NASCAR Kansas Auto Racing

Brad Keselowski (2) celebrates after winning at Kansas Speedway back in May. The Monster Cup circuit returns to Kansas City, Kan., on Sunday.

Back to Kansas. Which begs the question.

Why?

NASCAR has long had an issue with momentum, and this is a perfect example of a scheduling buzzkill.

From the best race we saw all year to a track nobody from around here has ever been to or will ever go to.

Oh well, that’s racin’.

The buzz from Talladega might carry the sport right past this weekend and get us to Martinsville with enough steam to get us to the end of the year. Next season, NASCAR will once again try to rig the schedule, hiding both Kansas events right after the two Charlotte races. Making this one an elimination race should give it enough attention that race fans might forget they’re not in Alabama anymore.

Ryan Blaney shoved his way into the Round of 8, dipping onto the yellow line, which everyone except NASCAR saw, and claiming another of the cherished spots for the next three races before Homestead.

Blaney and Kyle Larson, two drivers who didn’t seem trending toward the final eight, have now closed the door on a whole bunch of drivers. To make it to Martinsville still in contention, most of them have to win in Kansas.

That alone should make this a race to watch — and it would if it were anywhere other than Kansas.

It’s a cookie-cutter track from the unfortunate era of track building and from the unfortunate time of westward expansion. They call it a McTrack, a production-line oval that reminds fans of all the other McTracks scattered throughout the schedule.

And fans have stopped coming.

Attendance at Kansas has fallen from the announced 80,000 who came out of curiosity to the first race there in 2001 to about half that. The track has removed all but about 48,000 seats, and as of now there is no sponsor for next spring’s race.

It shows up on the 2020 schedule as the NASCAR Cup Series Race at Kansas. But heck, that sounds a lot better than the SpongeBob SquarePants 400, which is what they used to call the spring race out there. Is it any wonder why Kansas City race fans don’t take it seriously?

At least the Chiefs aren’t in town.

NASCAR has hinted that the 2021 schedule will have surprises, and a lot of industry folks will be surprised if Kansas still has two races. There’s a strong push to add another short track to the schedule and even a groundswell of fans wanting a dirt track race. That’s probably not going to happen.

But no one is talking about building a new track either. Kansas ended the appetite for new tracks. Not one has been built since it opened.

So here we go again, back to the 1.5-mile oval that looks like Charlotte without the people. A sport riding a rare wave of attention after a great race only a few days ago now slips back over the horizon.

The good thing is it gets us a week closer to Martinsville.

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