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Track Talk: KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway

Nothing like the quiet before the storm at Kansas. (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/TPF)

Nothing like the quiet before the storm at Kansas.

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

This weekend, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Christina Bowman, Cody ShoppeKathleen CassidyJose Acero Jr, Katie CoppleKayla Sturm, and Stephen Conley ponder about any weaknesses for points leader Kevin Harvick and the implications of the recently suspended Spencer Gallagher.

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Question 1
Truly, Kevin Harvick has so many wins, we ran out of color.

Truly, Kevin Harvick has so many wins, we ran out of color.

Kevin Harvick scored his fourth win of 2018 at Dover.  Having won at various types of tracks, is there any glaring weakness with this No. 4 team?

Acero:  Where do I start on this? No! That SHR camp especially the No. 4 team is the cream of the crop. Not only is Harvick flexing his muscle week in, week out, but he is doing it at all sorts of tracks. Look for the 4 team to only get stronger from here on out.

Bowman:  The easy answer on this is…. No. I think it’s just a matter of seeing if they can carry this momentum through until Homestead, or if they are peaking early.

Cassidy:  The easy answer is no, however when the Chase comes this teams needs to be on top of their game. With lacking pit stops all season long this could make or break them in the final races.

Conley: It’s hard to tell what you are going to get with this team. Harvick said on his show the other night that there aren’t any glitches with this team, and they are nearly flawless. If that’s case, I don’t see any reason win number 5 doesn’t roll up in the heartland.

Copple:  I think their biggest issue is their terrible relationship with the pit gun… but that can be remedied. Harvick and the 4 team are unstoppable this season. It’s no doubt that they are the team to beat this year for the Championship. And at the moment, Kyle Busch is the only one who might be able to catch him.

Hobbs: Glaring might be a big word, but we do know the team has struggled a bit in the pits this year. Albeit, some has to do with the pit gun, but still counts.

Hull:  I am going to say no to that one, especially since they have been on a roll this year. Other than the struggles in the pits with the gun, they have looked great.

Lucas: I think their biggest weakness is themselves. Honestly, the Achilles heel of the No.4 team so far has been pit gun issues. It seems that it has been somewhat aided by NASCAR and it’s new nitrogen powered pit guns. As longneck as the crew can keep its composure when issues crop up, the team looks like an early shoe-in for a deep run in the playoffs.

Shoppe :  Other than an occasional pit stop error (mostly due to the awful NASCAR mandated air guns), no I don’t see a weakness for the 4 team. As it stands right now Kevin Harvick is the championship favorite. Unfortunately for him, that doesn’t mean much right now. The ups and downs of momentum in the cup series these days leads to anyone having a chance to hit on something right when it counts in the playoffs so look for the 4 team to have to keep stepping up as the season goes on.

Sturm:  It doesn’t seem like there is. Harvick hasn’t really seemed to have a problem at any type of track this year, he’s just on fire. I think it’ll be interesting to see how the No. 4 team performs as the season progresses, but as of now, I can’t spot a weakness.

Question 2
From despair to where.

From despair to where.

Spencer Gallagher was indefinitely suspended for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy.  Is this a bit of a wake up call to all racers and crew members knowing that Gallagher’s the first driver to be suspended since 2012?

Acero:  I imagine that drivers expect to be tested sooner or later. It’s something inevitable like any other sport. Now should this be a wake up call, it should. I mean what makes one think that you will get away with not getting tested after you said on national TV, “We are going to party like it’s 1999” and almost staying up all night signing autographs?

Bowman: I would not necessarily call this a wake up call. Drivers, crews, and all members of the NASCAR community have known for years now that inevitably they will get tested at least once if not numerous times. It’s a shame for Spencer and I hope that he takes all the corrective measures to rebuild his career and prevent this from happening again.

Cassidy:  I believe that all drivers, crew, and other NASCAR members know the rules implemented by the sport, yet this is a reminder that this is something one should not risk.

Conley: I don’t think it’s a wake-up call, what I do think it is, is a notice that NASCAR is still watching and you really have to be vigilant. I’m glad the sport has a zero tolerance policy. But, at the same time, they have such a fine line, that if you get sick and forget to notify them about a medication you’re taking for a headcold and it pops a hot test, you’re out. It can happen just because you didn’t inform them. Drivers and teams have to be more aware about what they are doing than I think any other sport. It’s a good/bad/ugly situation.

Copple:  I don’t think it’s a wake up call. This isn’t a new rule for NASCAR. It’s been in place for years. It has to be common knowledge that any person in the garage could be tested at any time. If someone wants to take that chance and do something they aren’t supposed to be doing and they get caught. It’s no fault but their own.

Hobbs: This has always been a rule and the drivers know they can be tested at any moment. I would not say it is a wake up call, but maybe a reminder that NASCAR has a zero tolerance policy.  

Hull:  It’s not a wake up call to racers, or at least it shouldn’t be. They have known for years that they are randomly drug tested. It is part of the job. You can’t be an effective driver if you take drugs. So, it’s only a reminder to stay on the right path.

Lucas: It’s in no way a wake up call. If you are taking anything from an OTC to a prescription, you need to inform the medical staff immediately. Illegal substances are scheduled as illegal for a reason, meaning that a person that consumes said illegal substance is knowing and willingly participating in an illicit act with harsh penalties. I love Spencer and truly hope that he completes the Road to Recovery program as soon as possible. We need more drivers with big personalities!

Shoppe: I really hope not. Everyone competing in NASCAR should be aware of the zero tolerance policy when it comes to drugs. Hopefully this will have a happy ending for Spencer and we get to see him have success back behind the No. 23 car real soon.

Sturm: Well, it could only really be considered a wake up call if other drivers were doing drugs as well (prescription or not), which we don’t know if they are. I’m sure NASCAR routinely runs these drug tests just like other sports do. I guess it could be considered a wake up call urging drivers not to get into drugs or not to start doing them.

Those are some appetizing perspectives on some of the hottest topics of NASCAR! Before we grill the steak at Kansas, let’s recall the Monster Mile weekend!
Kathleen nearly won the race with MTJ.

Kathleen nearly won the race with MTJ.

Meanwhile, our defending TPF Track Talk Cup champion has a close challenger!

Meanwhile, our defending TPF Track Talk Cup champion has a close challenger!

Saturday night’s alright for racing!  Let’s get to it with our picks to win tonight’s KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas Speedway!
Will one of these six claim the checkered flag tonight?

Will one of these six claim the checkered flag tonight?

Tiongson:  For a while, this driver hated the annual two visits to Kansas.  However, since the fall of 2014, Kyle Busch has six straight top-10’s, including a win in the spring race back in 2015.  And oh yea, he’s driving that purple Caramel M&M’s car. Yep, I’m getting Rowdy on Saturday night…and happy Mother’s Day to all of our moms and our maternal figures!

Conley: I fully expect everyone to go with Harvick, so I’m going with Kyle Larson.

Cassidy:  Jimmie Johnson & the 48 team.

Acero:  Let’s see, Kevin Harvick is using his 2016 Kansas race winning chassis this weekend, which also had two runner up finishes that same year and is fresh off a win at Dover. Harvick and that No. 4 team for the win!

Copple:  At this point, I might be better off going with him than against him. Kevin Harvick wins at Kansas.

Hobbs: I wonder if Happy Harvick’s hot streak can continue in the land of Oz.  

Bowman:  Martin Truex Jr for the win!


Hull:  Martin Truex Jr for the win!

Lucas: I smell a three peat sauteing in KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce for Martin Truex Jr at Kansas!

Shoppe:  Martin Truex Jr gets the win in Kansas!

Sturm: It’d be crazy not to go with Martin Truex Jr., so MTJ is my pick for this weekend.

TPF Stats: With seven starts, a win, six top-10’s, and an average finish of 6.14 (second best), this driver is right on par with the driver this season who has dominated the field. Who is it? Well, what better way than to say “welcome back” than by heading to Victory Lane? Matt Kenseth to Victory Lane (assuming he still remembers how to drive).  

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into tonight’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2018.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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