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Bring on the tanks and big ground pounders. It's time to rip 'er up and start laying new asphalt at Kansas Speedway

  Denny Hamlin celebrates winning the final race on Kansas Speedway's vintage asphalt (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   KANSAS CITY, Kansas
   And now the bulldozing begins. Gentlemen, starts your Cats.
   The great remaking of Kansas Speedway, a four-month project, got underway just moments after Denny Hamlin beat Martin Truex Jr. in a one-two Toyota finish to the Kansas 400.
   Has it really been that long since NASCAR first broke ground here and raced? Long enough that this track really needs repaving?
   Back in 2001 Jeff Gordon became the first winner on this 1-/2-mile track on the Kansas side of the Missouri River, in once-countryside on the western edge of a two-million-plus metropolitan area.
   Since NASCAR joined this town of jazz, blues and Kansas City-style barbeque, there have now been 13 Sprint Cup winners…and more than one decided by fuel mileage.
   And when track boss Pat Warren offered up for view a piece of broken asphalt from a first-turn hole, the day before the 400, well, maybe this place does need some reworking.
   But Warren may need to do a selling job to some of these drivers.
   Like Kevin Harvick: "I'm not a fan of tearing up any race track. 
   "I don't think they've done a very good job with any of the asphalt they have put down at any of the tracks since they have repaved them.  In my opinion that is the biggest problem. 
     "With the new-style tracks there are no rocks in it; (so) it doesn't wear out the tires.  Goodyear has to build a tire that is so durable because the speeds are so high. 
    "Any race track tear-up is bad news in my opinion."



Martin Truex Jr., the man with the car to beat, until the sun broke through (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    For the second straight week the race went virtually caution-free.
    And for the second straight week the event set a race-record for speed.
    For most of the two-hour, 45-minute run Truex was on a tear, untouchable.
   "His car looked so superior to the field," Hamlin said.  "We just needed some kind of change, weather or adjustments or something to get where he was at, and we kind of got both of them.
    "Typically when you have an overcast condition the cars run a little bit tighter, the grip level is higher. So it's more a track-position type race.
   "When the sun is out, the drivers in my opinion are more prominent.  You can move around, find the grip, do things in the car to make up for what the car doesn't have.
   "The slicker the conditions, the better it tends to be for our team. Luckily we had that run in the sunshine."

     The newest addition to Kansas Speedway, the Hollywood Casino, just over the second turn (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    And with that Hamlin and new crew chief Darian Grubb got their second win of the season together.
    For the record that keeps Grubb and Hamlin even with Tony Stewart in the win column.    
   "We had to have track position at the end to have a shot at it," Grubb said. "Denny did a really good job maintaining track position, and keeping his head in the game, not burning up tires too early in the runs. 
    "The car I was really worried about was Jimmie Johnson coming up. Martin was definitely the dominant car, but Jimmie showed bursts of speed and kept catching up. So we were really trying to play the game to make sure we played the strategy right, because it was going to be between us three cars."

    Harvick himself didn't have a great Sunday here. He had one of the top cars but a bad pit stop, when he ran out of gas, cost him. Harvick did rally to finish sixth. "To run out of gas under green flag and come back and finish sixth is a good rebound."
    Engine problems were one of the day's big stories. Eight men had some type of issue, none very well defined.
   Kurt Busch had a contender, until "with about 50 laps to go, we just lost power for some reason.
   "Later on we got about seven-eighths of the power back. So I'm not sure what the issue was."
   Jeff Gordon's engine issues turned a mediocre eighth-place run into a disappointing 21st place finish. "Something in the valve train broke.
   "They gave us more (rear end) gear here this time, and I think that took a toll, on not only us but a lot of guys. I felt it was turning a lot of RPM, even though we have a rev-limiter."
   AJ Allmendinger, who started from the pole, had an odd problem with his engine throttle linkage.
   "Man, it's just starting to feel like Ground Hog Day," Allmendinger said. "I know I'm not the only one here that’s frustrated.  We all are. 
    "We were off to such a great start.  We had pole, our car was fast out front (he led 44 laps)…and then the gremlins hit us. 
    "We ran out of fuel coming to pit road on our first stop. It went downhill quickly from there.  It felt like the engine was blowing. I thought for sure the motor was gone, because how flat it got.
    "But that wasn't the case. It was a secondary throttle linkage. That's about as rare as it gets."
   Todd Gordon, his crew chief, explained running out of gas by saying "it's a learning curve with these EFI systems. 
    "The ambient temperature was so much cooler that air quality was so good, and the EFI was dumping more fuel.  Our mileage backed up almost a half-mile per gallon; that's more than anything that we've seen at a 1-1/2-mile track.
    "Halfway through the second run the motor started to lay down. We changed ECUs (the computerized electronic control unit), coil packs, relay box…and then we discovered the secondary linkage came off.
    "Fortunately it wasn't an internal issue.  Unfortunately it cost us a bunch of laps to identify it and get fixed."


Cloudy, overcast, and chilly, but the sun finally broke through late Sunday afternoon (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)




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