Photo: Chris Owens/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

Following a visit to the Monster Mile last weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series sets up shop at Kansas Speedway for Mother’s Day weekend and Saturday night’s running of the KC Masterpiece 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.

Since then, the track has begun to widen out due to the Kansas winters helping to age the track’s surface and Saturday’s race should see some multi-groove racing around the fast circuit.

By the Numbers

What: KC Masterpiece 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 12 of 36

Where: Kansas Speedway – Kansas City, Kansas (Opened: 2001)

When: Saturday, May 12

TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, 8:00 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 2017 Race Winner: Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota (Started third, 104 laps led)

October 2017 Race Winner: Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota (Started on pole, 91 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Kevin Harvick – 27.325 seconds, 197.621 mph – October 5, 2014

Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Kansas:

  1. Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 107.7
  2. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 106.4
  3. Matt Kenseth – No. 6 Ford – 105.9
  4. Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 100.0
  5. Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Ford – 94.6
  6. Kasey Kahne – No. 95 Chevrolet – 90.5
  7. Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 89.9
  8. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 89.1
  9. Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford – 87.8
  10. Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 87.3

From the Driver’s Seat

“Kansas has changed since the repave,” said Jamie McMurray. “It wasn’t but three or four years ago we ran really high and some guys would run the bottom. Then the last couple of years it seems like we have gravitated back towards the bottom with the different rules packages.  I think it is just about getting your car to work on the bottom and the most successful guys can run down there.

“Because of the repave Kansas is really fast.  It has got a lot of grip.  But with the tire that they take there, it is one of those tracks and tire combinations that has a ton of grip and when you lose a little you wreck or you spin out. Those are really hard to figure out. Some of the slicker race tracks you can slide the car around and catch it, places like Texas and Kansas with the repaves you have a lot of grip until you don’t have any.”

Last Time at Kansas

Racing with heavy hearts after the loss of crew member Jim Watson to a heart attack the night before the race, Truex and his Furniture Row Racing team had extra incentive to go out and score the win at Kansas last fall.

Though the team was able to capitalize and take home the victory, Truex’s seventh win of the season was anything but easy.

After starting on pole and leading the first 34 laps, a restart violation on lap 35 provided the No. 78 team with their first hurdle of the day, dropping them back to 31st place, but by the end of the first stage, Truex was back up to eighth.

Shortly after the second stage began, the team encountered their second hurdle of the day courtesy of a loose wheel that resulted in an unscheduled pit stop and a return to the track in 32nd, one lap down.

Truex would get his lap back and found himself back in contention late after avoiding the multi-car crash on the backstretch on lap 199. By lap 211, he powered his way past Kyle Busch for the race lead and never looked back, leading the final 57 laps en route to the season sweep at Kansas.

“Just can’t say enough about all these guys on this Furniture Row / Bass Pro Toyota,” said Truex. “Just really proud of them. Definitely racing with heavy hearts today with losing Jim (Watson) last night. Want to send our condolences to his family and all of his friends. He was a heck of a guy and a great worker and put a lot of speed in these Furniture Row Toyotas, so glad we could get him one here.

“Excited to get another one here at Kansas. This feels really awesome. It’s really Furniture Row’s home track. It just feels really good to finally get – to finally get another one here. We got that one in the spring after so many heart breaks and then today it looked like it was going to happen and we just persevered.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, May 11

  • MENCS Practice (12:35 pm to 1:25 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS Final Practice (2:05 pm to 2:55 pm – FOX Sports 1)
  • MENCS Qualifying (6:45 pm – FOX Sports 1)

Saturday, May 12

  • MENCS KC Masterpiece 400 (8:00 pm – 267 laps, 400.5 miles – FOX Sports 1)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.