In a year where the Sprint Cup has produced a multitude of notable winners, another could yet be coming as NASCAR moves to Kansas Speedway.
Just two drivers have multiple wins, with both Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick claiming a couple of checkered flags thus far. But the 10th race of the season saw Denny Hamlin take his first victory of the season.
With myriad drivers like Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and even Jimmie Johnson still looking to do donuts at the 5-Hour Energy 400, the Kansas race is wide open.
Needless to say, this is a race ripe for the picking for any of those drivers.
Before the race officially gets underway on Saturday night, here's a look at the 5-Hour Energy 400.
* Full race order for Kansas race can be found at NASCAR.com.
Site: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City
Date: Saturday, May 10
Start Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
Drivers to Watch
Jimmie Johnson is one of the best drivers in NASCAR history. But Mr. Six-Time hasn't exactly started the season with flying colors.
Without a win through the first 10 races, Johnson has gotten off to one of the slowest starts in his career. Jerry Bonkowski of Bleacher Report and NBC Sports explains why this year's start should startle fans, via MotorSportsTalk:
Johnson went the first 11 races of 2003 without winning before cashing in at Charlotte in the 12th race of the season.
He went 10 winless races before winning in the 11th race of 2012 at Darlington.
And he went nine races in 2002 before winning his first of three races that season.
(Coincidentally, Johnson failed to go on to win any of his six Sprint Cup championships in those seasons)
Luckily for JJ, he now heads to a track where he has been historically great.
If his practice rounds are any indication of where JJ currently stands at Kansas, he should be near the top five on Saturday, via Hendrick's Twitter account:
Though the race at Kansas has only been around since 2001, Johnson has dominated the track. One of only five drivers to visit Victory Lane at Kansas, the Hendrick Motorsports driver has found a home there.
Another driver with multiple championships who doesn't have a win this season is Gordon. Ironically enough, both drivers are from the same team.
Though none of his great starts have led to wins, Gordon currently sits atop the points standings. While the consistency is certainly welcomed for Gordon, he believes the wins are coming, per Brant James of ESPN.com:
As good as we're running, I definitely feel like we can win races just about anywhere that we go, and if we continue to perform like this, we are going to win. That's how you win.
There's sometimes when you just pick the right pit strategy. There's other times you get a good restart, and then there's times when you just go and outrun them. I'll take outrunning them more times than any because I think that's when the multiple wins are going to come.
That same consistency has shone through for the Rainbow Warrior in Kansas during his career. Along with Gordon winning the first-ever race at the track, he also holds an average finish of 10.63, two wins and a record nine top-five finishes at Kansas.
|Wins||Top 5||Top 10||Avg. Finish||Avg. Running||Driver Rating||Quality Passes|
|2||9||11||10.63||9.8 (4th)||99.6 (4th)||474 (2nd)|
Gordon is one of the strongest drivers in the 16-race history of the track. If he can find a way to hook up with Johnson near the end of the race, either driver could wind up in Victory Lane for the first time this season.
Who will win in Kansas?
After taking the pole on Friday night, Kevin Harvick immediately gets prime placement in the 11th race of the season.
Though he hasn't enjoyed the same amount of success as the two previous drivers at the track, he might be lined up for a great run in the 5-Hour Energy 400. And with a win at the previous race in Kansas, Harvick might be primed for yet another on Saturday.
For a team in Stewart-Haas Racing that has won three of the first 10 races, this could be another track for the team to control. Harvick already has a victory at a 1.5-mile track with a win at Phoenix, but also has the help of his three teammates starting in the top 10.
In addition, Harvick provided a helping hand for his teammate Danica Patrick, who has struggled this season, per Nate Ryan of USA Today:
Kevin Harvick said he talked to Danica Patrick for over an hour before qualifying, providing advice. All four SHR cars in final 12. #nascar— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) May 9, 2014
But with a lethal young driver in Kyle Larson behind him, Harvick will be pressured throughout Saturday night's race. Larson has driven well on 1.5-mile tracks as well and might break through this weekend.
Given the way the NASCAR season has gone thus far, nothing is predictable. And with Harvick being at the top of the field, more surprises could be in store on Saturday night as the No. 4 car looks to reach Victory Lane yet again.
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