All 3 Penske drivers now into the playoffs, do we see another new winner Sunday in Kansas

Calling Team Penske the hottest organization in the NASCAR Cup Series this season wouldn’t be an understatement, especially after Brad Keselowski collected his first win of the season at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend giving all three Penske drivers a victory this year locking them into the Playoffs and the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway (June 13).

 

Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney kicked the trips to Victory Lane off this season at Atlanta Motor Speedway (3/21/21) then Joey Logano followed it the very next weekend in the inaugural race on the Bristol Dirt (3/29/21) and Keselowski rounded out the trifecta of winners last weekend at Talladega.

 

Looking to Kansas Speedway this weekend, don’t be surprised if Team Penske’s success continues. Joey Logano (2014, 2015, 2020) is tied with Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002, 2014), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011, 2015), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016, 2018) and Denny Hamlin (2012, 2019, 2020) for the series-most wins at Kansas with three each. Brad Keselowski (2011, 2019) also has multiple victories at the 1.5-mile track. Though Blaney has yet to win at Kansas, he has made 12 series starts at the track posting six top-10 finishes; including a best-finish of third in 2017. He finished seventh in the first Kansas race last season.

 

Keselowski will be looking to keep the recent momentum flowing this weekend at Kansas. Keselowski has made 22 series starts at Kansas posting one pole, two wins, six top fives and 12 top 10s. He finished runner-up to Denny Hamlin in this race last season. 

Playoff Bubble: Stenhouse, Buescher and DiBenedetto straddle cutoff line

With this said, it now forces us to look at the wildcard bubble too. 10 races down, nine different winners. Just 12 points separate three drivers – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+12), Chris Buescher (+12) and Matt DiBenedetto (-12) along the Playoff cutline through 10 races of NASCAR Cup Series competition in 2021. Each week the Playoff bubble bounces shaking up the standings near the cutoff for this season’s Playoffs.

 

Nine drivers have secured their spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs on wins this season – Martin Truex Jr. (two wins), Joey Logano, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman and Michael McDowell (each have one win) – leaving just seven spots still up for grabs with 16 races left in the regular season.

 

Rank

Driver

Points

Wins

Stages

Playoff Pts

Pts From Cutoff

10

Denny Hamlin

446

0

5

5

229

11

Kevin Harvick

308

0

0

0

91

12

Chase Elliott

306

0

1

1

89

13

Kyle Busch

271

0

0

0

54

14

Austin Dillon

268

0

0

0

51

15

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

229

0

0

0

12

16

Chris Buescher

229

0

1

1

12

17

Matt DiBenedetto

217

0

1

1

-12

18

Kurt Busch

216

0

0

0

-13

19

Ryan Newman

198

0

0

0

-31

20

Bubba Wallace

196

0

1

1

-33

21

* Ryan Preece

192

0

0

0

-37

22

Tyler Reddick

191

0

0

0

-38

23

Cole Custer

178

0

0

0

-51

24

Daniel Suarez

174

0

0

0

-55

25

Ross Chastain

173

0

0

0

-56

26

Aric Almirola

159

0

0

0

-70

27

Erik Jones

157

0

0

0

-72

28

Chase Briscoe #

155

0

0

0

-74

29

Anthony Alfredo #

100

0

0

0

-129

30

Corey LaJoie

91

0

0

0

-138

 

Of the four drivers within 15 points (+/-) of the cutline, Kurt Busch (-13 points from cutline) has the best average finish at Kansas Speedway with a 15.9; followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (19.1), Chris Buescher (19.6) and Matt DiBenedetto (25.5)

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin continues to hold the top spot in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings this season, but is still looking for his first victory of the year 10 races in. As the defending winner of the first Kansas race last season and one of only four drivers to post consecutive wins (2019, 2020) at the 1.5-mile facility – Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002), Matt Kenseth (2012, 2013), Martin Truex Jr. (2017 sweep) – Hamlin is looking to end his winless drought that has reached 15 races dating back to Talladega Superspeedway last season (Oct. 4, 2020).

 

With a stout 87-point lead on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. in second in the series driver standings, Hamlin has a firm grasp on the points lead heading into this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

 

This season, Hamlin has chalked up eight top-five finishes in the first 10 races. Even without a win his consistency to finish upfront has him leading the series in several key season-to-date Loop Data metrics – Average Running Position (6.736), Driver Rating (117.0), Laps In The Top 15 (2,279 laps; 90%), Laps Led (736 laps; 29.1%) and Percentage of Laps Run on the Lead Lap (96.15%).

 

Now the Chesterfield, Virginia native turns his attention to Kansas Speedway, a track he has three victories at (2012, 2019, 2020) and is tied for the lead in the series in wins with Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002, 2014), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011, 2015), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016, 2018) and Joey Logano (2014, 2015, 2020). In total, Hamlin has made 25 series starts at Kansas posting three wins, eight top fives and nine top 10s. His average finish at Kansas is 14.5 (sixth-best among active drivers). Hamlin finished 15th in last season’s Kansas Playoff race.

Kansas could be the place Kevin Harvick rights the ship

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick since running full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2001 has won in the first 10 races of a season in 12 of his 21 seasons (57.1%). Last season through the first 10 races he had already won twice (Darlington, Atlanta) and in 2018 through the first 10 races he had won three times (Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Phoenix). But this season, Harvick finds himself winless riding a drought that stretches back to Bristol Motor Speedway last season (Sept. 9, 2020) 17 races ago. The Bakersfield, California native, Harvick, heads to Kansas Speedway, statistically one his best tracks, to end the winless drought.

 

Harvick has made 30 series starts at Kansas posting five poles (series-most), three wins (tied for series-most), 10 top fives (series-most among active drivers) and 17 top 10s (series-most among active drivers).

 

Harvick also leads every key pre-race Loop Data category heading into this weekend at Kansas Speedway – Average Finish of 8.154, series-best, Average Running Position of 8.691, series-best, Driver Rating of 109.7, series-best, 640 Fastest Laps Run, series-best, 5,613 Laps in the Top 15 (81.3%), series-most and 997 Quality Passes, series-most.

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