By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
The Round of 12 all comes down to this.
After a wild weekend on the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway that saw the majority of the field suffer some kind of damage on the 2.66 mile behemoth in Alabama, 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.
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.
Kansas had been the second race of the Round of 12 over the past few seasons, but this year, the track serves as the cut-off race for the playoff quarter-finals. Two of the 12 drivers are already locked in with wins at Charlotte and Talladega, but the remaining 10 drivers are all still in flux as four of them will see their championship dreams end when the checkered flag flies on Sunday.
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 Sports 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 2016 Race Winner: Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota (Started third, 104 laps led)
October 2016 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:
- Jimmie Johnson – No. 48 Chevrolet – 108.7 (3 wins)
- Matt Kenseth – No. 20 Toyota – 106.5 (2 wins)
- Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Ford – 105.8 (2 wins)
- Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 78 Toyota – 98.4 (1 win)
- Ryan Blaney – No. 21 Ford – 92.2 (Best finish: 4th)
- Kasey Kahne – No. 5 Chevrolet – 91.1 (Best finish: 2nd)
- Kyle Larson – No. 42 Chevrolet – 90.6 (Best finish: 2nd)
- Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Ford – 90.3 (1 win)
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – No. 88 Chevrolet – 88.6 (Best finish: 2nd)
- Kurt Busch – No. 41 Ford – 87.6 (Best finish: 2nd)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings:
- Martin Truex, Jr (Locked into next round – Charlotte win)
- Brad Keselowski (Locked in – Talladega win)
- Kyle Larson (+29 over cut-off)
- Kevin Harvick (+22)
- Denny Hamlin (+21)
- Chase Elliott (+20)
- Ryan Blaney (+9)
- Jimmie Johnson (+7)
- Kyle Busch (-7 under cut-off)
- Matt Kenseth (-8)
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (-22)
- Jamie McMurray (-29)
From the Driver’s Seat
“Kansas Speedway designed a lot like Chicagoland Speedway, a 1.5-mile race track,” said AJ Allmendinger. “Repaved back in 2012 so the track has been smooth, but is getting some character back in. A little bit of bumps starting to develop over the last couple of years. The good thing is over the last two years the track has really started to widen out to create three-wide racing. Fast in qualifying, if the sun is out during the race it gets really slick. Fun race track, run the bottom, middle, top, a place we have had success at and ready to go do it again.”
Last Time at Kansas
In May’s Go Bowling 400 at Kansas, yellow flag fever broke out, with a record-tying 15 caution flags being shown throughout the night, including one for a vicious crash between Aric Almirola, Danica Patrick, and Joey Logano. The fiery crash would result a red flag while Almirola was extricated from his car and then flown to a local hospital, where he would learn that he had a compression fracture to his T5 vertebrae and he would be out of the car for a handful of weeks to recover.
Aside from the multiple caution flags that flew, it was Martin Truex, Jr. that came out on top when it counted, besting polesitter Ryan Blaney on a late restart to take over the lead with two laps to go and never looking back. Brad Keselowski finished second, with Kevin Harvick in third, Blaney in fourth, and Kyle Busch in fifth.
The win was the first for Truex at Kansas and helped to break a bad luck streak that he had going over the last few years at the track.
“It’s always good to get a nice beer shower, 5-Hour Energy and whatever else they’re throwing on us here,” said Truex. “Pretty awesome. Awesome day. Awesome weekend. This team rocks, man, they’re so good. We just stuck with it all night. We had an awesome race car. There’s times there we looked like we weren’t going to have a shot at it. We just kept fighting and made it happen.
“It feels great. It’s definitely been a thorn in our side. That’s for sure. You know for years and years even before I was with this team, for whatever reason we always ran good here and never could close the deal. Proud to get these guys back in victory lane. This is our home race track — the guys from Colorado. Appreciate all the fans. We got a lot of fans from Colorado here today. I met a bunch of them before the race and hopefully they’re all psyched.”
Weekend Schedule (All Times Eastern)
Friday, October 20
- MENCS Practice (1:00 pm to 2:25 pm – NBC Sports Network)
- MENCS Qualifying (6:15 pm – NBC Sports Network)
Saturday, October 21
- MENCS Practice (11:00 to 11:50 am – No TV, Streaming on NBC Sports App)
- MENCS Final Practice (1:30 pm to 2:20 pm – NBC Sports Network)
Sunday, October 22
- MENCS Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas (3:00 pm – 267 laps, 400.5 miles – NBC Sports Network)