at Las Vegas in Race 3 in March. The team is bringing the same chassis to Kansas that Ambrose drove at Michigan to a sixth place finish. If you still need a sleeper for your roster this week, add the No. 9 Ford Fusion near the end of your fantasy team.