Kansas Speedway – Did You Know?

by Angela Campbell On Wed, May. 10, 2017

Photo Credit: Lee Berard/xspimages

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the Camping World Truck Series travel to Kansas Speedway this weekend for racing under the lights. The Truck Series Toyota Tundra 250 is set for Friday, May 12, at 8:30 p.m. ET while the Cup Series Go Bowling 400 will air Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. Both races will be televised on FS1.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch is the defending race winner and is still searching for his first victory this season. He has four top fives and six top 10s at the track with the 12th best driver rating. Busch is currently 10th in the point standings.

The first Cup Series race at the 1.5-mile track was on Sept. 30, 2001, but did you know that it was won by Jeff Gordon? There have been 22 Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway, one each year from 2001 – 2010 and two races per year since 2011. Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Kansas with six; Gordon has three (2001, 2002, 2014) and Jimmie Johnson also has three (2008, 2011, 2015).

Fourteen different drivers have won poles at Kansas, led by Kevin Harvick, Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne, with three poles each. But did you know that Jason Leffler won the pole for the inaugural Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in 2001? He won it in the No. 01 Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing with a speed of 176.499 mph and is the only driver to capture his first career Cup Series pole at Kansas.

Leffler, known as “LEFturn,” began his career as an open-wheel driver winning three consecutive USAC Midget championships from 1997-99 and the 1998 USAC Silver Crown championship. He also made three starts in the IndyCar Series and finished 17th in the 2000 Indianapolis 500.

Leffler’s NASCAR career began with four starts in the XFINITY Series in 1999 with Joe Gibbs Racing, running a full-time schedule in 2000. He advanced to the Cup Series in 2001 with Chip Ganassi Racing. During his career, he made 423 starts across the three national series and has two XFINITY wins and one victory in the Camping World Truck Series.

On June 12, 2013, Leffler lost his life in a crash during a 410 sprint car race at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey. He was 37 and left behind a son, Charlie, who was only five years old at the time

Leffler was a fierce competitor on the track but his most enduring quality was his generous spirit off the track. He will always be remembered for his irresistible smile, his selfless desire to help others and who could forget his trademark haircut?

Three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart remembers Leffler as “a great racer and an even better friend. We raced together a lot, and our career paths were very similar. He loved racing, especially open-wheel racing, and that’s a passion we both share. To not have him around to talk about whatever race one of us had just run, or were going to run, will be hard.”

Qualifying well at Kansas Speedway should give drivers an edge. Five of the 22 (22.7 percent) Cup Series events have been won from the front row, four from the pole position and one from second-place. But did you know that 54.5 percent of the races have been won from a top-10 starting position? Brad Keselowski won from the deepest in the field ( 25th) in the spring race of 2011.

As we head to Kansas Speedway, Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with the series-best driver rating of 110.6, with three wins, nine top fives, 17 top 10s and three poles. Kenseth (108.1), Harvick (105.3), Martin Truex Jr. (95.7) and Kahne (91.4) round out the top five best driver ratings.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has struggled this season but did you know that he has the sixth-best driver rating (90.0) at Kansas Speedway? He has three top fives, nine top 10s and one pole at the track and is looking forward to the race.

“Kansas is a great racetrack for me,” Earnhardt said. “That place has widened out pretty good and you can run against the fence there, which is a line that I like to run. It’s a very fast racetrack and very smooth, a lot of fun, so we should have a good time.”

The on-track action begins Thursday, May 11, with Truck Series practice, culminating with the Go Bowling 400 Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. In the meantime, check out the video below as we take a moment to remember Jason Leffler.

Follow @angiecampbell_ for the latest NASCAR news and feature stories.

 

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