KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Carl Edwards boasts a stout resume at Kansas Speedway, reeling off the kind of finishes that keep him in contention at one of his favorite tracks.
Five top-fives. Nine top-10s.
But one big 0-fer.
“No victories, though,” Edwards said. “That’s the problem.”
Edwards has long considered Kansas his hometown track, at least in NASCAR, since it opened in 2001. Edwards hails about 140 miles east from the track in Columbia, Missouri — home of Shakespeare’s Pizza, The Blue Note and Rock Bridge State Park — but not a Sprint Cup champion. At least, not yet.
Edwards still has the rest of this season to chase a championship for Jack Roush and Roush Fenway Racing. But his future remains uncertain: Edwards and RFR teammate Greg Biffle are the top remaining free agents in the Sprint Cup Series and both could be on the move. Joe Gibbs Racing, which was turned down by Edwards when he re-signed with Roush in 2011, could be interested in making another run at him to expand to four cars next season.
Edwards, who starts fourth, refused Friday to discuss contract negotiations and his interest in JGR.
“At the end of the day, I am a Ford driver and drive for Jack Roush and that is my job,” he said.
Edwards is fifth in the points and already has a win this season, securing his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Edwards called the mood at RFR “hopeful” that some solid finishes — outside of last week’s 30th at Talladega — will keep them in the hunt.
“I think if we continue on that path, we will have a shot at the championship and that is all we can do,” Edwards said.
Edwards and Emporia, Kansas, native Clint Bowyer are the sentimental picks to win at Kansas. Edwards is counting on plenty of friends and family to make the trip for Saturday night’s race.
“There are a lot of people in the grandstands and garage that if it weren’t for them, I definitely wouldn’t have this opportunity,” Edwards said. “For me, a win here would be a win for all those folks and validate or maybe in a way pay them back for how much they have done for me.
“This place is really special for that reason.”
Here are five things heading into the Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway:
5-HOUR SUPPORT: 5-hour Energy President Scott Henderson blasted NASCAR’s integrity last season and had serious concerns that he could win in the sport in the wake of the Richmond scandal. But Henderson stuck with Michael Waltrip Racing and driver Bowyer, and 5-hour announced this week a three-year deal to extend its sponsorship of the No. 15 Toyota.
“Once we got to the end of the season, we were interested in putting a deal together,” Henderson said. “Once we got through the speed bumps, it wasn’t really a difficult decision.”
Henderson was less diplomatic last year at New Hampshire when he put NASCAR on blast: “When the guy who’s in charge can say, ‘I can do whatever I want and I’m going to do it and I just did,’ I wonder about integrity. I want to make sure we can win in this sport, OK?”
Henderson said 5-hour will remain a primary sponsor for 24 races a season over the course of Bowyer’s three-year deal with MWR. Henderson said 5-hour’s media exposure and retail support made it worth it for the energy drink company to stay connected with NASCAR. 5-hour is also the title sponsor for Saturday’s Sprint cup race at Kansas Speedway.
“Last year was probably a learning experience for everybody,” Henderson said.
BLANEY’S DEBUT: Ryan Blaney is set to make his Sprint Cup debut, driving the No. 12 SKF Ford Fusion for Team Penske. Blaney has a full-time ride in the Truck Series and was entered in Friday’s race at Kansas Speedway.
Blaney hoped he would be joined in the field by his father, Dave. Both Blaneys had to time their way into the field. Ryan Blaney will start 21st, but his dad failed to make the race.
KURT’S DOUBLE: Kurt Busch is gearing up his run at The Double. The 2004 Sprint Cup champion is attempting to become the fourth driver to complete in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. Both races are scheduled for May 25.
Busch passed Indy’s rookie orientation program and topped 220 mph at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As he returns next week to Indy, Busch still has plenty to learn in the No. 26 Suretone Honda for Andretti Autosport.
“It’s been a good confidence builder all through the few days I’ve been in the car,” Busch said. “And Andretti Autosport had done a tremendous job in allowing me to roll as a rookie and to feel the comfort levels each time we go out in the car and not overstep anything that’s asked me to do too much as a newbie. The excitement is building up. It’s been great all this whole month.”
NIGHT RACING: Kansas Speedway is set for its first Sprint Cup night race Saturday. Kansas opened in 2001 and expanded to two races in 2011. Light towers were installed around the same time and the ARCA series was the first to run at night. Truck Series and Cup drivers were excited about the latest night race added to the schedule.
“I think night racing is great for our fan base,” six-time champion Jimmie Johnson said. “It’s tough for the teams and drivers because we are so used to a Sunday format. We sit around a lot in the morning. The crew goes to work and the drivers sit and wait and then it’s finally time to go. If the fans are smiling and hopefully they will show their support by coming out and tuning in Saturday night on television.”
DANCING DINGER: AJ Allmendinger wants to worm his way into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
Allmendinger said he would do the worm across the stage if fans vote him into the non-points race. His first wish is to race his way into the race, but if not, he’s set to bust a move if fans get him into the field.
“We will have a good time with it,” he said.
Allmendinger said this could be the year the fans turn their attention to other drivers.
“They’ve got to be tired of voting for Danica (Patrick),” he said.
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