Kansas Rear View Mirror

Kansas Speedway
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Based on the strong turnout for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 I’d say bringing two Sprint Cup races to Kansas Speedway was a solid idea.

Taking a second Cup weekend to Kansas has been on the radar for some time as parent company International Speedway Corporation watched the incredible growth around the track that has taken place since it opened its doors in 2001.

A mini-city has exploded around Kansas with shopping, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, baseball and soccer stadiums as well as a number of other entertainment options. Now add in a huge hotel/casino complex that is rising beyond the horizon of Turn 2 and the track has become one of the circuit’s best fan destinations.

Attendance has been strong throughout Kansas Speedway’s existence and since management broke up the much-maligned “Track Pack” program that forced fans to buy a full season’s worth of events rather than individual race tickets, support seems strong.

Sunday’s Cup race wasn’t a jam-packed sellout but was well attended as was June’s inaugural STP 400. The question will be whether the facility can continue to support two weekends a year going forward and if this year’s “new car smell” will wear off at some point.

My guess is Kansas will be successful in hosting a pair of NASCAR events each year. In addition to the many amenities surrounding the track and the area, the facility itself is top notch in the way it treats fans. Sunday’s pre-race concert with a sea of fans sprawled out on the infield grass felt a lot like the warm-up to the Daytona 500.

After next April’s STP 400, Kansas will undergo a major reconfiguration and repaving that will be in place by the time the Chase race rolls around in late October. In addition to a new asphalt surface, progressive banking will also be installed as will an infield road course already sparking rumors a Grand-Am race will be on the track’s 2013 calendar.

Kansas is also equipped with lights, which were used for the first time in Friday night’s ARCA race. A very healthy crowd filled the grandstands for that affair and the possibility of a prime time Nationwide, Camping World Truck Series or even Sprint Cup event coming to the track in the near future is very real.

Kansas Speedway is one of the major track success stories of the past decade. It appears that success is poised to continue in the future.

  • A race that looked like it was headed to another fuel mileage outcome turned into a dash to the checkered flag and an overtime finish. Truth be told there were stretches on Sunday that weren’t the most scintillating in terms of action but drama and other kinds of intrigue turned the Hollywood Casino 400 into a race that had at the least a memorable ending.
  • Comeback performance of the year may have been the performance of Carl Edwards on Sunday, who somehow managed a fifth place finish after falling as far as a lap down around the midway point. Edwards wants so badly to win at his home track and keeps coming up short but the effort turned in Sunday by the 99 team may be one to keep in mind if Edwards stays in the title hunt down to the wire.
  • Kasey Kahne keeps proving a driver and team can make an impact in races as well as receive coverage with another stellar run on Sunday. Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis have by far been the most impressive of the combos not running for a championship during this Chase and nearly pulled off an upset win after Jimmie Johnson’s dominating day. The sight of the No. 4 Team Red Bull Toyota in victory lane before the season ends could very well become a reality.
  • Lots of talk in Kansas about the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series schedules for next year, which won’t released when NASCAR unveiled the 2012 Sprint Cup Series. The sanctioning body expects to have the finishing touches done in a few days. The Nationwide Series will more than likely be down to 33 races in 2012 with a return to Montreal expected. The truck slate may also be down a race to 24 with Road America and Watkins Glen on the speculative addition list marking a return to road course racing for NASCAR’s number three series.

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