After Taming The Monster, NASCAR Heads Off To Kansas

Column By Holly Cain / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Kevin Harvick essentially told his fellow Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season dominator Kyle Busch – I’ll take your three race victories and raise you one. And after taking his fourth win last week at Dover, Harvick can expect that Busch will be ready to try and match the effort this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

Harvick and Busch have won seven of the season’s first 11 races and the two former Cup champions have another four runner-up finishes between them too, dominating the 2018 season start in a way like no other in recent memory.

This week’s KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway (May 12 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) presents an exceptionally good challenge for both Harvick and Busch, however, judging by their historical work on the 1.5-miler.

Harvick has a pair of wins (2013 and 2016) and has won three pole positions (2013-14) and is ranked second-best in terms of overall driver rating (106.4). Busch won at Kansas in 2016 – his 17th try. And while his average finish at the track is uncharacteristic 17.1 – he has vastly improved that number with five top-fives in the last six races.

Last year Martin Truex Jr. swept both Kansas race victories en route to the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.

“Before three years ago, I’ve not had many opportunities to win at Kansas and hopefully we can get into Victory Lane there again this weekend with our M&Ms Carmel Toyota,’’ Busch said. “As you’ve seen so far this year, there are certain circumstances that can go against you and you just have to persevere and keep fighting until the checkered flag falls. We’ve won some races even though we hadn’t had the dominant car in a few of those.’’

“I think we’re pretty equal, honestly,’’ Busch said. “I think I’ve got to give them the notch a little bit. I think they’re a little bit better than we are.

“… A lot of it all comes down to execution when things are this tight with the 4 (Harvick) and us. They were able to execute better at the start of the year on their streak and also last week And we’ve been able to execute in order to get our wins.

“We haven’t been dominant each week, but we’ve been able to execute as a team – myself as a driver – to be able to get those wins.”

UP FOR GRABS

The 37 Kind Days 250 (May 11 at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) has historically been one of the most unpredictable events on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule.

With 15 different winners in 17 races and only three former winners – Kyle Busch, Matt Crafton and championship leader Johnny Sauter – in the field this weekend, it may again prove too tough to call. And that’s always a good thing.

Toyota-powered trucks have won the last five races with Busch and Crafton responsible for two trophies each during that span at Kansas.

Now steering a Ford, Crafton may well be in line to break that Toyota streak. He’s won twice and finished runner-up twice in the last five Kansas races.

A victory would certainly be a big boost to the two-time former series champion who is ranked sixth in the points standings. The championship chase is tight entering Friday night’s race – only 35 points separate Sauter from fifth-place Noah Gragson, a 19-year old who won the pole position last week at Dover, Del. and was runner-up at Atlanta earlier in the season.

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