By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Since 2014, Kansas Speedway’s spring race has found a foothold in the schedule occupying the Mother’s Day Weekend slot and once again this year, will play host to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Saturday night with the running of the Digital Ally 400.
First joining the circuit as a relatively tame 1.5 mile track with 15 degree banking in the turns, Kansas underwent a massive reconfiguration in 2012 that transformed it into a much more treacherous track with variable banking ranging from 17 to 20 degrees in the turns.
With the groove widening out as the track has weathered in, drivers have been able to run from the bottom of the track all the way up to the top in recent years.
This year, Kansas gets a new variable thrown in with the introduction of the new aero package for the first time on the track. Just like other 1.5 mile tracks, Kansas will feature the 550 horsepower package with the aero ducts.
By the Numbers
What: Digital Ally 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 12 of 36
Where: Kansas Speedway – Kansas City, Kansas (Opened: 2001)
When: Saturday, May 11
TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, 7:30 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: 1.5-mile oval (Banking: 17-20 degrees in turns, 10 degrees on frontstretch)
Race Length: 267 laps, 400.5 miles
Stage Lengths: 80 laps each (First two stages); 107 laps (Final stage)
May 2018 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford (Started on pole, 79 laps led)
October 2018 Race Winner: Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet (Started 13th, 44 laps led)
Track Qualifying Record: Kevin Harvick – 27.325 seconds, 197.621 mph – October 5, 2014
Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Kansas:
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 108.6
- Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 104.1
- Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 19 Toyota – 100.1
- Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Ford – 98.7
- Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 93.3
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 91.1
- Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 91.0
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Chevrolet – 90.3
- Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford – 88.6
- Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chevrolet – 87.6
From the Driver’s Seat
“Kansas is one of our better repaves,” said Kevin Harvick. “Whatever the reason, it’s been a lot racier than a lot of the mile-and-a-half racetracks we’ve repaved. I don’t know if that’s because of the progressive banking or the preparation and time they take to prepare the track with the tire dragging, but it always widens out really well, and really has since the very beginning of the repave’s life.
“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.”
Last Time at Kansas
Kevin Harvick looked to have the race well in hand last fall at Kansas, but a late race speeding penalty dropped the 2014 series champion out of contention for a season sweep at the track.
Brad Keselowski would assume the lead after Harvick’s misfortune, but when he came to pit road for a green flag stop on lap 224, the lead transferred to Chase Elliott, who would lead the rest of the way to score his third win of the season and move on to the third round of the Playoffs.
Kyle Busch was charging through the field over the closing laps, but only managed to get to second by the time the checkered flag flew, finishing .903 seconds behind Elliott.
The remainder of the top-10 went to Kyle Larson, Erik Jones, Martin Truex, Jr., Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, and Aric Almirola.
“It was just a really fun day,” Elliott said. “Felt like Friday and Saturday were kind of decent. Wasn’t real sure about today. The start of the race, the car drove really nice. We were way closer to the competition I thought than what we were yesterday, which was encouraging. Felt like if we could get some track position, get in front of some of those guys, I felt like we had a shot.
“Obviously got lucky with Kevin’s misfortune there. I wish we could have raced him straight up to see who was better. Felt like we were fairly close to him in that second-to-last run. I don’t know how hard he was trying or not. Obviously being behind him, I was working pretty hard to try to keep up, be close if an opportunity arose. Luckily it worked out.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, May 10
- MENCS Practice (12:35 pm to 1:25 pm – No TV, Streamed on NASCAR.com)
- MENCS Final Practice (2:35 pm to 3:25 pm – Fox Sports 1 coverage at 3:00 pm)
- MENCS Qualifying (7:05 pm – FOX Sports 1)
Saturday, May 11
- MENCS Digital Ally 400 at Kansas (7:30 pm – 267 laps, 400.5 miles – FOX Sports 1)