Kansas Weekend Preview: Kansas one of three tracks where Busch has never won

Kyle Busch celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Kyle Busch celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Kyle Busch celebrates after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Winning seems almost routine for Kyle Busch.

Only 31 years old, the No. 18 Toyota driver boasts 36 career victories and has taken the checkered flag at all but three of the 23 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tracks – Kansas, Charlotte and Pocono.NSCS_KyBusch_KS

Busch has the opportunity to pick up wins at all three of the tracks within the next month-and-a-half, beginning with Saturday’s Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

The defending NSCS champion has struggled at Kansas throughout his career, posting a 20.4 average finish in 16 starts at the 1.5-mile track. Recently, he’s been better, posting two top-five showings in his last two Jayhawk State appearances.

“We tested there before the October race (last year) and I think we learned a lot that we were able to use during the race weekend,” Busch said. “The last few races there, the track really has started to change and the groove is starting to spread out, and it makes me more comfortable when a track gets worn in. Kansas is one of the few places I haven’t won in Sprint Cup, but I feel like we keep getting closer and closer each time we go back.”

Right now, Busch is on one of the best runs of his career. He’s posted a top-five finish in 12 of his last 14 races dating back to 2015 and has placed worse than second just once in his last five starts. Since returning from injury at Charlotte last year, he’s won seven races.

“I wouldn’t say necessarily that I’m doing anything different,” Busch said about his recent success. “Certainly, I think that circumstances are going our way maybe a little bit more. Why? I’m not sure. I’ve just had some really fast racecars. The guys have been doing a great job at Joe Gibbs Racing, both on the XFINITY side and the Sprint Cup side. We’ve had a good taste of success here recently and it feels good and, when times are good, things seem easy, of course, so we’d like to keep it that way.”

Busch, who made his Sprint Cup debut as an 18-year-old in 2004, further explained his growth.

“Overall, I think there are some things still for me to learn over the years that maybe I’m not quite as good at that I could be better at,” he said. “Just different racetracks and being able to run well at different times or different aspects. Charlotte for instance – haven’t won there – Kansas and places like that. I feel like we can go each and every week and have a legitimate chance to win each and every week, which is probably the first time in my career that I’ve had that, so it’s pretty good.”

Nemechek hopes to add to family legacy at Kansas

John Hunter Nemechek has never taken a lap around Kansas Speedway, but he has visited Victory Lane there.

As a 7-year-old in 2004, he celebrated in the winner’s circle with his father Joe Nemechek at the 1.5-mile track, after the elder Nemechek took the checkered flag in the Banquet 400 presented by ConAgra Foods for his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.

John Hunter will attempt to carry on the family legacy at Kansas Speedway when he makes his track debut in Friday’s Toyota Tundra 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

“Racing at Kansas after being in Victory Lane in 2004 with dad is going to be pretty special,” Nemechek said. “It was an exciting moment. I was in the playground area when mom came and got me and told me that dad had won the race, so I got to go to Victory Lane twice that weekend, once with the XFINITY car and once with the Sprint Cup Series. He hasn’t won in a truck, so hopefully I can go and get it done.”

All the now 18-year-old NASCAR Next member has done lately is elevate his own name. He currently leads the NCWTS standings on the strength of one win, two top fives and two top 10s in three starts. As race winners, Nemechek and Johnny Sauter are the only drivers who have virtually locked up spots in the NCWTS Chase.

Don’t expect Nemechek’s success to wane. He has finished second or better in five of his last seven starts.

The modest racer credits his recent accomplishments to his small, family-owned team.

“We’ve prepared our trucks to the best of our ability, using our resources to the absolute max in preparing great trucks every weekend we go to the race track,” Nemechek said. “We have great pit stops on pit road, everything has come together for us so far this year, so hopefully we can keep that streak going, run up front and compete for more wins.”

Race Weekend Preview

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Race: Go Bowling 400

Place: Kansas Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps)

What to Watch For: Joey Logano goes for his second straight win at Kansas and his first victory of 2016. … Jimmie Johnson attempts to defend his Kansas spring race win. … Austin Dillon looks to build on his career-best third-place finish at Talladega. … Hometown drivers Clint Bowyer (Emporia, Kansas), Carl Edwards (Columbia, Mo.) and Jamie McMurray (Joplin, Mo.) go for their first Kansas NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins. … Tony Stewart is back in the seat of the No. 14 Chevrolet full-time after Ty Dillon replaced him mid-way through Sunday’s Talladega race.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Race: Toyota Tundra 250

Place: Kansas Speedway

Date and Time: Friday, May 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 250.5 miles (167 laps)

What to Watch For: Clint Bowyer is entered in the Kansas NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race for the first time since he won it in 2004. … Two-time NCWTS champion Matt Crafton tries to defend his 2015 Kansas victory. … NASCAR Next alumnus Ben Kennedy makes his team debut with GMS Racing and new sponsor Weber.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.