Photo: Justin R. Noe/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Preview

By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor

Elimination Sunday is upon us again.

Last weekend’s visit to the the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway saw an ass kicking by Stewart-Haas Racing and other Playoff drivers foiled by fuel mileage. With the 2.66-mile Alabama behemoth in the rear-view mirror, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads west to America’s Heartland to take on the fast 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway for Sunday’s running of the Hollywood Casino 400 – the final race of the Round of 12.

First joining the circuit as a relatively tame 1.5-mile track with 15 degree banking in the turns, Kansas underwent a massive reconfiguration in 2012 that transformed it into a much more treacherous track with variable banking ranging from 17 to 20 degrees in the turns.

Heading into Kansas, three drivers are locked in on either wins or points (Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, and Kevin Harvick), leaving the final five spots up for grabs at Kansas.

By the Numbers

What: Hollywood Casino 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 32 of 36

Where: Kansas Speedway – Kansas City, Kansas (Opened: 2001)

TV/Radio: NBC, 2:30 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90

Track Size: 1.5-mile oval (Banking: 17-20 degrees in turns, 10 degrees on frontstretch)

Race Length: 267 laps, 400.5 miles

Stage Lengths: 80 laps each (First two stages); 107 laps (Final stage)

May 2018 Race Winner: Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota (Started third, 104 laps led)

October 2017 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Chevrolet (Started 11th, 74 laps led)

Track Qualifying Record: Kevin Harvick – 27.325 seconds, 197.621 mph – October 5, 2014

Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Kansas:

  • Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 108.0
  • Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 105.4
  • Matt Kenseth – No. 6 Ford – 103.1
  • Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 100.0
  • Ryan Blaney – No. 21 Ford – 95.9
  • Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 91.4
  • Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 90.3
  • Kyle Busch – No. 18 Toyota – 89.8
  • Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford – 88.1
  • Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota – 87.5

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings:

  1. Chase Elliott (Locked into next round – Dover win)
  2. Aric Almirola (Locked in – Talladega win)
  3. Kevin Harvick (+63 over cut-off)
  4. Kyle Busch (+46)
  5. Joey Logano (+39)
  6. Kurt Busch (+30)
  7. Clint Bowyer (+21)
  8. Martin Truex, Jr. (+18)
  9. Brad Keselowski (-18 under cut-off)
  10. Ryan Blaney (-22)
  11. Kyle Larson (-36)
  12. Alex Bowman (-68)

From the Driver’s Seat

“It’s definitely a little bit different just for the fact the (corner) entries are a little different than at most places,” said Kevin Harvick. “Turns three and four remind me of turns three and four at Chicagoland Speedway, but there’s a lot more grip and fresher asphalt than what Chicagoland has nowadays.

“It’s a very high-speed racetrack. You run the middle to the bottom of the racetrack. But I’m sure, as time goes on, that the groove will move back up. But, for right now, it’s very fast and very sensitive to your line and, with all the speed and how tricky the entrance is into turn one, you can miss your line easily. So, you have to be very specific about where you put your car and pay attention to what you’re doing.”

Last Time at Kansas

Kyle Larson looked to have the field covered the last time the Cup Series visited Kansas back in May, but a crash on lap 249 changed everything. Larson and Ryan Blaney spun in Turn 1, paving the way for pit strategy to come into play in the waning laps of the race.

Martin Truex Jr elected to stay out on old tires, while Kevin Harvick came to pit road for fresh rubber and had to start back in the pack.

It looked as if Truex would be able to hang onto the lead until a violent crash with 14 laps to go involving William Byron, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, and others brought out a 13-minute long red flag and set up the final restart.

On the restart, Truex pulled away with the lead, but Harvick, who had restarted in sixth place, found some speed running the high line and steadily chewed up Truex’s advantage. Coming to the white flag, Harvick was able to power past Truex in Turns 3-4 and that was all she wrote.

Harvick would beat Truex back to the finish line by .390 seconds to score his fifth win of the season and third at Kansas – tying him for most all-time at the track.

“I think this weekend shows really how good the race team is,” said Harvick. “Everything didn’t go exactly smooth and everybody just kept a good demeanor about things and kept calm and kept working through things.  The same thing tonight.  Everybody just kept working through trying to make the car better and we were able to wind up in Victory Lane.  Those are the days that you just grind it out.”

Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)

Friday, October 19

  • MENCS Practice (2:05 pm to 2:55 pm – NBC Sports Network)
  • MENCS Qualifying (7:10 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Saturday, October 20

  • MENCS Practice (10:30 am to 11:20 am – CNBC)
  • MENCS Final Practice (1:05 pm to 1:55 pm – NBC Sports Network)

Sunday, October 21

  • MENCS Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas (2:30 pm – 267 laps, 400.5 miles – NBC)

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.