Race Weekend Central

4 Burning Questions: What [Or Who] Can Fuel Joey Logano to Kansas Victory?

Will Clint Bowyer Find a Warm Welcome Back in the Truck Series?

It’s a hometown affair for Clint Bowyer this weekend as the native of Emporia, Kan., returns to his home track of Kansas Speedway.

Unlike recent returns, however, Bowyer will have double the on-track time as, he will compete in the Camping World Truck Series on Friday night for GMS Racing.

There are a couple points to look at here, with the first being Bowyer’s fairly rare presence in the Truck Series garage. Friday’s Toyota Tundra 250 will be just Bowyer’s 14th start in the series and the second since 2011 at Atlanta, the other being at Pocono Raceway in 2014, where he filled in for an injured John Wes Townley. Despite the short notice, Bowyer still managed a top-5 result.

Additionally, Bowyer has eight top-5 finishes in his previous 13 results, including a streak of six-straight races dating back to 2007.

In other words, when Bowyer races a truck, he’s pretty darn quick. Perhaps it’s his old-school prowess that makes him fast in a truck. Who knows?

The same can be said at Kansas, as he grabbed a big win at home in 2011 when he drove the Kevin Harvick, Inc., No. 2 to victory.

“I’ll never forget that Truck win,” Bowyer said of his third and most recent series win. “It’s home, so your family and friends, my friends from high school and everybody’s there. Let’s face it: I haven’t won in a while. I don’t care what it’s in. I’m ready to win.”

That last line speaks volumes looking at his 2016 season so far. Racing with HScott Motorsports on the Sprint Cup side, Bowyer has had multiple spurts of frustration as the team struggles to find top-20 pace. Bowyer, following years of winning at Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing, has shown weakness in adapting to this tough one-year stint this far. But the passion and hard work has shown in the past few weeks as Bowyer has finished top 10 in two of the last three races.

It seems like now is the absolute best time for Bowyer to jump into a fast NASCAR machine. A strong run at home, in a competitive series and with a quick team, will improve Bowyer’s mental state tenfold when it comes to Sprint Cup side.

What [or Who] Can Fuel the Fire for Joey Logano’s First Win in 2016?

Say what you want about what happened at Kansas last time for Joey Logano, but you can bet you’ll find a chalk-drawn outline of Matt Kenseth in turn 2.

Yes, this is the crime scene of the Logano-Kenseth rivalry that escalated further last week in Talladega. But enough about that: let’s talk about when Logano can grab a victory this season, and why it may very well come Saturday in Kansas.

(Photo: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Logano has figured this place out since 2013. (Photo: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images)

In 2013, If you were to ask Logano about the possibility of winning Kansas, he would’ve spewed his Kenny Wallace-esque laugh at you all the way home — and rightfully so, as he had failed to finish better than 15th in eight starts at that point, including five results outside the top 20.

Fast-forward to now, Logano would laugh and say, “hell yeah,” as he has five straight top 5s at Kansas. Though most of Logano’s on-track success was kickstarted when he joined Team Penske in 2013, this 1.5-mile track was certainly a major boon as well. Having won two of the last three races there, the 25-year-old has also led 29 or more laps in the past five races, a total flip from his days at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Now, similar to Bowyer and Danica Patrick‘s situations, there has to be a fire for the driver to chase on track. There has to be those haters you want to silence or the rival you want to beat or a number you want to better. For Logano, that fire comes in teammate Brad Keselowski, who has two wins in 2016 while the No. 22 sits winless. Yeah, the two are close friends, with there being zero bad blood between them, but it’s natural for a driver to look at his or her teammates and wonder: Why are they getting it done and not me?

After the way Kansas ended in 2016, a win in Saturday’s GoBowling.com 400 will screw the cap on all the controversy of the last few months. Perhaps it could lead to another winning streak from there on.

Will Danica Patrick Return to Contention in Kansas?

It’s been a hit-and-miss season for Danica Patrick. Unfortunately for the 34-year-old, last week’s race at Talladega proved to be the biggest hit of her entire career of racing.

Following a number of missed wrecks throughout the day, Patrick led her first laps of the season under yellow and looked to have timed her luck just right until a bad bump from behind ended her day in a big, violent hurry with eight laps to go.

With a third DNF in 10 races, Patrick sits 26th in points as the circuit heads to a track she has shown potential at in the past.

2016 Phoenix I CUP Danica Patrick vertical Nigel Kinrade NKP
Finishing a best of 16th at Martinsville, Patrick and team need a strong result soon. [Photo: Nigel Kinrade NKP]
The 1.5-milef Kansas Speedway proved rough for Patrick at the start, with her suffering two vicious hits at in her first three starts. Once she took the green flag in the spring race of 2014, however, she drove her No. 10 Chevrolet from the ninth starting spot into the top 5 – even being as high as third following a swift two-in-one pass of Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Now, looking at her 1.5-mile speed since, she hasn’t been a top-3 contender. In fact, she’s been struggling to crack the top 20 on a regular basis, which is why Talladega could have been the run that brought momentum for the No. 10 team.

Surpassing a year since her last top-10 in Sprint Cup at Bristol in the spring of 2015, Patrick is at a point where consistency is the name of the game. It’s tough to expect a top-10 result, but confidence at a track can go a long way. Unlike many tracks for Patrick, Kansas is a place she can contend.

Will Kansas Be a Repeat of Texas Under the Lights?

For just the second time in 2016, the Sprint Cup Series circuit races under the lights at Kansas’ relatively new surface, which will spell fast, fast speeds throughout the whole weekend. The first was Texas Motor Speedway, which many called the worst race of 2016. To be fair, it was a fine race. The two Toyotas of Martin Truex, Jr. and Carl Edwards traded the spotlight while Kyle Busch rushed through to steal a win with Chase Elliott grabbing his first-career top-5 effort.

The problem there is the high bar set by the other nine races. Texas has the only winning margin this season more than a second. Yeah, it’s been a pretty good season.

Saturday’s return to night racing could spell fear where it comes to the race we may see. Was it a coincidence that Texas was the least popular race of the year? Track President Eddie Gossage apparently thinks not, as he highlighted the 2017 Sprint Cup schedule release on Thursday, changing Texas’ spring race date to a day event.

The difference with Texas is the track surface. A worn-out, bumpy place like Texas gels great with a hot and slick day race, while a smooth, fast oval like Kansas can fit perfectly under the moon.

Judging from its recent races, Kansas is a place full of uncertainty and troubled minds. Two years ago, we saw one of the most violent wrecks of the decade with David Gilliland and Justin Allgaier. A year earlier, Chad Boat flipped an ARCA car here, while Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch had a wicked incident in an XFINITY race, granting Busch’s pit crew a slap on the behind from Keselowski.

You can find unpredictability anywhere, but Kansas seems to show it on a consistent basis no matter the combination. With the cycle of storylines to watch for Saturday night, it’s a safe bet it’ll be another fun one for NASCAR Nation.

About the author

Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.

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The fire is there for Logano, as it is every other driver. The problem is lack of speed. Yes Brad has won 2, well nothing dominate and Talladega is Talladega. Penske Xfinity program is lacking in speed as well. No matter who is driving, they are not performing like in the past. This year isn’t going well so far.

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