Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Up to Speed: Previewing the Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

There have been some interesting race sponsorship names in the past, but Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway certainly tops them all – and will no doubt garner many laughs along the way.

A result of a contest by Busch Beer to support American farmers, fans that donated to the cause were able to put in a name for the race, which would eventually be whittled down to four finalists. The choices came down to The Busch Latte 400, Nectar of the Cobs 400, For the Farmers 400, and the Buschy McBusch Race 400.

In true Internet fashion, the landslide winner was the Buschy McBusch Race 400, putting it on the upper echelon of goofy race entitlement names.

“We saw the race entitlement as a truly unique opportunity to give NASCAR fans unparalleled access to the sport while supporting people and communities that can use a helping hand,” said Daniel Blake, VP of Value Brands at Anheuser-Busch. “Giving fans creative control over an official race name while supporting the farming community that’s so important to Busch is a perfect example of how we approach our role as the Official Beer of NASCAR.”

As far as the race itself, 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, especially with the 550-horsepower package that the track has entailed over the last couple of seasons.

Coming off his win last weekend at Talladega, Brad Keselowski will start on pole, with Homestead winner William Byron starting alongside him on the front row. Daytona 500 champion Michael McDowell will roll off third, followed by Kevin Harvick, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, and Cole Custer to round out the top-10.

By the Numbers

What: Buschy McBusch Race 400, NASCAR Cup Series Race No. 11 of 36

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

When: Sunday, May 2

TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, 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)

July 2020 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Toyota (Started 10th, 57 laps led)

October 2020 Race Winner: Joey Logano – No. 22 Ford (Started second, 47 laps led)

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

Top-10 Highest Driver Ratings at Kansas:

  1. Kevin Harvick – No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – 109.7
  2. Martin Truex, Jr. – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 100.6
  3. Chase Elliott – No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 97.5
  4. Ryan Blaney – No. 12 Team Penske Ford – 96.8
  5. Kyle Larson – No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – 94.2
  6. Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Team Penske Ford – 93.8
  7. Kyle Busch – No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 92.7
  8. Denny Hamlin – No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – 90.9
  9. Joey Logano – No. 22 Team Penske Ford – 88.7
  10. Kurt Busch – No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – 88.0

From the Driver’s Seat

“It’s a track that’s pretty straightforward,” said William Byron. “It’s not one of those unique places where experience really matters. I think it’s just all about having the right combination with your car and having the right feel. So, I think it’s just one of those standard 1.5-mile tracks. It’s not anything special but I feel like we’ve done a good job of trying to identify what we need in the car there and it’s worked the past couple of times.

“I think it’s just now getting optimal. It’s amazing it takes that many years, but yeah, Kansas is just now becoming a really good character race track that is challenging for the drivers and for the crew chief to have the right set-up and changes throughout the race and all those things that you want in a race track that make it that makes the best teams rise to the top. Yeah, it’s becoming a really awesome race track. I feel like it’s becoming closer to Homestead than really Vegas. I put Vegas kind of in the category with Charlotte, with really coarse that doesn’t really wear that much. So yeah, it’s becoming an awesome race track. I love it.”

Last Time at Kansas

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin may have won the first two stages of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas last October, but in the end, the victory would come down to a duel between Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano.

Coming off pit road first during the last round of pit stops, Logano had the advantage over Harvick on the final restart with 42 laps to go, but it was anything but a done deal as the two staged a cat and mouse game as the laps continued to wind down.

With a handful of laps to go, the action really heated up, with Harvick trying every trick in the book to try and get past Logano to secure his place in the Championship 4. However, Logano’s aero advantage was just too strong that afternoon and he was able to hold off Harvick’s advances, crossing the line with a .312-second advantage for his third win of the season.

“I mean, there’s obviously a lot that goes into that, especially when you’re racing the 4, whose car was kind of the complete opposite of ours.  He was very fast on the straightaway, where ours is more of a cornering car,” Logano said of the battle with Harvick.

“When you have clean air in front of you, like Kevin did as well, being so close to the lead, the advantage probably goes to the trimmed car, which is what the 4 has.  At that point you just kind of hope for dirty air and tires to wear out a little bit.  That’s where our car should start to excel.

“So, knowing that in your mind, you try to hold him off for as long as you can.  If you can hold off 15 laps or so, maybe it would get a little easier.  It didn’t.  He hung on there for a long time, was catching me so fast on the straightaways.  It was a matter of picking the right lanes when you get there.

“My spotter T.J. did a great job wherever he stands now.  I don’t know if they put him on top of the roof any more.  Wherever he was, he got a good view, gave me a lot of good information.  From there, you stay on the mirror.  When he goes, you go.  Try to throw some dirty air up there, make sure he doesn’t get to break the plane, gets to the right or left of you, be able to side draft you from there.  That’s the biggest thing, trying to hold that position.”

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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.