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Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, the 1.5-mile oval situated just off of busy Interstate 70, is not far from a street called State Line Road. True to its name, the street divides the states of Kansas and Missouri. And a stroll through any neighborhood in the area will reveal how divided the area is when it comes to its college sports teams. Most houses either display the colors of the University of Missouri, Kansas State University or the University of Kansas. Signs indicating “a house divided” are equally as common, denoting the passionate occupants come from a mix of rival schools.
Speaking of passion, it is evident every time the area hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Sunday’s Hollywood 400 will certainly be dotted with the colors of everyone’s favorite team, albeit more colors than those of the area’s professional and college teams. With 43 cars on the track, rivalries continue and the excitement of a Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship will certainly add to the fervor.
And while the blue of Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet more closely resembles the crimson and blue colors of the Kansas Jayhawks, owners of multiple college basketball championships, Johnson knows that to add to his multiple Sprint Cup titles, a strong run at Kansas Speedway is important. Pulling into the newly repaved track should provide some comfort for Johnson and his team as they are the defending winners of the October race.
With championship contenders beginning to take shape, Johnson, who closed the gap to seven points on Chase leader Brad Keselowski, should feel comfortable pulling into the Heartland this week. Like the passion shown for their area sports teams, there are sure to be few “house divided” signs among area race fans, as well. Johnson just hopes those flying the Lowe’s colors will be rewarded for their passion with a repeat trip to victory lane.
Talk about going to Kansas and how helpful the new testing rule will be.
“It will be really helpful. I would imagine the Chase guys will really just be focused on this year’s stuff and what we need to do there. It’s nice to have data files, as we all know, for our simulations programs and seven-post machines and all the stuff that we use back at the shop. So, that’s good. I really feel, more than anything, it’s just a safe move and it makes total sense to do it for our sport. As for this weekend, we don’t need to go into a racetrack and have an issue. I know there was a tire test (at Kansas), but it’s always different when the entire field is there pushing one another. We seem to have other things surface from a tire standpoint, or even the asphalt itself. There’s always that risk of it pulling up. So it’s nice that we go there early for testing starting Wednesday. We’ll all get acclimated with the new surface and re-design – I guess there are some small little changes and things – and validate the tire and validate the track and get everything right so that when we show up Friday, we can put on the show that we need to.”
What is it about Kansas that suits you?
“Well it’s going to be interesting with the repave but I have always liked the track. Some tracks you just click with and this is one of them. There are a lot of options as far as racing. It is similar to Chicago, which is another good track for me. We will see how the changes affect things but, I’m really looking forward to it.”