Three things to watch
1. Matt Kenseth has won the last two Cup races at Kansas and qualified seventh. He has not been happy with the new tire used by Goodyear this weekend, however.
2. Jimmie Johnson is fresh off his fifth victory of the season and within eight points of Kenseth.
3. Kevin Harvick starts from the pole - the first time he’s done so since 2006. In his career, Harvick has won two of five races in which he’s started out front.
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• Nobody likes to hear the field of likely championship contenders has narrowed but facts are facts. Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch were the best during the season’s first 26 races so there was little reason to doubt they would not continue their success in the Chase. When it comes to drivers behind them catching up, it’s not so much a question of whether another driver could string together several great performances, but all of the drivers in front of him in points also has to do worse than him at the same time. That is a very tall order and why NASCAR fans should already have a pretty good idea who the 2013 champion is.
• Smart move by team owner Roger Penske to lock up Brad Keselowski with another contract extension, particularly one linked to the team’s primary sponsor. Penske has the potential to put together a young and very talented group of drivers who could work together for a long time and keep the organization on solid footing. Joey Logano is winding down his first - and very productive - first season with Penske and 19-year-old Ryan Blaney is waiting in the wings to join them in the Cup series.
• While rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. seems to be improving as the 2013 season draws to a close, fellow rookie Danica Patrick’s progress seems to have stalled. Patrick qualified 29th for Sunday’s race - the 23rd time in 30 races she has failed to qualify in the Top 25.
Stenhouse continues upward trend: Rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. continued his recent upward trend by qualifying second-fastest for Sunday’s race at Kansas. It’s his third top-five start in his last six races.
Stenhouse finished 11th - at the time his career-best - after starting third in the spring race at Kansas.
“We felt really confident coming back and I think (Friday’s qualifying) proves that we have a reason to feel good about coming back to Kansas,” he said. “It is a cool race track to drive on and also for the fans outside the race track I think we have a little bit of everything here.”
Stenhouse is currently 19th in the series standings - the highest he’s been since the July race at Daytona.
Kimmel sets record: Frank Kimmel won a record 80th race in the Automobile Racing Club of America series Friday night at Kansas and in the process clinched his unprecedented 10th series championship.
“This is kind of a dream come true, to win the championship and get our 80th win on the same day,” Kimmel said. “It’s a great day for us.”
Kimmel’s historic win broke the tie he shared with with Iggy Katona - each had 79 wins. NASCAR K&N Pro Series East driver Dylan Kwasniewski finished fourth in his ARCA debut.
Practice problems for Busch brothers: Both Busch brothers will have to start from the rear of the field in Sunday’s race after they were involved in separate wrecks in Saturday’s first practice session and both were forced to use backup cars.
Kyle Busch was the first to wreck in the opening minute of practice, slamming into the wall. Kurt Busch hit the wall later in the session while racing with Marcos Ambrose. Matt Kenseth also spun practice but suffered no damage.
Three picks for your fantasy racing team:
Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon