By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – During Saturday’s qualifying session at Kansas Speedway, NASCAR Cup Series drivers soon migrated to the top of the track—which was fine with notorious rim rider Tyler Reddick.
The last of 10 drivers to make a qualifying run in the final round, Reddick knocked Joey Logano off the provisional pole and claimed the top starting spot for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the series’ second Playoff race (3 p.m. ET on USA, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
In the money round, Reddick toured the 1.5-mile speedway in 29.899 seconds (180.608 mph), nearly matching his lap of 29.853 seconds from the first round. Reddick was .037 seconds than faster than Logano (180.385 mph), who narrowly missed out on his second straight Playoff pole.
“It’s reassuring,” Reddick said of the pole-winning performance of his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team. “The last few times we’ve been here, we’ve had a car capable of leading, and we’ve been able to do that. It’s just been a matter of putting together the whole day, which is something we’ve fought at time throughout the year…
“Starting first is great any weekend, but being able to have that first pit stall is going to be key.”
The Busch Light Pole Award was Reddick’s first at Kansas, his second of the season and third of his career—and his first on an oval.
Alex Bowman (180.216 mph) qualified third, followed by Christopher Bell (179.659 mph) and Ross Chastain (179.605 mph). Bubba Wallace, Kyle Larson, Austin Cindric, William Byron and Chris Buescher claimed grid positions six through 10, respectively.
Reddick won to NASCAR Xfinity Series championships running the wall at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That’s also where he expects to find speed on Sunday at Kansas.
“It certainly will be for large amounts of this race,” Reddick said. “I think it has the potential under green-flag cycle to move around off of that wall. The fastest car here in the spring was Kurt Busch, and he was able to really do a good job of running on the top seam.
“It’s going to lay rubber with 30-plus cars out there running all running in the majority of the same area of the race track. So I think it’s going to open up that opportunity for other lanes to some into play because there will be less rubber on it.”
After Darlington incident, Christopher Bell will be wary of Daniel Suarez
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell acknowledged he made a mistake at Darlington that adversely affected Daniel Suarez.
“Just a non-intentional mistake from me to slide up and crowd him into the wall,” Bell said of the Lap 266 incident. “Honestly, I didn’t think anything of it at the time and had no idea that he was upset until he spoke out.
“Once I learned he was upset, I did reach out and texted him. I apologized for getting into him, and he let me know that he was going to race me the same way I raced him going forward. I’ll just have to make sure to watch my back whenever he’s around me.”
In fact, Suarez considered himself fortunate that his car didn’t suffer more significant damage. He and Bell had restarted fifth and sixth, respectively at the beginning of the race’s final stage before the contact occurred.
Suarez, who had raced his way into the top five before his brush with the outside wall, was nicked for speeding on pit road under caution on Lap 280 and finished 18th, a result that left him 12th in the Playoff standings.
“You make decisions as a racecar driver,” Suarez said. “You have to live with those, and that’s the way he races. Something that is very, very general in the Cup garage is that you’re going to race people and you have to expect those people to race you the same way back.
“If that’s 100 percent clean, with a little bit of respect but aggressive, that’s the rule of the game and I feel like it’s going to be no different this time. I’m not thinking about it too much, but I definitely won’t forget what happened last week, because it could have been way, way worse. I feel like I got very lucky.”
Will four months and new tires change the balance of power at Kansas Speedway?
When the NASCAR Cup Series visited Kansas Speedway on May 15, Toyota drivers dominated. Kurt Busch won the race, and Camrys occupied five of the top six finishing positions.
The top Ford in that race, driven by Austin Cindric, came home 11th, but Joey Logano , Cindric’s teammate at Team Penske, expects the results to be different in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the second race in the Cup Series Playoffs.
“So many things have changed since we were here the last time,” Logano said before Saturday’s practice at Kansas. “It was fairly early in the year. We all were still learning about the cars a lot. Left-rear tires were blowing out as teams were learning what they can and can’t do with the Goodyear tire.
“I think everyone’s kind of figuring those things out. Coming back with a brand new car, it’s going to be quite a bit different than it was the first time because there’s still low-hanging fruit with this car, as we’re trying to develop and figure it out.”
As the cars have evolved, so have the tires. Goodyear is providing different right- and left-side tire codes from the combination NASCAR Cup drivers ran at Kansas in May.
“We obviously started 2022 with a new car, and all those involved in the sport have learned a lot over the ensuing months,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “The loads generated on this Next Gen car are quite different than the past, so we evaluated what we saw early in the season and designed some construction updates that we were able to test on track before we unveiled the right-side enhancements at the Pocono and Michigan races earlier this summer.”
Logano acknowledged the new tire combination is a wild card entering the Kansas race.
“We’re all guessing,” he said. “Without being out there on the race track, you’re kind of guessing how big an effect it’s going to have and at what parts of the corners do we think that’s going to affect the car the most. And then you try to adjust to it.”