Race Weekend Central

It’s April, But Everyone’s Asking: Is Jimmie Johnson Running Away With It?

Exiting Kansas, one thing is for sure: Jimmie Johnson is going to be a force to be reckoned with in 2013.

Not that he isn’t usually a factor. His five straight Sprint Cup titles, from 2006-’10 aside, Johnson has finished in the top five in points during a full season in the series every year but one, when he managed _only_ sixth in 2011.

He was in the fight to the end with Brad Keselowski last season, but the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet was edged out after finishes of 32nd and 36th to end the year. For 2013, Johnson appears to be taking no prisoners in his quest for a sixth championship. Of course, once one makes the Chase, the field is equaled a bit, so even if he accumulates a, say, 100-point lead over second, much of that vanishes after race 26.

Seems like there’s always a lot of discontent around NASCAR when Jimmie Johnson is merely winning, let alone leading the points.

Who’s Hot / Who’s Not In Sprint Cup: Kansas-Richmond Edition

The map continues to be drawn for the performance capabilities of the Generation-6 models, and the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway helped to silence critics after spread out racing showed its prevalence in Fort Worth. Drivers battled an extremely slick, fast track that left teams constantly reeling to find the perfect setup. Matt Kenseth wasn’t fazed by a plethora of cautions brought about by those who struggled to get a handle on their cars; restarts alone left the racing more competitive than what we saw down in Texas last Saturday night.

So who should we be championing this Tuesday, after a second straight intermediate? This edition of Who’s Hot and Who’s Not shows that while Kenseth was among those who overcame cautions by using good strategy, some others, who needed a decent finish after getting off on the wrong foot, left Kansas City disgruntled.

50 Shades of a Sprint Cup Crew Chief: Risk vs. Reward

I haven’t had a chance to dig into E.L. James’ novel “Fifty Shades of Grey,” but I assume it’s about the life of a crew chief in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. After all, who spends more time in the gray area than NASCAR’s most creative minds?

The gray area has developed a mysterious reputation, though like the Bermuda Triangle or Area 51. NASCAR fans don’t really know what’s going on in any of those places; they just know if you end up there, you could be in serious trouble.

According to series officials, defending champion crew chief Paul Wolfe may have spent a little too much time in the gray. He’ll most likely be taking a six-week vacation, but there is little doubt that Wolfe will end up there again at some point.

New NASCAR Sprint Cup Road-Course Qualifying Procedure Announced

New Group-Based Format To Bolster Excitement For Sonoma, Watkins Glen DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Apr. 22, 2013) – NASCAR announced today that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will implement the group-based road course qualifying procedure used in NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Touring Series competition during its road-course events at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International. Under …

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Numbers Game: STP 400

Numbers Game: STP 400 by Tom Bowles 0 Times Matt Kenseth was passed for the lead on Sunday at Kansas. Kenseth went on to lead 163 of 267 laps, only losing first place through pit strategy. 1 On-track pass for the lead under green at Kansas. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. passed teammate Carl Edwards for the …

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Thinkin’ Out Loud: Kansas Race Recap

*Key Moment* – The caution flag flew on lap 219 when *Brad Keselowski’s* rear bumper cover flew off his car in Turn 4. When the pit stops on that final caution of the race were completed, *Matt Kenseth* was the first car off pit lane and the rest of the day was all but academic.

*In a Nutshell* – From Friday morning, *Matt Kenseth* had the car to beat at Kansas this weekend. Everyone tried. No one could.

Pace Laps: NASCAR’s Pole Prosperity, Thorsport Top Dog And Japanese Joy

_Did you miss an event during this busy week in racing? How about a late-night press release, an important sponsorship rumor, or a juicy piece of news? If you did, you’ve come to the right place! Each week, The Frontstretch will break down the racing, series by series, to bring you the biggest stories that you need to watch going forward for the week ahead. Let our experts help you get up to speed, no matter what series you might have missed, all in this edition of Pace Laps!_

*Sprint Cup: It IS Where You Start – That’s Where You Finish* Matt Kenseth’s dominating Cup victory at Kansas, leading 163 of 267 laps hardly came as a surprise. After all, the No. 20 team had already won Las Vegas, establishing themselves as a threat on intermediates and been in contention at virtually every race this year.

The Big Six: Questions Answered After The STP 400

_Looking for the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How behind Sunday’s race? Amy Henderson has you covered with each week with the answers to six race day questions, covering all five W’s and even the H…the Big Six._

*Who…gets my shoutout of the race?*

Running for the team that has suffered the most from Penske Racing’s change to Ford this year, *Aric Almirola* posted his second top-10 finish in the last two races on Sunday, coming home eighth. Almirola is a driver who has shown that he can run well if given a stable environment, and he has done that at Richard Petty Motorsports, despite the team being underfunded in comparison to its closest competitors in points.

Kasey Kahne … The Most Underrated Driver In NASCAR?

I guarantee that if you go on any website that covers the sport of NASCAR—including this one—you’ll see at least one column about how Kenseth’s move to Joe Gibbs Racing was the greatest thing he ever did and that Kansas solidified his dominance and blah, blah, blah…

It’s relevant, no doubt, but what everyone is missing is the second place driver: Kasey Kahne. However, that’s nothing new for the Washington native, who tends to fly under the radar as it is. He’s been in the sport for a while now and has won several races, yet you almost never hear “Kasey Kahne” amongst the weekly favorites to win when all the so-called analysts are making their picks. I’m even guilty of this fact.

Inside The IndyCar Series: Long Beach Race Recap

*In A Nutshell:* Takuma Sato finally broke through and earned his maiden IndyCar win. Sato ran up front for much of the day and only was truly challenged by Graham Rahal towards the race’s conclusion, marking the first triumph for the Japanese driver for AJ Foyt Racing. Sato cruised to the line over Rahal, with Justin Wilson, Dario Franchitti, and JR Hildebrand rounding out the top 5.

*Key Moment:* Late in the race, Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal had checked out on the field and appeared primed to duel to the finish. However, Rahal was short on fuel and was thus forced to save until the end. Sato capitalized on this shortcoming and drove away with ease down the stretch.

Kenseth’s Sweet Success: When A Change Really Does Do You Good

Throughout much of last season, speculation abounded that Matt Kenseth would be leaving Roush Fenway Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing, and once September rolled around, the pair confirmed the decision. And what a decision it was for Kenseth. It took just three races for the 31-year-old and the No. 20 team to get to Victory Lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, succeeding in a race where he led just 42 laps.

Fast forward to the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday where Kenseth headed to victory lane, with Kasey Kahne in tow, for the second time in just six races.