AdventHealth 400 Preview: Return to Intermediate Ovals

AdventHealth 400 Preview: Return to Intermediate Ovals

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

In the wake of the wild finish at Darlington last week, we're in for a change of pace this weekend. For the third time in 2022, the NASCAR Cup Series goes intermediate oval racing. We visit Kansas Speedway for the spring event, which debuted in April 2012.  

The AdventHealth 400 takes our competitors back to an intermediate oval after an eight-week hiatus from these style tracks. The 1.5-mile oval of Kansas Speedway may not give us a sequel of what played out at Atlanta several weeks ago, but the teams that performed well at the Georgia oval in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 should be in for another strong race weekend. The teams that dominated at Atlanta Motor Speedway are sure to be licking their chops for this visit to America's heartland. 

While Kansas only offers 15-degree corner banking compared to 28-degree corner banking at Atlanta, the similarities are enough to warrant reconsideration of almost the same driver group that we had at the Georgia speedway. Both tracks are the "D" shaped configuration so the handling characteristics will be much the same. However, the racing surfaces of the two tracks are completely different. Atlanta's surface is brand new and much less prone to tire wear. Kansas Speedway has a much older surface and will consume tires at a faster rate. That one wrinkle could play a big role in altering the driver group just a bit. One thing is for certain, the remarkable parity we've seen so far this

In the wake of the wild finish at Darlington last week, we're in for a change of pace this weekend. For the third time in 2022, the NASCAR Cup Series goes intermediate oval racing. We visit Kansas Speedway for the spring event, which debuted in April 2012.  

The AdventHealth 400 takes our competitors back to an intermediate oval after an eight-week hiatus from these style tracks. The 1.5-mile oval of Kansas Speedway may not give us a sequel of what played out at Atlanta several weeks ago, but the teams that performed well at the Georgia oval in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 should be in for another strong race weekend. The teams that dominated at Atlanta Motor Speedway are sure to be licking their chops for this visit to America's heartland. 

While Kansas only offers 15-degree corner banking compared to 28-degree corner banking at Atlanta, the similarities are enough to warrant reconsideration of almost the same driver group that we had at the Georgia speedway. Both tracks are the "D" shaped configuration so the handling characteristics will be much the same. However, the racing surfaces of the two tracks are completely different. Atlanta's surface is brand new and much less prone to tire wear. Kansas Speedway has a much older surface and will consume tires at a faster rate. That one wrinkle could play a big role in altering the driver group just a bit. One thing is for certain, the remarkable parity we've seen so far this season should continue at Kansas Speedway. We've had 10 different race winners through the first 12 events featuring the new Next-Gen car. Kansas could offer a few more surprises as well. 

Since we're making our first stop of the season at Kansas Speedway, we need to take a brief look back at history at this intermediate oval. These numbers will be even more important than usual, since it's been since last October since we last competed at this oval. As you'll see in the table below, some of the hottest drivers in the series right now are making a very timely start at Kansas this weekend. Here are the loop stats for the last 28 races at Kansas Speedway.

DriverAvg. FinishQuality Passes# of Fastest LapsLaps LedLaps in Top 15Driver Rating
Kevin Harvick7.81,1246499016,126109.9
Martin Truex Jr.12.79614938035,255100.4
Chase Elliott9.86021641872,510100.2
Kyle Larson15.55963204262,79399.9
Ryan Blaney17.34911891712,93795.1
Brad Keselowski11.51,0062623274,62294.0
Kyle Busch14.81,0423304044,98292.9
Denny Hamlin14.11,0251933495,05792.0
Kurt Busch14.61,0331772734,91988.6
Joey Logano17.17572425003,92188.5
William Byron16.134199921,26485.7
Tyler Reddick15.223738689683.5
Christopher Bell17.323640070782.3
Erik Jones17.95129131,79381.6
Aric Almirola 18.945972692,29375.9
Austin Dillon16.55102561,92874.4
Alex Bowman17.541080761,62774.3
Cole Custer15.81443040871.5
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.20.231950721,29570.3
Chris Buescher18.019192363667.4

Our most recent Kansas winner, Kyle Larson, will be challenged to defend his turf this Sunday afternoon at the Kansas Speedway oval. The Hendrick Motorsports star dominated the Hollywood Casino 400 last October to claim his first-career victory at the oval. Larson used good pit strategy and a strong car to supplant Chase Elliott at the point and lead the final 39 laps to the finish. Both Larson and Elliott were non-factors in the recent Atlanta race, so it will be interesting to see if both drivers can rebound to contention this Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway. 

The Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske Racing camps will pose the biggest threat to Larson's Kansas crown this weekend. Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were all strong this past weekend at Darlington Raceway. All three drivers have past Kansas victories to their credit and shouldn't be underestimated in the AdventHealth 400. Aside from these two super-teams, Kevin Harvick should pop onto our fantasy racing radar screens at Kansas. He's a three-time winner at this oval, and he seems to be finally getting his act together in the Next-Gen car. Harvick is coming off a strong fourth-place finish at Darlington Raceway last Sunday and rides a three-race Top-10 streak into Kansas Speedway. We'll highlight the fantasy racing drivers you need this Sunday afternoon to dominate this 400-mile battle at Kansas Speedway.

The Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win

William Byron – Last week's dominant performance, but near-miss of victory lane at Darlington Raceway is a signal. Byron is going to be a major factor in these intermediate oval races this season. His victory at Atlanta, Top 5 at Las Vegas and last week's impressive performance at Darlington are compelling evidence. The No. 24 team is zeroed-in on these size ovals right now. Byron rides a five-race Kansas Top-10 streak into this weekend's action, but he's never won here. That could change when the checkered flag waves at Kansas Speedway Sunday afternoon. Byron is on fire right now and he'll be one of the top drivers to beat in the AdventHealth 400.        

Joey Logano – Logano's bump-and-run win at Darlington last Sunday was controversial, but he got the job done and collected his first victory of 2022. The Penske Racing star should heat up now. We have a feeling it could come down to Byron and Logano again this weekend in the closing laps to decide the race. That wouldn't surprise us at all. Logano is a three-time Kansas winner and he's led 500 laps for his career at this intermediate oval. It's one of his favorites. He's won here as recently as 2020 and Logano's 32-percent Top-5 rate at Kansas Speedway is noteworthy. The driver of the No. 22 Ford rides some big momentum into this weekend, and he'll be in the mix for the win in this 400-mile battle.

Martin Truex Jr. – The two-time Kansas winner sets his sights on grabbing his third win at this intermediate oval this Sunday afternoon. Truex swept both victories at Kansas Speedway in 2017, so he's no stranger to victory lane at this facility. The Joe Gibbs Racing star has yet to scratch the win column this season, but he's inching closer to that likelihood. Truex had a fast car at Darlington this past week and led a number of laps before getting rolled up in a multi-car crash. He's been consistent and Top 10 all season on these mid-sized ovals, but now is the time to win. Truex's 800+ laps led at Kansas Speedway and 52-percent Top-10 rate speak to his career-long excellence at this facility.

Ross Chastain – The Trackhouse Racing veteran appeared to be on track for another challenge of victory lane and potential Top-5 finish at Darlington Raceway this past week, but he would get tangled in a multi-car crash that took down several contenders. The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet has consistently led laps this season and challenged for wins on these mid-sized ovals, and Kansas Speedway should be no different. Chastain has six-career starts at this oval, but nothing special in his historical stats that set him apart. Don't get wrapped up in that aspect. Chastain has elevated his game to an all-new level with this race team, and he'll be around the leaders at the end barring any unforeseen setbacks. 

Solid Plays – Near locks for a Top 10 with an outside shot to win

Chase Elliott – Elliott will look to keep his hot streak rolling coming into Kansas this week. He rides a five-race Top-10 streak coming into the AdventHealth 400, and the momentum is undeniable. Elliott is fresh off a Top-5 run at Darlington and positioned well for this race. The Hendrick Motorsports star is a one-time Kansas winner and he cracks the Top 10 here at a blistering 67-percent rate. Six of Elliott's last seven Kansas Speedway starts have netted Top-10 finishes, including a runner-up finish in last October's Hollywood Casino 400. This track truly is one of his favorite intermediate ovals. Elliott is a safe fantasy racing play this week and carries a lot of potential upside.   

Kevin Harvick – The No. 4 Ford team is still searching for the right stuff to lead laps and challenge for victories. However, while that search continues, Harvick still makes steady starts and racks up Top 10's most weeks. The Stewart Haas Racing star has three victories and five runner-up finishes dating back to 2013 at Kansas Speedway. He collected second- and third-place finishes here last season. With well over 900-career laps led at Kansas, this is one of Harvick's more successful intermediate tracks. He rides a four-race Kansas Top-5 streak into Sunday's action. The veteran driver of the No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Ford is a Top-10 lock and has the outside line on possibly finding his groove again in Sunday's AdventHealth 400. 

Kyle Larson – Larson is our last Kansas Speedway winner. He returns to the scene of his dominant performance in last October's Hollywood Casino 400. While Larson hasn't been in race-winning form for most of this season, he still makes a considerable asset to deploy in fantasy racing leagues this weekend. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet has led well over 300 laps in his last three Kansas starts, and he cracks the Top 10 here at a pedestrian 43-percent rate. Larson has better intermediate ovals in his resume, but he's been coming on stronger at this one in recent seasons. The Hendrick Motorsports star had pretty good speed at Darlington this past Sunday, but succumbed to an engine failure. Larson will be on the rebound trail this Sunday at Kansas Speedway, but he has the tools to succeed.

Kyle Busch – The Joe Gibbs Racing star has been either awesome or unlucky on these intermediate sized tracks thus far this season. Busch has Top-5 potential, but has been caught up in a couple accidents. He'll look to rebound Sunday at the 1.5-mile Kansas oval. Busch is a two-time winner at this track, and the last was this event one year ago. With over 400 laps led at this facility and a steady 46-percent Top-10 rate, Busch is a performer at this intermediate oval. Outside of the Bristol dirt win, the driver of the No. 18 Toyota hasn't been much of a threat to win this season. That makes him a perfect inclusion in the solid plays list this week.

Sleepers – Drivers with good history at Kansas & solid upside

Alex Bowman – The cookie cutter tracks have always been Bowman's best on the circuit.  This season has been a similar experience. The Hendrick Motorsports veteran has a Las Vegas victory and Atlanta Top-10 to his credit so far. Bowman will be rebounding from a crash and DNF at Darlington this past week, but that's of little concern. Bowman's recent exploits at Kansas Speedway have netted four Top-10 finishes in his last seven starts for an average finish of 8.9 across the span. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet stays on the lead lap here, and tends to finish within the Top 15 in most starts. Bowman finished 11th-place in his last Kansas Speedway start, and that's reflective of his potential this Sunday afternoon.

Christopher Bell – Bell has been steady on these intermediate ovals so far in 2022. The Joe Gibbs Racing youngster has a Las Vegas pole and 10th-place finish as well as a sixth-place finish this past week on the Darlington oval. The driver of the No. 20 Toyota rides a two-race Top-10 streak into Sunday's AdventHealth 400. Bell has four-career starts at Kansas Speedway and two Top 10's in those efforts. His last start at Kansas netted a respectable eighth-place finish in last October's Hollywood Casino 400. The young driver is off to a good start in the new Next-Gen car and he has the experience at this track to post a good finish.     

Tyler Reddick – The Richard Childress Racing youngster is coming off 10 laps led and a strong runner-up finish at Darlington this past week. That just one of a pair of Top 10's this season on intermediate ovals. The driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet has a pair of second-place finishes in the last four events. Reddick is a bit boom-and-bust in that respect, but still very worthy of weekly consideration in salary cap and weekly lineup leagues. Reddick's five-career starts at Kansas Speedway have netted a pair of Top-10 finishes, including a strong seventh-place finish in this event one year ago. The RCR driver is riding some momentum into the AdventHealth 400, and boasts some recent success at this intermediate oval.

Austin Dillon – Dillon hasn't been a world-beater at this track, but recent visits have been very encouraging. The driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet has finishes of 11th-, 10th- and 10th-place in his last three trips to Kansas Speedway. That consistency has helped lower his career average finish at this oval to 16.5 and increase his Top-10 rate to 29-percent. Dillon has started 2022 well in the new Next-Gen car. He has six Top 10's so far this season and comes to Kansas with Top 10's in five of his last seven events. Dillon feels like he just has a surprise win hidden away somewhere this season, and it could be this Sunday at Kansas Speedway. At the very least he should be one of the faces battling it out in the Top 10 in this 400-mile contest.         

Michael McDowell – With three Top-10 finishes in the last four events, McDowell lands squarely on our radar screen for Kansas Speedway. The Front Row Motorsports veteran is coming off a strong seventh-place finish at Darlington and looking for more at Kansas. The driver of the No. 34 Ford has kicked it in high gear since the Bristol dirt race and has erased some of the woes the team suffered early in 2022 in the new stock car. McDowell has 21 starts of experience at this track, but his best outings have only come in the most recent seasons. Finishes of 16th-, 19th-, 13th- and 16th-place have been his last four Kansas results. We believe the FRM veteran is poised for a career-best Kansas finish in Sunday's AdventHealth 400.     

Daniel Suarez – While Ross Chastain has grabbed most of the headlines for Trackhouse Racing this season, we can't overlook the steady work Suarez has been doing for this same team in their second car. The driver of the No. 99 Chevrolet is coming off a respectable 10th-place finish at Darlington and he posted a strong fourth-place finish at the intermediate oval in Atlanta earlier this season. Suarez has really been sharper on the intermediate and larger ovals in 2022 than he has been on the short tracks. That theme should carry into Sunday's 400-mile contest at Kansas. Suarez has 10-career starts at this oval, and he nabbed 11th- and 15th-place finishes here last season. He could eclipse those marks Sunday afternoon.   

Slow Down - Drivers to avoid this week

Brad Keselowski – Last weekend Keselowski crashed finished a distant 34th-place at the Track Too Tough to Tame. That's just the latest in a series of struggles for this driver and team. Keselowski has just one Top 10 for the season and he hasn't visited the Top 15 in the last three events. Kansas Speedway has been a facility of success for the driver of the No. 6 Ford. He has two wins and boasts a 54-percent Top-10 rate at this oval. However, that past success is not highly likely for this Sunday. Keselowski's intermediate oval finishes this season point to a 23rd-place average finish. That's far below expectations for this veteran driver.

Denny Hamlin – The Joe Gibbs Racing star is a three-time Kansas Speedway winner and he's led close to 350 laps for his career at this facility, but he's been far from consistent finishing at this oval. Hamlin's 37-percent Top-10 rate at this track speaks to his career highs and lows here. What's more concerning is his lack of success in 2022. The driver of the No. 11 Toyota has just one Top 10 this season, and it was his surprise victory at Richmond. All else has been a struggle in total. Hamlin has led a combined 100+ laps the last two weeks but has come away with subpar 21st-place finishes at both Dover and Darlington. That's illustrative of the speed Hamlin has had, but also of his poor luck in finishing.    

Ryan Blaney – Blaney hasn't had the intermediate oval success that his Penske teammate, Joey Logano, has had this season. The driver of the No. 12 Ford has yet to crack the Top 10 this season on an intermediate sized track and his subpar 20.3 average finish on these ovals tells the tale. In addition, Kansas Speedway has not been Blaney's best intermediate oval in recent history. With just one Top 10 in his last six Kansas starts and a career average finish of 17.3, Blaney has better intermediate ovals in his resume. It's best to keep Blaney and the No. 12 Ford team on the bench for the AdventHealth 400 and look to deploying the young driver on a superspeedway oval or short track. 

Bubba Wallace – Wallace started the season with an impressive runner-up finish at Daytona, but it's been a steady downhill descent ever since. The 23XI Racing driver hasn't visited the Top 15 in his last seven starts, and he's tumbled all the way to 24th-place in the driver point standings after his crash and DNF at Darlington this past week. Wallace will look to rebound at Kansas Speedway this Sunday, but faces a big uphill climb. The Kansas oval has been stingy for the driver of the No. 23 Toyota. Wallace has eight-career starts at this facility and just one Top-15 finish to his credit. The 26.0 average finish across the career span is less desirable than we'd like to see in a driver.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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