By David Morgan, Associate Editor
One race down, nine to go.
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs enter its second week as the title contenders move on to Kansas Speedway looking to punch their ticket into the next round by winning Sunday’s running of the Hollywood Casino 400.
Among those drivers in the running for the Bill France Cup, six of them are previous winners at Kansas, with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano having won at the track in recent years.
Kansas Speedway has come into its own in recent years, following a repave and reconfiguration back in 2012. The track first joined the circuit in 2001 as a relatively tame 1.5-mile track with 15-degree banking in the turns, but the reconfiguration transformed it into the track we know today with variable banking ranging from 17 to 20 degrees in the turns.
With the groove widening out as the track has weathered in, drivers have been able to run from the bottom of the track all the way up to the top, and more of the same should be seen this weekend.
By the Numbers
What: Hollywood Casino 400, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 34 of 36
Where: Kansas Speedway – Kansas City, Kansas (Opened: 2001)
When: Sunday, September 11
TV/Radio: USA Network, 3:00 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 2022 Race Winner: Kurt Busch – No. 45 Toyota (Started fifth, 116 laps led)
October 2021 Race Winner: Kyle Larson – No. 5 Chevrolet (Started on pole, 130 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 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – 109.9
- Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 100.4
- Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 100.2
- Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 99.9
- Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Team Penske Ford – 95.1
- Brad Keselowski – No. 6 Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford – 94.0
- Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 92.9
- Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 92.0
- Kurt Busch – No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota – 88.6
- Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford – 88.5
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings:
- Joey Logano (2065 points)
- William Byron (+32 points over cut-off)
- Denny Hamlin (+30)
- Christopher Bell (+28)
- Tyler Reddick (+23)
- Ryan Blaney (+20)
- Kyle Larson (+17)
- Ross Chastain (+15)
- Chase Elliott (+14)
- Alex Bowman (+10)
- Kyle Busch (+8)
- Daniel Suarez (+2)
- Austin Cindric (-2 under cut-off)
- Austin Dillon (-4)
- Chase Briscoe (-10)
- Kevin Harvick (-13)
From the Driver’s Seat
“With the progressive banking, we continue to move up,” said Ross Chastain. “I don’t know exactly what the weather is going to be like Sunday. There are some chances of some stuff we don’t like to talk about and some cooler air. But definitely practice on Saturday will be just using that top lane. We’ve seen that for quite a few years now. These cars like momentum. They like more racetrack to turn on, so they want the widest corner possible.
“If the guy in front of you is similar in speed and he’s running your line up top, it’s not great. But the great thing about Kansas (Speedway) is that you can make the bottom work if you’re better. And if you’re not, I feel like I’ll be patient and I just have to wait for the next opportunity. You’re not stuck in line, but you don’t want to give the guy behind you momentum and clean air. So it’s a mix of offense and defense.”
Last Time at Kansas
Kurt Busch was on rails last time the Cup Series visited Kansas, delivering the first win for the new No. 45 entry at 23XI Racing.
Following a lap 235 restart, Busch passed younger brother Kyle to take over second-place and set his sights on another Kyle – Kyle Larson – who held onto the lead of the race.
As Larson encountered lapped traffic, Busch closed in, making the decisive pass with seven laps to go, setting sail to the victory.
“This is our first win for the 45 car and with Jordan Brand on the hood,” Kurt Busch said. “I felt like I had to play like the GOAT, race like the GOAT, and I had to beat the Kyles. I had to beat both. This was like the Kyle and Kyle show.
“I remember Ned Jarrett said, this is the Dale and Dale show. If I can get one Kyle, I can get both. I had to have the confidence to know that our setup would do things on short run and long run.
“Thanks to Jordan Brand, Toyota, Monster Energy, McDonald’s, MoneyLion. Just all the team partners of 23XI. This 45 car is the winner now.”
While the win was Busch’s ticket to the Playoffs, he unfortunately was not able to put the win to use as he has been on the sidelines recovering from concussion-like symptoms since a qualifying crash at Pocono back during the summer.
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Saturday, September 10
- NASCAR Cup Series Practice (12:05 pm – USA Network)
- NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying (12:50 pm – USA Network)
Sunday, September 11
- Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas (3:00 pm – 267 laps, 400.5 miles – USA Network)