ThatsRacin

Ten drivers to watch in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Go Bowling 400

Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is tied with former teammate Jeff Gordon for the most Cup victories at Kansas Speedway with three.
Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is tied with former teammate Jeff Gordon for the most Cup victories at Kansas Speedway with three. AP

Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Chevrolet

Harvick, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion, qualified for the 2016 playoffs by winning the fall race at Kansas Speedway but is still looking for his first win of this season. Harvick, 41, won three consecutive poles at Kansas in 2013-14 and won the fall race in 2014. He’s finished second in the last two May races.

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet

Johnson, who joined the late Dale Earnhardt as the only seven-time Sprint Cup champions, is tied with former teammate Jeff Gordon, for the most wins at Kansas Speedway with three, including the spring race in 2015. Johnson, 41, is one win short of 83 career wins, which would tie Hall of Famer Cal Yarborough for sixth on the all-time list. He already has two wins this season, at Texas and Bristol.

Daniel Suarez, No. 19 Toyota

Those accustomed to cheering for Columbia’s Carl Edwards in the No. 19 Toyota, will have to follow his replacement in the wake of Edwards’ surprising decision to step away from racing this year. It hasn’t been an easy rookie year for Suarez, 25, the 2016 Xfinity Series champion. Suarez, the first Mexican-born driver with a regular ride in the Cup Series, is 22nd in the standings with seventh-place finishes at Phoenix and California. He finished third at Kansas in last fall’s Xfinity race.

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota

Busch, the 2015 Sprint Cup champion, will defend his Go Bowling 400 title after winning a Cup race at Kansas Speedway for the first time in his career. Busch, 32, is still looking for his first win of the season, but Kansas could be the place to get it. He has won six races at Kansas Speedway across all three national series — one Cup, four Xfinity and one trucks) — the most by any NASCAR driver.

Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford

Logano has won two of the last four Sprint Cup races at Kansas Speedway, and posted his first win of 2017 two weeks ago at Richmond. That won’t count toward qualify him for the playoffs because Penske Racing was penalized for a rules violation after a post-race inspection and crew chief Todd Gordon was suspended for two races, including this one. Logano, 26, has 18 career Cup wins, and his 15 wins during the past four seasons trail only the 16 by Johnson for the most in that span.

Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford

Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, became the series’ first two-time winner this season when he won at Atlanta and Martinsville. Keselowski, 33, won the inaugural spring race at Kansas Speedway in 2011. In 14 career starts at Kansas, he has seven top 10 finishes. Keselowski, like Pense Racing teammate Logano, will be without his crew chief, Paul Wolfe, who is serving a suspension for rules violations at Phoenix.

Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet

Larson, one of the rising stars of NASCAR, has led the points standings since the fifth race, when he won at Fontana. Larson, 24, finished second in three consecutive races before his victory, and he was second again at Fort Worth. Larson, who qualified for the post-season last season by virtue of his first career win at Michigan, struggled mightily in two starts at Kansas last year, finishing 35th and 30th.

Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Toyota

Truex, 36, has been a model of consistency this season, posting six top-10 results in the first 10 races of the season, including a win at Las Vegas which will qualify him for the post-season. Truex, who is second in the points standings, has the most stage wins (five) and is second in stage points (114) and playoff bonus points (10). But he has been a hard-luck driver at Kansas, finishing second in both 2012 events despite dominating the events and last May, leading 172 laps only to make an unexpected pit stop due to an overheating lug nut with 51 laps to go and settling for 14th.

Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Ford

Bowyer, of Emporia, returned from racing purgatory this year when he stepped into car owner Tony Stewart’s ride after cooling his heels with an under-financed team in 2016. Bowyer, 37, has been competitive this season and ranks ninth in the standings but is still looking for his first win at Kansas and first win anywhere since 2012 at Charlotte, a string of 159 starts without a checkered flag.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet

No list can be complete without Earnhardt, the Most Popular Driver in the series for the past 14 years and who announced his retirement effective at the end of this season. Earnhardt, 42, has yet to win this season or at Kansas Speedway, but he always makes it exciting. Earnhardt finished third in the 2015 spring race at Kansas, his best finish in 20 starts at the track.

Go Bowling 400

6:30 p.m. Saturday at Kansas Speedway, Fox Sports 1

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