Friday Kansas Notebook

Tony Stewart

Stewart talked about this week's news that the popular "Prelude to the Dream” charity race at Eldora Speedway will not return in 2013. (Photo: Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Drivers share their reaction to the Kansas Speedway reconfiguration, Tony Stewart talks about a Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora and other news items from Friday:

DRIVERS GIVE 'THUMBS UP' TO NEW KANSAS

So far, driver feedback on the repaved and reconfigured Kansas Speedway has been positive.  Although the weather has not been the most favorable with cold, wet and windy conditions in the area most of the week, the vibe from the garage area is upbeat heading into the weekend of racing.

"It's like going to a brand new racetrack somewhere else," said Jeff Gordon.  "This track went from pretty abrasive and wearing the tires out to smooth and super-fast, and the times don't fall off … it's basically like going to a whole new racetrack."

After a couple of open practice days Wednesday and Thursday, Gordon said the track started to get into racing shape - but it will take more time to create a second groove.

“Right now, we're all running the same groove - I'd say there's a groove and a foot," Gordon laughed.  "Turn 3 seems to have some flexibility on your entry, so I think it will get wider.  (Turns) 3 and 4 might possibly get wider.  It seems like you can get outside the groove there but right now (in) 1 and 2, you definitely ride around the bottom.

"That's what's nice about coming here on a Wednesday.  By Sunday, it'll just get wider and wider, and better and better."

Two-time Kansas winner Greg Biffle led the way earlier this week in practice and has no complaints about the work that was done.

“It’s really smooth and fast,” said Biffle.  “It reminds me a lot of the other repaves: pretty good, not real bumpy and you can feel the grooves in the pavement going from one lane to another.”

While Biffle has high hopes for good racing come Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, he said a wider groove would have to come in.

“I think it’s going to be a good race Sunday," Biffle said.  "We need to get the track widened out with more rubber on it.  Typically, the first repaves might be a little more single-file as people explore the track a little bit.”

AMBROSE EXPECTS TO STAY WITH RPM

Richard Petty Motorsports announced its extension with Ford on Friday.  Now, the team will turn to locking down its drivers for 2013 and Marcos Ambrose believes he’ll be back with the organization.  Although an official agreement has not been reached, Ambrose said everything is working toward his coming back to Richard Petty’s team.

“We're all squared away as far as what the expectations are on both sides and it's just a matter of finishing it off at this point,” said Ambrose.  “I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t want to be a part of Richard Petty Motorsports in 2013.  There are a lot of good things to look forward to.  We've built a great team and have great partners with Ford and Roush with their engine program, and also the engineering support.”

STEWART ADDRESSES ELDORA PLANS

Tony Stewart said rumors of a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race coming to his Eldora Speedway dirt track are simply speculation.  The defending Sprint Cup Series champion wouldn’t rule out the possibility but said at this point, the idea is nothing more than in the discussion stages.

However, Stewart did confirm the news that broke Thursday about the future of the popular “Prelude to the Dream” charity race that has been held annually at the half-mile dirt track.  Although the race will not be held 2013, Stewart said plans are in place for a return in the near future.

“The Prelude is on hiatus," he said.  "It takes a ton of work to put the Prelude on.  We're changing our format for how we run the Dream that weekend, making it a three-day weekend with that series.  We're trying to focus on that a little bit more and some changes we think are going to be better for our Late Model race.  We just needed to take a year off while we focus on that and make sure we don’t get overloaded for that.

“We have intentions of bringing the Prelude back.  Like I said, we're just changing the format with the Dream this year so we want to make sure that we have enough resources to focus on that.  That made it a little bit harder to try to put the Prelude on during the same week, so we needed to take a year off with that to focus on the Dream.”

Stewart continued:

"The rumor about the Trucks ... trust me, I would be ecstatic if we could get any NASCAR race at Eldora.  That would be great.  I've talked to NASCAR.  They've been looking at all kinds of different tracks.  It has been brought up in conversation, but that's about as far as it has come right now.”

PRACTICE SPEEDS LIGHTNING-FAST

Biffle led the way in Friday’s opening regular weekend practice session with a lap of 191.313 mph.  That lap was more than 11 mph faster than Matt Kenseth’s official track qualifying record set in 2005.

Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne completed the top five.

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