Saturday, October 4, 2014

Kansas Practice Notes: Harvick driver to beat again, but has lots of company

Is this the week Kyle Larson finally wins a Cup race?
LAS VEGAS – Kyle Larson laid down the fastest lap (190.295 mph) in Saturday’s final practice session at Kansas Speedway in preparation for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, which is great sign that the rookie might finally be able to reel in his first career Sprint Cup victory.

Between the two practices Saturday, there were quite a few different names at the top of the charts from what we’ve seen in the first seven races held on 1.5-mile tracks this season. In the early session, Marcos Ambrose was fastest (191.652), followed by Jamie McMurray, Larson, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., A.J. Allmendinger and Greg Biffle.

Count em’, that’s four Fords in the top-seven, and none of them were from the Penkse camp. Ambrose’s teammate, Aric Almirola, was also 10th fastest.

In the final session, things got back to normal as Kevin Harvick was second fastest behind Larson with Kasey Kahne having the third fastest lap. Surprisingly, Allmendinger was again high on the charts with the seventh fastest lap, just ahead of Jeff Gordon.

Gordon and Harvick are the drivers to beat, just like the first Kansas race in May when they finished 1-2, but the gap between them and several other drivers is smaller than what we've seen lately. In addition to some new Fords high on the list, Kyle Busch also put his name on the list of contenders with a solid final session (5th) and Ryan Newman was strong in both sessions -- eighth and fourth fastest.

Brad Keselowski, who has won three of the seven races held on 1.5-mile tracks this season, wasn’t impressive in practices, but his season history so far suggests that he’ll be just fine when the green flag drops.

Jimmie Johnson, who has two Kansas wins and owns a track-best 7.6 average finish, also struggled in practice, but he doesn’t get the pass like Keselowski does because his team hasn’t been able to make any winning adjustments with their car since June.

In the May Kansas race, Harvick led the most laps, but Gordon picked up his track-best third win. Harvick has the edge this week based on having the best 10-consecutive laps average in the final practice.

I also like the chassis for each of the favorites. Gordon is using a car that is 2-for-2 with wins at the Brickyard and Michigan. Harvick is using the runner-up chassis from Kansas that also finished second to Johnson and Gordon, respectively, at the two summer Michigan races. That’s some nice consistency and teams get fired up when they have a proven winner on their hands.

Other drivers with proven cars racing this week are Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kahne had a fantastic Brickyard 400, leading 70 laps before settling for sixth. He’s using that same car this week. Junior has three wins on the season and his car this week won at Pocono twice this season. Of the two teammates, Kahne looked much stronger in practice.

If I had to pick only one driver to win, it would be Kevin Harvick. The best longer shots to win are Larson and Kahne.

Read More Here.....Final Kansas Driver Ratings

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