NASCAR: Live from Kansas

Kenseth on the pole?

Forget the issues NASCAR has with Penske Racing.

The governing body needs to open an investigation into why Matt Kenseth all of a sudden has become a great qualifier.

Kenseth had only eight poles and an average starting position of around 19.2 during 13 full seasons at Roush Fenway Racing.

His average starting position for Joe Gibbs Racing is 10.6, including his first pole for the Toyota organization on Friday with a track record at Kansas Speedway.

"The whole field has gotta feel bad getting beat by Matt Kenseth in qualifying," joked Carl Edwards, Kenseth's former RFR teammate.

Ironically, the two cars Kenseth beat for the pole both were from RFR. Edwards will start second, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who replaced Kenseth in the No. 17, will start third.

When introduced as the pole winner in the media center, Kenseth said, "You don't hear that very often, do you?"

-- David Newton

Somebody's always watching

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- There's a reason NASCAR officials and teams insist there are no real secrets in the Sprint Cup garage.

Because there aren't any, really.

The garage basically is an open book as crew chiefs, mechanics and engineers from one organization work on their car while crew chiefs, mechanics and engineers from another organization are only a few feet away.

There are no walls or partitions separating them. Privacy goes out the window as soon as the car leaves the shop. Everything is there for the world to see.

It's this way on purpose. NASCAR wants teams to self-police off the track the way they encourage drivers to self-police on the track.

Did that happen with the Penske Racing cars of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway? NASCAR officials haven't said how they came upon the unapproved rear housing parts that were confiscated in inspection about an hour prior to the race, leading to 25-point deductions for Keselowski and Logano and the suspension of seven team members that is on hold pending appeal.

But Keselowski was parked next to Jimmie Johnson's car all weekend and Logano's was next to the car of Johnson's teammate, Jeff Gordon. These are the same Hendrick Motorsports teams that Keselowski indirectly called out last year for having an advantage with the rear-end alignment of their cars.


Do you remember Johnson's C-post violation prior to the 2012 Daytona 500? His car was parked next to Keselowski's all week at Daytona International Speedway.


Richard Petty, NASCAR's all-time wins leader, said, "Undoubtedly, somebody told on the Penske crowd."

Petty said, "It had done been through inspection two or three times and it hadn't got caught."

The co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports said it's a different environment in the garage than when he was coming up.

"Anytime we seen anybody doing something on their car, we didn't tell on them," he said. "They'd go home and look at it and try to do a better job on it. There wasn't a lot of tattle-telling at that time.

"It's just a different deal [now]. It's probably more jealousy than letting other people get ahead of them."

Johnson said in no way did anybody on his team or at Hendrick Motorsports "rat out Penske."

Having said that, he added, "The best officiating in the garage area has always been your neighbor."

In the end, it really doesn't matter who turned in who, or if anybody turned in anybody. It happens in all sports. Remember Spygate, which involved the New England Patriots in 2007? Former New England assistant Eric Mangini -- then the head coach of the New York Jets -- admittedly informed the NFL of the Patriots' practice of videotaping opposing teams' defensive signals.

College football coaches turn each other in all the time for alleged recruiting violations. In 2009, it was reported that "a rival school" turned Florida in to the Southeastern Conference for improperly using Facebook to recruit two players.

In 2010, allegations out of Mississippi State fingered Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in a play-for-pay scheme.

Checks and balances.

It's in every sport.

In NASCAR this weekend at Kansas Speedway, and at every other race, the garage is open for a reason: to keep everyone honest.

-- David Newton




Six of the 10 Chase races will go head-to-head with NFL games in the market nearest the track.

How that will impact attendance and television ratings remains to be seen.

The Sept. 15 Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway will begin an hour after a Chicago Bears home game (against rival Minnesota) starts at 1 p.m. ET. The next weekend, the New England Patriots will play host to Tampa Bay, with kickoff set for an hour before the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Others impacted: The Oct. 20 Talladega race goes head-to-head with Tampa Bay at Atlanta; the Nov. 3 Texas race goes head-to-head with Minnesota at Dallas; the Nov. 10 Phoenix race goes head-to-head with Houston at Arizona; the Nov. 17 Chase finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway goes head-to-head with San Diego at Miami.

-- David Newton

Hendrick Motorsports directly affected by Boston events

MIT officer Sean Collier, who was shot and killed Thursday night by one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, was the brother of Hendrick Motorsports machinist Andrew Collier.

HMS sent out a press release asking that everyone keep the Collier family in their thoughts and prayers. During the media availability for five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, Johnson expressed his sadness for his grieving "teammate."

On the bombing itself, Johnson said, "To have innocent people in the spirit of giving back and have that tragedy take place, it's ridiculous."

-- David Newton

Annett still on the mend

Michael Annett remains a week or two away from his scheduled return from a dislocated sternum suffered in the Nationwide Series opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Team owner Richard Petty says it's up to the doctors.

"Physically, he could have been back before," Petty said. "The doctors are concerned if anything like that happened again it could really tear up everything.

"Other than that, it's sort of like having a concussion. You get over it, but you want to make sure the deal is good. … We don't want to take a chance on him getting in too early."



Anxious Junior

Most Sprint Cup drivers got a feel for the new surface at Kansas Speedway last fall.

Not Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Kansas, which was resurfaced after this race last year, was one of two tracks Earnhardt didn't compete at while recovering from multiple concussions, one suffered here during a tire test in August.

"I'm really anxious to get out there and see how quickly I can get ahold of the racetrack," Earnhardt said in his team release. "The guys that I'm going to be racing against have a race on me there."

Earnhardt will be looking to rebound from finishes of 24th at Martinsville and 29th at Texas following five straight top-10s to open the season. He'll do so at a track where he has one top-5 and six top-10s in 13 starts, although none on this surface.

"I feel a little bit behind the eight ball with that deal, but I'm looking forward to getting there and seeing what kind of speed we have," Earnhardt said.

-- David Newton

Harvesting money

The press conference schedule has kicked off. Farmland Foods, as part of its hunger awareness campaign, donated $20,000 to Harvesters (The Community Food Network), a food bank in Kansas City, Mo. Farmland is a sponsor of Aric Almirola's No. 43 car at Richard Petty Motorsports.

"It just makes you feel good to be part of this," said Richard Petty, the co-owner of Richard Petty Motorsports.

-- David Newton