Today's STP 400 figures to provide evidence of why International Speedway Corporation is ripping up the 11-year-old track surface at the conclusion of the race and putting in a fresh coat of asphalt with new progressive banking in the turns. The current 14-degree configuration has rarely led to any substantial level of action, late race duels between Joe Nemechek and Ricky Rudd in 2004 and Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards in 2008 aside. Last year's STP 400, the first spring race for the Kansas track after the facility was awarded a second Sprint Cup race, was actually held on the first weekend of June. This year's event is being held early enough to give the track enough time to get its new surface installed, cured, and race-ready.
With that being said, one more race on Kansas's notoriously boring configuration remains. For the record, STP stands for the legendary Scientifically-Treated Petroleum brand that sponsored Richard Petty for so many years, not "SleepTheraP 400."
If you can stay awake, here are some storylines for you to watch for in today's 267-lapper.
Can polesitter A.J. Allmendinger break through with his first win? Allmendinger is driving the same car, the No. 22 Penske Dodge, that Kurt Busch won the pole and dominated last year's race with before having to pit for fuel late. Teammate Brad Keselowski was able to stretch his fuel mileage just far enough to grab the win. With an organization like Penske, Allmendinger is a win waiting to happen, and today is his best opportunity yet.
Does Hendrick Motorsports finally get its 200th win? Win No. 199 for the organization came last fall at Kansas, when Jimmie Johnson dominated en route to his 56th-career win. Thirteen races have passed since then, and while they have come close, Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have yet to break through for the milestone triumph. Kasey Kahne, meanwhile, is coming off his first top-10 in seven races with Hendrick. Johnson and Gordon each have two Kansas victories.
Point leader Greg Biffle broke through last week, can he keep the momentum going? Before Biffle won last Saturday at the Texas Motor Speedway, his most-recent win had come in the fall of 2010 at Kansas. He also won a darkness-shortened race there in 2007. He should have no problem keeping his early-season surge going today, with the true test of his Roush-Fenway Racing team due to come in the summer and fall months of the season.
Can Aric Almirola score one of the most-popular wins in recent memory? In an event sponsored by STP, Almirola's No. 43 Ford is carrying the iconic Petty blue and day-glo red colors that The King raced for 20 years. Were the Tampa, FL, native to score his first-career victory, it would be the first win for the No. 43 - with 198 triumphs to its credit - since John Andretti won at Martinsville in 1999.
Plenty of other headlines will hopefully pop up during the race, but coming off one of the most-dull races of the Sprint Cup season, the immediate forecast for action is not promising.