NASCAR & Auto Racing

Kansas Speedway notes: A.J. Allmendinger will pay homage to Topeka native

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is executive producer of a miniseries, “NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is executive producer of a miniseries, “NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed.”

During the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in September, A.J. Allmendinger will pay homage to Shawnee Heights High graduate and Topeka resident Bruce Hill, who was the Winston Cup Series rookie of the year in 1975.

Allmendinger’s No. 47 Dillons/Kingsford Chevy will use the same paint scheme that Hill, 67, used in 100 Cup races during 1974-1981.

“To be able to have Bruce’s paint scheme I think is pretty awesome,” Allmendinger said. “ … We are going to go out there and try to make him proud.”

Hill was stunned when he got a call from Allmendinger’s public relations rep to let him know about the throwback paint scheme, but it was a cathartic moment.

“It’s been 35 years or so since I’ve even been back in the garage area,” Hill said. “I was like a lot of guys back then that ran out of money and had to get out of it and couldn’t stand to go back without being involved in it, so it’s been an experience. It’s been fun. It’s brought back a lot of memories.”

Hill will try to get his old team together for a photo with Allmendinger’s car at the Sept. 4 race.

Unfortunately, Allmendinger scrapped plans to pay homage to Hill in another way.

“I was going to try to grow the mustache like he had back in the day,” Allmendinger said. “That thing was sweet by the way, but my baby face doesn’t grow a mustache that way.”

McMurray eager to apply Chase lessons

It’s been an uneven season for Jamie McMurray and his Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates teammate, Kyle Larson, but he’s hopeful things will turn around at Kansas Speedway.

McMurray — who qualified 21st for Saturday’s Go Bowling 400, which airs at 6:30 p.m. on Fox Sports 1 — believes the team has dialed in its technical program on 1  1/2 -mile tracks.

“This weekend will be a big weekend,” said McMurray, a native of Joplin. Mo. “We’ve made some really big steps heading into Kansas setup-wise. They’ve learned quite a bit of stuff in the wind tunnel that we are going to apply this weekend that I think will make a big difference.”

After making NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup for the first time last season, McMurray is eyeballing a return to the playoff and a chance to put the lessons he learned into practice.

“When I look back at our Chase last year, I felt like every year that I had watched the Chase prior to that there were always guys that self-eliminated themselves from it,” said McMurray, who currently sits 13th in points.

McMurray’s plan was to be consistent in the opening round and avoid a similar hiccup, but he was eliminated on a tiebreaker after finishing 16th at Chicagoland Speedway, 14th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and fourth at Dover International Speedway. He’s eager for a second crack.

“When I look back at those races, I don’t know that I could have done anything different,” he said. “But maybe we’d try to be a little more aggressive this time.”

Reduced ‘pucker factor’

Brad Keselowski said the “pucker factor” was higher at Kansas Speedway than any other track last year because of the open-throttle racing it encouraged.

The new low-downforce package has changed that, including practice speeds that were roughly 5 mph slower, but he doesn’t believe it will diminish the racing.

“We ran wide-open in qualifying here last year and it was, ‘Whoa. I just barely made it,’ ” Keselowski said. “It’s not going to be that way this year. The speeds are down a little bit, but the cars are actually harder to drive, so I feel more like a driver and less like a passenger than I did last year.”

Cobb qualifies for truck race

Jennifer Jo Cobb — a Kansas City, Kan., native and Schlagle graduate — finished 24th in the Toyota Tundra 250 on Friday night.

Cobb started her racing career when she was 17, appearing in a May 1991 race at Lakeside Speedway.

“When I was a young girl watching my dad (Joe) race across the Midwest, I was determined to be a race-car driver,” Cobb said. “When Kansas Speedway was built, my life changed as things started to come together for me to compete at the top level of NASCAR.”

Twenty-five years after her Lakeside debut, Cobb, who owns her Mark One Electric Chevy team, is one of two full-time female drivers on NASCAR’s national touring series along with Sprint Cup driver Danica Patrick.

Junior’s miniseries begins Sunday

The first episode of the three-part historical miniseries, “NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed,” will air at 8 p.m. Sunday on CMT.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the executive producer of the series, which focuses on NASCAR co-founder Bill France’s early racing/promotion career during the Prohibition era and the vision to organize NASCAR in the first episode.

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer