KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- If Chicagoland Speedway is any indication, Sunday's race at Kan sas Speedway should be a little more competitive.
Both racetracks are identical in size and shape, prompting most to call them ''cookie cutter'' facilities because they resemble other 112-mile, D-shaped tracks at Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Texas; Las Vegas; Rockingham, N.C.; Michigan; and California.
Chicagoland and Kansas joined the NASCAR Winston Cup Series last year, and their newness didn't allow for much side-by-side racing. Drivers said until the asphalt has time to cure, the only way around is along the bottom groove.
A year later, Chicagoland was a little bit better. Everyone hopes Kansas offers as much improvement, if not more.
A year ago at Chicagoland, there were 14 lead changes among 10 drivers at the 267-lap event. This year, there were 19 changes among 11 drivers. Last year at Kansas, there were 19 lead changes among 12 drivers.
''Usually the racetracks, when they get a year under their belts, the racing gets better,'' Bill Elliott said.
''A new surface and a hard tire is hard to race on. It's just like Chicago. We were able to make up a couple extra grooves there and the racing got a lot better from the first time out. That's typical for all of these racetracks. As the track gets a little age on it, it gets better.''
STEWART CLEARED: Tony Stew art has been cleared of a fan's charge that he struck her at a race in August at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
A Sullivan County (Tenn.) grand jury took no action after it reviewed evidence provided by the county's sheriff's department, evidence that claimed the fiery driver pushed a West Vir ginia woman over a tire as he tried to leave the speedway.
''Just as I've contended all along, I did not assault anyone, and I'm relieved to know a grand jury has come to the same conclusion,'' Stewart said.
Stewart faced possible simple assault charges in Tennes see, but his punishment by NASCAR could have been far worse.
He was placed on probation for the rest of the season and fined for striking a photographer at Indianapolis Motor Speed way. If he had been charged with simple assault and found guilty, NASCAR could have suspended him.
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