NASCAR Kansas Preview: Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray Ready For Hometrack Show

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Staff Report ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Carl Edwards (Photo: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Carl Edwards (Photo: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Before he began trading paint in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Clint Bowyer was a 23-year-old body shop worker at Emporia Motors in his hometown of Emporia, Kansas.

At the time (2003), he raced cars, and won titles, at local tracks, including Thunderhill, Lakeside and I-70 Speedway. Bowyer also began racing in ARCA when he caught the eye of six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion owner Richard Childress. Bowyer received a phone call from Childress at the car dealership and thought he was an impersonator pulling a practical joke. After realizing the caller was actually Childress, he soon left for North Carolina to compete for Richard Childress Racing.

The move worked out well for Bowyer, who spent six season with RCR before moving to Michael Waltrip Racing in 2012.

A winner of eight-career NSCS races, he now owns Emporia Motors. Its new name – Clint Bowyer Autoplex.

Bowyer returns to his home state this weekend for Saturday’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) at Kansas Speedway, a track where he owns five top-10 finishes in 13 starts, but has no victories.

“Fast race cars,” replied Bowyer when asked about the keys to getting around Kansas. “You know, on any of these mile and a halves, especially mile and halves that have been repaved, you’ve got to have good equipment. The guys have worked really hard at MWR to find some things and I think we’re headed in the right direction. I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing all my family and friends of course, and putting on a good show.”

Two more drivers who also will compete in front of the hometown crowd are Missourians Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray. Similar to Bowyer, Edwards worked as a substitute teacher before earning a full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride from Jack Roush.

Edwards has struggled so far in his first season with Joe Gibbs Racing, tallying just one top-10 finish, but a visit home may alleviate his struggles. He has never won at Kansas either, but boasts the second-best average finish there (10.1). In 15 starts at the Midwestern track, the No. 19 Toyota Camry driver has six top-five results and 11 top-10 finishes.

Despite his Chip Ganassi teammate Kyle Larson receiving the majority of the fanfare heading into the season, McMurray has carried the organization through the first 10 races. He is currently seventh in the points standings and has placed in the top six in five of the last seven races.

McMurray, vying to make his first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup appearance, has liked his speed on 1.5-mile tracks this season.

“We have been pretty fast unloading on all the mile-and-half tracks so far this year,” McMurray said. “Hopefully Kansas is no exception, where we can unload fast on Friday and focus on our race plan. We were really good there in the fall, but cut a tire late in the race that ended our day. Kansas is a great trip for us, being that it is close to where I grew up racing, and I always get a chance to go fishing with my dad leading into the race weekend.”

Crafton can continue to dominate 1.5-mile tracks at Kansas

No driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has been more dominant on 1.5-mile tracks than Matt Crafton the past year.

It’s one of the main reasons the No. 88 Toyota Tundra driver was able to win his second consecutive NCWTS championship last season.

In nine starts at intermediate courses dating back to the Truck Series’ latest visit to Kansas Speedway on May 9, 2014, Crafton has tallied two wins, three runner ups and nine top-10 showings for an average finish of 3.4.

He will attempt to continue his reign at 1.5-mile tracks when the NCWTS returns to Kansas Speedway for the Toyota Tundra 250 (8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). Crafton has started all 14 NCWTS races at Kansas, more than any other driver. He is also tied for the track record with three top-five finishes.

“As the only driver entered that’s competed in all 14 Truck Series races at Kansas, I feel old, at 37, crazy,” Crafton said. “Kansas is definitely a tricky race track – it’s tough to get off Turn 4 and to get your stuff handling good in Turns 1 and 2 and then be that good in Turn 4, it’s tough. Just getting balance overall is key.”

The ThorSport Racing driver will also try to improve on his second-place finish at Kansas last season and win there for the second time in three years.

“We were really, really fast (at Kansas) last year; a contender all night,” Crafton said. “We were a little bit free-in and tight center and off, but we were scared to make any adjustments to hurt us on corner entry. I had to protect my entry and that’s how Kyle (Busch) got around us for the win.”

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