Kansas Notebook

Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick at speed during Friday practice at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kansas Speedway hosts its second NASCAR weekend of the season after its successful inaugural STP 400 in June. Track president Pat Warren has been pleased with the support his track’s traditional October date has received as a follow-up to the early summer weekend.

“This race is what our fans have been accustomed to over the years,” Warren said of the fall Kansas date, which has been on the Sprint Cup calendar since the track opened its doors in 2001. “Plus we’re also hosting the fourth race of the Chase and with all the championship implications we’re very pleased at how fans have embraced NASCAR’s return visit.”

Following next April’s STP 400 weekend, Kansas will undergo a massive repaving and reconfiguration project that will be completed in time for the October return engagement. Warren says the plans for the track’s facelift, which include the construction of a multi-million dollar hotel/casino facility outside turn two, is on schedule.

“We’ll start construction the minute we wrap up next April’s schedule,” said Warren. “We fully expect to have everything ready and in place by the time fans come back in October.”

JOHNSON COMFORTABLE WITH CHASE START

Last week Jimmie Johnson answered what seemed like hundreds of questions about his championship hopes being in danger as he entered Dover 29 points back in the standings. But after a second-place finish in the AAA 400, Johnson jumped from tenth to fifth in the Chase and thinks his team is in great shape to make a run at a sixth straight title.

“We’re close,” Johnson said of the championship lead. “Not to be a smartass on you, we’re 13 points away from being that guy and that’s really what my goal is and that’s where I want to be. I think that people argue the point is it good to be under the radar or be out in front, in a 10-race format if you’re the guy setting the way and you continue to put distance between yourself and second, you gain an advantage at that point and that’s the advantage I want to have.”

Johnson feels good about his chances in Sunday’s race and expects to come out of Kansas further up the standings.

“I hope to get there after this weekend or be even closer yet because people also do pay attention to the momentum you have and where you are going and if we can continue to close that gap I hope that we can find something positive out of that to send a message and keep things going,” he said.

SORENSON LANDS KANSAS RIDE

After being released from Turner Motorsports earlier in the week, Reed Sorenson has found a ride for Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300.

Sorenson will pilot the Randy MacDonald-owned No. 82 entry in the Kansas race in an effort to maintain his third place spot in the Nationwide Series standings.

"I know [Sorenson] wants to race and he wants to stay as well-placed in the points as he can," MacDonald said. "We wouldn't even have the car on the track this weekend if it wasn't for [sponsor] K-Love, so we're here to give them as much exposure as we can -- to get a top ten if we can."

Sorenson has stated he’s still unsure of why he was released from the Turner organization but hopes to find a way to finish the last five races of the season.

MacDonald said no decision on whether Sorenson will return to his entry beyond Kansas has been made.

ROUSH LATEST TO SCALE BACK?

Richard Childress Racing will drop from four to three cars next season and Roush Fenway Racing may follow suit.

Team owner Jack Roush said to Sirius/XM Satellite Radio finding a replacement sponsor for David Ragan’s No. 6 entry has been difficult and that he’s concerned about being able to field a fourth car from his Sprint Cup stable next season.

“We're looking for a sponsor for David, but right now I can't tell you who that's gonna be," Roush said. "I'll say that I'm not real close on it. So David has not been encouraged to not talk to other teams going forward for things that they might have or an interest because right now I don't see how I'm gonna run the fourth car unless things turn dramatically."

With Roush and RCR dropping one car each and the return of Team Red Bull’s two entries very much up in the air, the Sprint Cup Series garage is down at least four full-time cars that competed this season for 2012.

NEW QUALIFYING SCHEDULES A CHALLENGE

A number of tracks have adopted Saturday Sprint Cup qualifying sessions this season. But others, like Kansas Speedway, have kept the traditional Friday time trials intact.

The jumble has caused some confusion in the garage area as teams and drivers prepare their approach to the various weekend schedules.

Kevin Harvick said Friday it’s been a different experience moving away from the norm of a typical race weekend schedule of practice, qualifying and then another practice session or two before race day.

“I would rather qualify on Friday after we get done practicing and it is fresh in your mind,” Harvick said. “The biggest thing we need is consistent weather. That helps us a lot. Last week the weather changed a tremendous amount from Friday when we practiced in race trim it was 12-13 degrees cooler on race day, misting and cold. I think as we went through the race last week, we didn’t keep up with the race track, and didn’t adjust far enough to keep the car as good as it was on Friday.

“I think with that Saturday practice will allow us to get the car closer with more rubber on the racetrack more current conditions than just showing up on Friday and doing all your practice then getting there for one maybe two laps on Saturday is tough on everybody to try to get your car right.”

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