KANSAS CITY, KS. - Most drivers talk about Talladega and Martinsville as being the two "wild card" races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup."
But Kansas Speedway should also be on that list.
Since NASCAR first started coming to the Heartland in 2001, the Kansas race has provided some of the weirdest and most controversial moments in the series' history.
You only have to rewind to last year's nutty ending when Greg Biffle didn't cross the finish line first, but was still the race winner. The day was interrupted by a violen thunderstorm and terrential rain that most thought NASCAR would call the race official since it had reached the midway point.
It didn't turn out that way and Tony Stewart, who would have been the winner had the plug been pulled, wound up finishing 39th after getting caught up in a huge post-rain delay accident.
The finish, which came under darkness and a caution flag, was protested by Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson, who felt they should have finished 1-2 since Biffle, running out of fuel, slowed down and rolled to the checkered flag third in line.
But NASCAR still awarded Biffle the win and the topsy turvey finish jumbled up the Chase standings in a way that only three drivers had a legitimate shot at the title the rest of the way.
Sunday's race may not have that much of a dramatic flair, but there are plenty of storylines and intrigue on the horizon especially for the Chasers. Only two drivers - Johnson and Matt Kenseth - will start the race from inside the top ten. The rest of the Chase field is scattered throughout the field, the majority holding spots near the bottom including Stewart who will have to come all the way from the 41st starting position.
The strategies of the other eight drivers in the starting top ten not in the hunt for a title will be much different from the championship contenders', who can't afford to roll the dice on things like fuel strategy or tires in the late going. The conservative plan vs. the drivers who are ready to let it all hang out for a victory lane or bust afternoon should provide plenty of interest.
Finally there's the track itself, which hosts the new Sprint Cup car for the first time. Drivers and teams have complained a lot less about the new machine in the last few weeks as they continue to learn and evolve. The racing has been better, with Dover the gold standard right now, and another display of side-by-side racing for the lead might not be that far-fetched.
The Roush brigade should lead the way on Sunday but given what we've had here in Kansas over the years, I wouldn't bet on anything.