5 Wildly Intriguing Facts About Kansas Speedway Every NASCAR Fan Should Know
First, a disclaimer: If you’re from or live in the Kansas City, Kansas area, perhaps you already know the full history of Kansas Speedway, and all of the forthcoming information will be old news.
But, if that’s not you and you’re not a walking Encyclopedia of all things Kansas Speedway, perhaps you’ll appreciate the info that will be passed along momentarily about the 1.5-mile track.
With this in mind, let’s dig into a handful of wildly intriguing facts — in no particular order — about Kansas Speedway, which plays host to two annual events on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
1. There’s a world-class casino on site
If you thought you had to go to Las Vegas to find a major casino within hollering distance of a NASCAR track, well, think again.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway might be located in the gambling capital of the world, but Kansas Speedway actually has a fully operational casino on-site.
Open all throughout the year and not just on race weekends, the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway is home to over 1,600 slot machines, more than 40 table games, and five restaurants — including one that sits just outside of the speedway’s second turn and offers a nice view of the race track.
2. The late Ricky Hendrick won the track’s first NASCAR race
Before NASCAR Cup Series drivers competed for the first time at Kansas Speedway, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series did so almost three months earlier — in the first on-track event here of any kind.
The winner that day — July 7, 2001 — was Ricky Hendrick, the 21-year-old son of legendary team owner Rick Hendrick. Sadly, Ricky Hendrick lost his life along with nine others when a Hendrick Motorsports plane crashed en route to Martinsville Speedway on October 24, 2004.
Prior to his death, the younger Hendrick competed in a total of 68 events between the Craftsman Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
His only win came in that inaugural race at Kansas, where he led 32 of 167 laps and took the checkered flag nearly three seconds ahead of runner-up Ted Musgrave.
3. Jeff Gordon made it a clean sweep of the first two Cup Series races at Kansas but didn’t win again there for a long time
To no one’s surprise, really, four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon captured the first-ever Cup race held at Kansas Speedway — on September 30, 2001.
A bit more, surprising, however, was the fact that Gordon and his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team returned to Victory Lane at Kansas one year later, going a perfect 2-for-2 at the fledgling facility.
Perhaps even more surprising than that, though, was that Gordon only managed to prevail at Kansas once more — in May 2014 — before retiring from full-time Cup Series competition at the end of the following season.
4. The track underwent a significant facelift in 2012
Before its NASCAR Cup Series weekends in April and October 2012, Kansas Speedway had plastic surgery. Well, not exactly, but it underwent quite the makeover, nevertheless.
Changes to the 1.5-mile track included a full repave and the addition of variable banking in the corners, which left the turns at 17-20 degrees instead of their previous 15-degree incline throughout. Drivers have since been able to successfully complete passes while using multiple grooves around the race track, and the overall racing product at Kansas Speedway has improved dramatically.
“I think Kansas has been a great race track and — from a driver’s standpoint — a fun race track because of the fact it’s worn in so well,” said Cup Series Kevin Harvick, a participant in all 34 Cup races hosted by the track that’s located smack dab in the middle of America’s heartland.
“Kansas has become one of the more unique race tracks because of the fact of the asphalt. And the shape of the race track is so driver-friendly as far as where you can drive on the race track. You can literally drive from the wall to the apron all the way around the race track.”
5. Greg Biffle won a race at Kansas but didn’t cross the finish line first
In what to this day remains one of the most head-scratching finishes in NASCAR history, Greg Biffle won the 2007 LifeLock 400 at Kansas Speedway despite not being the first driver to cross the finish line on the final lap.
Yes, you read that correctly. NASCAR declared Biffle the winner even though multiple cars passed the Roush Fenway Racing driver when his car began sputtering badly as it started running out of fuel while inching toward the checkered flag under caution.
Although Biffle made it to the finish line, he was running so slow by the time he got there that several cars just behind him had no choice but to pass. And, pass they did.
Despite Kansas native and race runner-up Clint Bowyer questioning the legitimacy of the finish during post-race interviews, NASCAR still declared Biffle the victor and never reversed the call.
NASCAR’s justification for the controversial decision? According to the powers that be, the field was “frozen” — that is, drivers couldn’t advance their position — under caution. So, from NASCAR’s perspective, Biffle was the rightful winner even if he wasn’t the first driver to the checkered flag.