NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas Speedway starting lineup breakdown


The NASCAR Cup Series drivers get back to racing Saturday night, and they will race knowing that some things won’t be determined until Tuesday or Wednesday.

NASCAR performs extensive inspection of the top two cars plus any other additional cars it wants to take from an event. Last week, the second-place car of Clint Bowyer and third-place car of Daniel Suarez were found to have rear-window violations.

Both were docked 20 points.

Stewart-Haas Racing said a piece failed during the race.

“If we’d have been pushing hard and they were foolish and got caught doing something bad and I felt like that’s how I got that performance advantage and that’s why I ran so good last weekend, you’d feel like you cheated somebody,” Bowyer said.

“But I looked back at 150 pictures that we have available to us and went back and looked at the other guys that had the same problem, and I just didn’t see the same result. But I’m fine with the penalty and go on and looking forward to this weekend.”

Drivers are frustrated the NASCAR inspection process creates a storyline midweek, but also know there doesn’t appear to be a great answer if that type of inspection equipment is based in North Carolina.

“It’s hard to place blame on anyone,” defending NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. said. “I know NASCAR is in a tough spot. They want to make the playing field level. They want everyone to feel like that everyone has the same thing out on the racetrack and it’s coming down to the best driver.

“There is just so much to it and it’s so complicated. But it is frustrating to hear about penalty after penalty from the driver point of view.”

Here’s how they’ll line up to start the KC Masterpiece 400 on Saturday (pending any violations found in prerace tech inspection):

1. Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Ford): Harvick is just the third driver in the past 25 seasons to win four of the first 11 races. The other two? Jeff Gordon (1997) and Jimmie Johnson (2007), who both won 10 races and the championship in those seasons.

2. Ryan Blaney (Team Penske No. 12 Ford): It’s no surprise he’s starting second. He was on the pole for this race last year, led 83 laps and finished fourth. He started 40th and started third in the fall.

3. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota): He has six consecutive top-10s (with five top-fives) at Kansas. In other words, Kansas is a good track for him these days.

4. Aric Almirola (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford): Some might say Almirola could have a bad vibe considering it is a year after he broke his back at Kansas. However, he was ninth in his return last October.

5. Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford): He has four top-10s in his past six Cup starts at Kansas, but has led just 22 laps in his past four Cup races there.

6. Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota): Hamlin has led just six laps in the 10 races since he won at Kansas in April 2012.

7. Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota): What more is there to say? Truex swept Kansas last year. That’s the good news. The bad news is no one has ever won three consecutive Cup races at the track.

8. Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford): He has four top-10s in his past six Kansas races.

9. Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford): Kansas hasn’t been a great time for Logano since his controversial win in October 2015. He has finishes of 38th, third, 37th and 21st since then.

10. Chris Buescher (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 37 Chevrolet): This is his best starting spot of the season and just the second time this year he’s made it to the final round of qualifying.

11. Paul Menard (Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford): He has one top-five finish in 18 career Cup starts at Kansas; he has an average finish of 18th.

12. Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota): He’s led 348 laps at Kansas in two Xfinity races and a truck race. But he doesn’t have a top-20 finish in three Cup starts.

13. William Byron (Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet): He earned his first NASCAR national series victory at Kansas when he captured the truck race in May 2016. He was fourth in the Xfinity race last October.

14. Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota): He dropped from 17th to 20th in the standings with the 20-point penalty this week. That has to be frustrating, but finishes of 11th, 10th, 10th and third in his past four races make up for it.

15. Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet): Not his best track, as he has an average finish of 18.2 … but he did win there in October 2003.

16. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford): He won an Xfinity race at Kansas in 2012 but has never finished in the top 10 in 10 career Cup starts at Kansas.

17. Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet): He had a fourth-place finish at Kansas last October, but he’s looking for momentum this year.

18. AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 Chevrolet): Second-best starting spot in his past nine races at Kansas.

19. Alex Bowman (Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet): He started fifth and finished seventh in the No. 88 car in October 2016.

20. David Ragan (Front Row Motorsports No. 38 Ford): Don’t be surprised if he finishes 17th. He finished 17th in both Kansas races last year.

21. Darrell Wallace Jr. (Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet): Wallace has just four national series starts at this track, with the last coming in an Xfinity car in October 2016.

22. Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet): He has finished 29th or worse in four of the past five Kansas races. He left his most recent visit on a sour note after an engine failure ended his playoff hopes. And he starts this race on a sour note, as he will drop to the rear for the start because he will need to put on new tires following a spin in qualifying.

23. Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet): After ninth-place finish last week, he moved to 12th in points. Not a big deal for the team, but now the best among the Hendrick stable.

24. Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet): McMurray has just one top-10 finish in his past nine Cup starts at Kansas. Where’s the love for the Missouri native?

25. Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet): Seeks his first career top-five at Kansas on a weekend where he doesn’t have his car chief after a splitter violation found prerace at Dover.

26. Ty Dillon (Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet): Team has hovered from 27th to 30th in the standings over the past six weeks. He’s 28th at the moment.

27. Corey LaJoie (TriStar Motorsports No. 72 Chevrolet): Just hoping his motor lasts this weekend.

28. Ross Chastain (Premium Motorsports No. 15 Chevrolet): This is a good track for Chastain. He has finishes of 14th, 13th and 17th in three Xfinity starts at Kansas.

29. Gray Gaulding (BK Racing No. 23 Toyota): Team was back in bankruptcy court this week, with the next update due May 31. New filings show $1.57 million in assets and $37.7 million in potential liabilities/claims, although that number could be high, as the trustee in control is still trying to determine who might have been paid from other entities belonging to team owner Ron Devine.

30. Reed Sorenson (Premium Motorsports No. 55 Chevrolet): Not his favorite track: He has an average starting spot of 33.5 and average finish of 30.8.

31. Landon Cassill (StarCom Racing No. 00 Chevrolet): He finished 21st at Texas in the most recent race on a 1.5-mile track.

32. B.J. McLeod (Rick Ware Racing No. 51 Chevrolet): First Cup race of the season for McLeod.

33. Clint Bowyer (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Ford): He’d love to win at his home-state track. But he could be a long shot. He has a best finish of ninth in his past nine Cup starts at Kansas and he starts this far back after his car didn’t get through prequalifying tech.

34. Kasey Kahne (Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Chevrolet): Kahne has back-to-back 17th-place finishes that have helped him improve four spots in the standings to 27th.

35. Matt Kenseth (Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford): He’s back. Kenseth returns from his involuntary retirement for the first of what could be 18 races in this car. The big question: Can he help Roush Fenway improve back to where it was when he won races (and a championship) for the organization?

36. Michael McDowell (Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford): Had one of his best finishes last year in this race when he crossed the line in 13th.

37. Matt DiBenedetto (Go Fas Racing No. 32 Ford): Worst starting spot of the season as he is among the six cars that didn’t get through tech.

38. Timmy Hill (Motorsports Business Managment No. 66 Toyota): Making his fourth start of the year, first one in the No. 66 car.

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