Hendrick Motorsports vs. Toyota
Toyota has won 5 of the last 7 Kansas races including 7 of the last 12. They also swept last year. Toyota’s went 1-3-4-5-6 in the spring race (171 of 267 laps led) and 1-2-3-5 in the Fall (94 of 267 laps led). They combined to lead 265 of 534 laps (49.6%) a year ago.
So, is Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN) their race to lose?
23XI Racing swept both races in their No. 45 Toyota a year ago with Kurt Busch being victorious in May and Bubba Wallace in October. Busch led 116 of 267 laps in last year’s May race while Wallace led 58 laps in his October win. Wallace also placed fourth this past spring in Vegas too. Tyler Reddick, with RCR last year, was seventh and 35th but that 35th was a crash after leading 38 laps.
Then you have the Joe Gibbs Racing quartet.
Denny Hamlin is the only driver to have won multiple times here in the last 11 races and was fourth and second here last year.
Martin Truex Jr. has had a Top-10 finish in all but one Kansas start since 2017 including sweeping both race wins in 2017. He finished sixth and fifth last year and was seventh this past March in Vegas. Now that his long winless drought has snapped, can he win again for a second time in six days? The only other time he’s gone back-to-back in regards to wins was in 2019 when he won the Vegas and Richmond playoff races. The span between them? Six days.
Christopher Bell scored his first Xfinity race win at this very track a few years ago as well as being 10th, eighth and third in the last three Kansas playoff races and fifth in the spring race last year. Bell was also fifth in Vegas too.
Sounds like favorites, right?
However, Hendrick Motorsports just went 1-2-3 this past March in Las Vegas which saw them combine to lead 250 of the 271 laps that day. They went 1-2 in Stage 1 and 1-2-3 in Stage 2. Last Fall in Kansas, they took two of the top three non-Toyota finishers including the top two. Are they the top ones to knock off Toyota?
Kyle Larson dominated here in leading the most laps but not winning the 2021 spring race. He then would win the playoff race though in the Fall of 2021. He was runner-up and eighth respectively last year for his sixth top 8, four of which being in the Top-4 in his last eight Kansas tries. Larson led 63 laps and finished runner-up this spring in Vegas too.
William Byron has six Top-10 finishes in his last seven starts at Kansas including being ninth and sixth respectively last year. Byron also led 176 laps in a Vegas win this spring too.
Alex Bowman is out with a back injury, but Josh Berry is in. Bowman had seven top 11 results on the 1.5-mile track in his last 10 tries in this very car including being runner-up in the spring race in 2019, eighth and fourth respectively in 2020 and ninth and fourth last year. He won on a similar track in Las Vegas last spring and was third this past spring there too. Maybe Berry can finish well in it too.
Chase Elliott has had six top six finishes in his last nine Kansas starts including being fifth and second in 2021 and 29th and 11th last year. He’s been in the top 12 in all three races since his return from his leg injury.
On the final restart on Monday in Dover, four drivers lining up in the top three rows had long winless droughts that spanned over a year. Martin Truex Jr. (54 race drought) shared the front row with Ryan Blaney (56 race drought). Ross Chastain (36 race winless streak) was on the Inside Row 2 while Brad Keselowski (72 race skid) was in Row 3. It set up a mad dash for whom could end their long drought.
Truex eventually prevailed.
Now, can any of those streaks end on Sunday in Kansas?
Chastain was seventh in both races last year. He enters on the heels of nearly leading 100 laps in Dover and finishing runner-up.
Keselowski is a past Kansas winner while Blaney has slid backwards stats wise in the Sunflower State.
Denny Hamlin’s drought is up to 33 races now but he’s had a lot of success at Kansas. He’s the only driver to have won multiple times there in the last 11 races and was fourth and second here last year.
Can Truex Jr. Win 2 Straight?
It’s hard to fathom Martin Truex Jr. going 54 races between victories to then winning two races in a six day span. However, he’s won two straight races once in his career as it occurred during the 2019 postseason. He won at Las Vegas and six days later, was victorious in Richmond.
The span between races? Six days.
The span between checkered flag at Dover and checkered at Kansas?
I’m watching the 23XI Racing driver to see if he can carry the No. 45 Toyota to victory lane on Sunday in Kansas. If he can do so, he’d be the third straight driver to take this car to victory lane in as many races.
Kurt Busch won in it last May. Bubba Wallace won in this ride during last year’s playoffs. Is it Reddick’s turn?
Busch led 116 of 267 laps in last year’s May race while Wallace led 58 laps in his October win. Reddick with RCR last year, was seventh and 35th but that 35th was a crash after leading 38 laps.
We’re 11 races into the 2023 season already and have seen eight different winners. How many more are we going to see and can Kansas push that number to nine?
Ross Chastain (+139), Kevin Harvick (+101), Ryan Blaney (+95), Denny Hamlin (+86), Brad Keselowski (+72), Chris Buescher (+46), Alex Bowman (+39) and Chase Briscoe (+19) all sit above the cutline without a win.
Daniel Suarez (-19), Ty Gibbs (-22), Austin Cindric (-26), Michael McDowell (-33), Bubba Wallace (-34), Corey LaJoie (-42), Todd Gilliland (-49), Erik Jones (-64), Aric Almirola (-69), Justin Haley (-73), AJ Allmendinger (-79), Ryan Preece (-81), Chase Elliott (-102), Harrison Burton (-112), Austin Dillon (-117), Noah Gragson (-139) and Ty Dillon (-168) are all below the cutline.
6 of the 8 drivers above the cutline won last year. The other two have won multiple races over the years. Also, 6 of the drivers below the cutline also won a race as recently as last year.
That’s 12 drivers who won a year ago who’ve yet to win in 2023 and if they all win again this time and do so in the next 15 weeks, that’s 20 regular season winners.
Which is why I’m watching this weekend to see if we get a ninth different winner this season.