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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2012 STP 400 at Kansas

Looking for the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How behind Sunday’s race? Amy Henderson has you covered each week with the answers to six race day questions, covering all five Ws and even the H… the Big Six.

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

Ever seen a team that hasn’t won a race in a while inch closer by the week, and then when they finally break through, go on a tear with multiple wins and top finishes? Because I have a feeling that that’s what it’s going to look like for Martin Truex Jr. and his revitalized No. 56 team. It’s hard to watch this team and not believe that a win is imminent. Last fall, the team began to come on late in the season, and it looked like they were becoming a contender. Then they opened 2012 with a vengeance, demanding that everybody sit up and take notice with six top-10 finishes in eight races, an equal mark to points leader Greg Biffle, whom Truex sits second to after Kansas, just 15 points back. The banzai move that Truex made with a couple of laps laft would have made the highlight reel for the year if he had been able to make it stick, and as it was, a lot of drivers would have smacked the wall on a move like that. The win is getting closer every week for Truex, who is currently in a contract year and has reportedly begun negotiations with Michael Waltrip Racing and sponsor NAPA for an extension.

What… was THAT?

Oh, the irony. Don’t get me wrong; every step NASCAR or anyone else takes to help our environment is a good thing. Everything on the so-called “white paper” that NASCAR released last weekend is a positive. A couple of things that were highlighted were a Sprint program to recycle unwanted wireless devices and an initiative by Coca-Cola to encourage recycling at the track, among others. But the irony of all of this is that NASCAR uses bushels of paper over the course of a weekend, keeping the media up to date with transcripts of press conferences, statistics, race updates, and all kinds of other facts. They’re necessary for the press to do their jobs. But I have yet to work in a media center with a paper recycling bin.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

It will be one of the biggest surprises of 2012 if AJ Allmendinger doesn’t win a race in his new Penske Racing ride. Early on, it looked like this could be the week for the Los Gatos, Calif., native as Allmendinger beat the field in qualifying to take the pole for the STP 400, and led handily in the early going. But an engine problem reared its ugly head at Allmendinger’s team as the race approached the 100-lap mark. Allmendinger would stay on track after a lengthy pit stop to address the issue, but it cost four laps and relegated Allmendinger to a finish of just 32nd after starting at the front.

When… will I be loved?

For the second week in a row, a Hendrick Motorsports racecar was the class of the field, and for the second week in a row (and 14th overall), fate intervened, and the the No. 48 couldn’t close the deal on the 200th Sprint Cup win for the HMS stable. Jimmie Johnson had the fastest car in the field for most of the day, overcoming a near-spin in qualifying and a bad pit stop to finish third, but that’s little consolation for Johnson or his team as they extend their losing streak to 14 races, a long drought by their standards. Johnson had a golden opportunity to capitalize with a pit stop on the final caution of the day, but, in an instant replay from Texas last week, the team wasn’t aggressive enough on the final adjustment to make it happen. The next Hendrick driver to win a race will give the respected car owner his 200th career Cup win as an owner. The team’s first Cup victory came in the 1986 Daytona 500 with driver Geoffrey Bodine.

Why… isn’t Danica Patrick on the fan ballot for next month’s All-Star Race?

In a nutshell, it’s because Patrick doesn’t feel ready quite yet. According to Bob Pockrass, Patrick plans to concentrate on her Nationwide effort at Iowa that weekend. David Reutimann is eligible for the fan vote in their shared No. 10 ride. All in all, that’s a smart decision for Patrick, who is eligible to run the Sprint Showdown qualifying race and to be on the ballot because of her Daytona 500 entry. She is slated to make just her second Cup start next month at Darlington, and while she would get competitive equipment from Stewart-Haas Racing, her lack of seat time in a Cup car would be difficult to overcome in an event that features only race winners in an all-out dash for nothing but glory and a big, fat paycheck. Give her a year; it’s better for Patrick in the long run.

How… come Kansas Speedway is repaving this summer?

With the rash of tracks undergoing repaving in recent years, there have been some complaints about the quality of racing as a result. Although it is generally true that older pavement produces better racing, in the case of Kansas it’s become a safety issue. Track officials noted that the current pavement, which has been in place for 12 years, is beginning to break up in places, and one larger hole had to be repaired with epoxy compound on Friday. The seams on the racetrack are also very deep and wide, and can wreak havoc on a car’s handling and tires. Although reconfiguring the banking may not be needed, a new racing surface is necessary for safety… and to avoid a scenario like we saw in the Daytona 500 in 2009, when a pothole opened up in the surface of the track and caused a lengthy delay in the race.