NASCAR Pre-Race Media: Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN) race preview at Kansas

TRACK: Kansas Speedway – (1.5-mile oval) DISTANCE: 267 Laps – Stage 1: 80 Laps, Stage 2: 80 Laps, Final Stage: 107 Laps, 400.5 Miles

Starting Lineup

WHO WILL WIN Hollywood Casino 400?

Brad Keselowski

He was in the top four in both races last year to go along with five top six finishes in his last six Kansas starts overall. Keselowski, was fourth last weekend on another 550 track at Texas.

Kevin Harvick

He was runner-up in each of his last two Kansas starts including fourth last spring too. Harvick, has eight top two finishes at Kansas since 2013.

Denny Hamlin

He’s feast or famine in Kansas with two wins in his last four tries. He was 15th in this race last year though and 12th back in May.

Martin Truex Jr. 

Since 2017, he’s had a top 10 in all but one Kansas start including sweeping both race wins in 2017. In fact, he has seven top six results in his last nine tries.

Chase Elliott

He’s had five top six finishes in his last six Kansas starts.

Kyle Larson

He won on a similar Las Vegas track back in March, led a lot of laps here in May and should have won to go along with being at his best on 550 tracks this season. I can see Larson going 2-for-2 this round.

Kyle Busch

Worth a play here. He won back in May and has four top five finishes in his last six Kansas starts.

Top Sleepers?

Christopher Bell

He scored his first Xfinity race win in this very race weekend a few years ago. He was third last weekend and has scored three straight top eight finishes and four in the last six weeks.

Alex Bowman 

He has been really good at Kansas. Bowman, was seventh when he filled in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. several seasons ago. Since then, he also has five top 11 results on the 1.5-mile track in his last six tries including being runner-up in the spring race in 2019 and eighth and fourth respectively last year.

William Byron 

He has four straight top 10 finishes at Kansas and coming off of what should have been a second straight top two finish.

Matt DiBenedetto 

He was 12th on this track last Fall and fourth in the spring race this year. He also had a pair of runner-up finishes in a similar track at Las Vegas last year too.

Tyler Reddick 

He was seventh back in the spring and has had a top three car for two straight weeks now.

Who To Fade?

Joey Logano

He won this race last year but was 15th, 17th, 35th and 17th respectively in his other four starts since 2019. In fact, he has seven finishes of 17th or worse in his last 11 Kansas starts in general. On the season, Logano has six finishes of 17th or worse on 550 tracks too to go along with one win this year and it was on a dirt track. That came 26 races ago as he’s only led 84 laps over the last 19 races overall and has six top fives in the last 24 starts.

Ryan Blaney

Four of his last five Kansas starts saw him finish 21st or worse.

Aric Almirola

No top five finishes in 19 starts puts him on this list. He’s also not scored a top 15 on 550 tracks all year.

Kurt Busch

He has just one top five in his last seven Kansas starts including being 15th in the spring race and 36th in this race last year.

Head to Head Pick:

Kevin Harvick (-120) vs. Tyler Reddick (+100)

No brainer here. Yes, Harvick finished runner-up back in the spring race but that and Bristol are his only two finishes better than fourth all season. Reddick, was runner-up just two weeks ago, had a top three caliber car last week and coming to a track he’s been really good on. Plus, you get him for + money.

Pick: Reddick (+100)

Race Preview

The penultimate race of the Round of 12 is here this Sunday in Kansas. This is a tough place for someone outside of the big programs to win at though. Just look at the recent history of winners. Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott. These nine drivers have combined to win every Kansas race since 2011.

I can make a case that Kyle Larson will add his name to this list. He already knows he’s racing for the Championship 4 in two weeks at Phoenix via his win last Sunday in Texas, but no one is touching Larson on these tracks this year.

He’s been so dominant on 550 tracks this season. In 11 races now on them, Larson has four wins, three runner-ups, eight top fives and a top 10 in all but two. The only two he didn’t get a top 10 was actually in Kansas this past spring to where he led 132 of 267 laps and restarted in the top five on the final shootout but was incurred some damage on it. Then, it was Atlanta when he had problems on pit road.

That’s it.

He’s led 1,607 out of 3,247 possible laps (50%) in these 11 races which also accounts for 71% (1,607 out of 2,267) laps led on the season for him. Furthermore, he’s won 11 stages and has been in the top two in 14 of the 23 stages run on these tracks.

This could be his race to lose again.

The other focus is on the other seven playoff drivers.

For whatever reason, the playoff race at Kansas has always been a wild one in the sense of wrecks or pit road troubles for the playoff drivers, it’s just one that has had a lot of chaos.

Ryan Blaney is +17 as he was sixth in his No. 12 Ford last Sunday in Texas. It was his seventh top eight in his last eight Texas starts at that. It was also his 12th top 10, 10 of which in the top six, in his last 16 races. He had 17 stage points too which helped him gain 16 points on the field as he entered the weekend +1 and leaves +17. The thing is, four of his last five at Kansas have seen him finish 20th or worse.

Denny Hamlin (+9) rebounded to be 11th in Texas for his first result outside of the top 10 during this postseason, but he was 15th in this race last year and 12th in the spring. His teammate Kyle Busch (+8) could benefit the most. He’s been in the top 10 in the last seven Fall races at Kansas including six of which being in the top five. He won this past spring.

Chase Elliott (-8) could also play into this. He was sixth last year, fifth in the spring race and has five top sixes in his last six at Kansas to go along with being fourth, first, second and sixth respectively in his last four Fall starts on the 1.5-mile track. The drawback is, he’s only had three top fives in 11 intermediate starts this year and has just two top fives in his last nine starts on the season at that.

Brad Keselowski (-15) scored just his fourth top five in the last 22 races on the season at Texas. While he only gained one point in the standings going from -16 to -15, he said it was a positive as he’s no longer last among the eight in the playoff standings. Plus, it shows they can still challenge for this thing.

Now, we head to Kansas next which is a place for Keselowski who has four top fours in his last five starts.

Martin Truex Jr. (-22) and Joey Logano (-43) combined for no stage points last week and really are going to maybe need to win to get to the final round. Truex has seven top six finishes in his last nine Kansas starts where Logano has been 15th or worst in four of his last five in the Sunflower State.

We could also see spoilers too.

Too bad neither of William Byron, Christopher Bell or Tyler Reddick are still championship eligible. Byron and Bell were eliminated last round while Reddick was bounced in Round 1. That’s because they’re literally outperforming some of the other playoff drivers still.

Byron, finished second last Sunday in Texas for his second top three in the last five weeks. He looked to have the best car a week prior too and was third in the closing laps before pushing too hard for the win. Reddick, was second in Charlotte and there again last week, but contact with Byron left him with some damage and he faded to ninth. Still, it was his third top 10 in the last four races. Bell, went from two laps down to third for his third straight top eight and fourth in the last six weeks.

This will also serve as the final race of the 550 package as we revert back to the 750 package for the final two weeks of the season.

Top Stat

We’ve seen 13 different winners in the last 19 races on intermediates. What’s bizarre is, none of those names including Martin Truex Jr. who hasn’t won on a 1.5-mile track since 2019 in Las Vegas.

If you start at the first race on 1.5-mile tracks last year in Las Vegas and go all the way to last Sunday in Texas, you would see 13 different names.

In 2020 you got – Joey Logano (Las Vegas), Charlotte (Brad Keselowski/Chase Elliott), Atlanta (Kevin Harvick), Homestead (Denny Hamlin), Kentucky (Cole Custer), Texas (Austin Dillon), Kansas (Keselowski), Vegas (Kurt Busch), Kansas (Logano) and Texas (Kyle Busch) following suit.

That’s nine drivers in 11 races.

This year, we’ve had eight 1.5-mile tracks in. One occurred in Homestead. William Byron won. The next was in Las Vegas with Kyle Larson. Ryan Blaney won in Atlanta, Kyle Busch in Kansas, Larson again in Charlotte, Kurt Busch in Atlanta, in Denny Hamlin Vegas and Larson for a third time last week in Texas.

We’re running out of names to keep this going? All that’s left on the big teams not on this list are Alex Bowman (HMS), Aric Almirola/Chase Briscoe (SHR) and Truex Jr/Christopher Bell (JGR).

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