Weekend Preview: Hollywood Casino 400

 On a country music note, Juan Montoya’s car this weekend will be red-but not for his usual Target sponsorship but for Taylor Swift’s new album “Red.” The deluxe edition of her fourth studio album, Red, will be available exclusively at Target and Target.com nationwide on Oct. 22, just one day after the big race. His traditionally red racecar will be painted stark white with bright red detailing, and features the artwork from Taylor 's Red CD cover.

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Following last week’s Sprint Cup Series homecoming in Charlotte, the series is back on the road this weekend for the Hollywood Casino 400. After Wednesday and Thursday test sessions, drivers and teams may be thinking like Dorothy and saying “We aren’t in Kansas anymore.”Drivers and teams were welcomed by rain showers and a new track on Wednesday when they arrived at the 1.5 mile Kansas Speedway for the first of a 2 day test session. When the rain showers cleared and track drying efforts were completed, cars took to the track. The 12 year old track has experienced a repaving project and variable banking in the corners since the last time they visited the track. Jeff Gordon told the media on Wednesday that he won’t be relying on past experiences at the track as he prepares for Sunday’s race.

Chase contender, Denny Hamlin was involved in a violent crash during Thursday morning’s test session. Hamlin made hard contact on the right side, after losing control of his Camry and hitting the turn one wall. The car, which was driven back to the garage, was also Hamlin’s primary car for Sunday’s race. Hamlin was evaluated at the infield care center and asked to return for further evaluation on Thursday afternoon.

One thing is guaranteed for Sunday and that is Speed! Of the 47 cars that tested at Kansas on Thursday, 43 of them turned quicker lap times than Matt Kenseth’s track record. Regan Smith, in the #88 Chevrolet turned the fastest lap at 186.143, over 6 miles an hour quicker than Kenseth’s 2005 record qualifying lap. Among the cars utilizing the test sessions for experience, 4 of them were testing the 2013 cars. These teams included Wood Brothers Racing, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, Penske Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing.

In other NASCAR news, Danica Patrick could soon be missing from GoDaddy commercials…permanently. The advertising future of the “GoDaddy Girl” appears to be in jeopardy as GoDaddy is prepared to announce a new advertising agreement which will allow the freedom to drop Patrick from it’s advertising lineup. It is undetermined if this will affect Patrick’s sponsorship for her Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series efforts.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. met with concussion specialists on Tuesday at the University Of Pittsburgh Medical center. Earnhardt, who was not given medical clearance to participate in last week’s Charlotte race will also be sitting out this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400. Earnhardt continues to do therapy at home and is expected to test a car early next week and plans to be back for next weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

Ryan Newman will be making his 400th Sprint Cup Series start in Kansas this weekend. Newman is the 51st driver to make his 400th start and the 3rd to accomplish 400 starts this season. Kevin Harvick and Dave Blaney both made their 400th start earlier in the season.

Cars are on the track today for a practice session before qualifying. With 47 cars entered, 4 drivers will not make the field and be sent home after qualifying. Additional practice sessions are scheduled for Saturday afternoon.

Series points leader, Brad Keselowski will be bringing “Ole Faithful” this weekend to the track as he is bringing the same car he cruised to victory in the opening race of the Chase at Chicago. Keselowski, who has had a strong performance in the Chase races is my pick for this weekend. Last week’s winner, Clint Bowyer will be bringing Chassis-716, which has been raced 6 times this year. The #88 team will be bringing the same chassis that Dale Jr. took to victory lane at Michigan in June, only this time Regan Smith will be behind the wheel.

Tune into Sunday’s coverage of the Hollywood Casino 400 beginning at Noon on WBKR and WBKR.com. For a wrap up of the weekend’s events, tune into NASCAR Live with Eli Gold on Tuesday at 6PM.

I'd like to dedicate this week's article to a legend in both local and national motorsports broadcasting, Mr. Joe Lowe.

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... Blake Smith