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 a lot of raindrops and Monday race at Dover this past week, we're in for a change of pace this weekend. For the third time in 2023, the NASCAR Cup Series goes intermediate oval racing. We visit Kansas Speedway for the spring event, which debuted in April of 2012. The AdventHealth 400 will take our competitors back to an intermediate oval after a seven-week hiatus from these style tracks. The 1.5-mile oval of Kansas Speedway won't likely 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 Ambetter Health 400 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

In the wake of a lot of raindrops and Monday race at Dover this past week, we're in for a change of pace this weekend. For the third time in 2023, the NASCAR Cup Series goes intermediate oval racing. We visit Kansas Speedway for the spring event, which debuted in April of 2012. The AdventHealth 400 will take our competitors back to an intermediate oval after a seven-week hiatus from these style tracks. The 1.5-mile oval of Kansas Speedway won't likely 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 Ambetter Health 400 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 eight different race winners through the first 11 events and we've by no means witnessed the end of first-time race winners in 2023. 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 September 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 30 races at Kansas Speedway.

DriverAvg. FinishQuality Passes# of Fastest LapsLaps LedLaps in Top 15Driver Rating
Kevin Harvick8.91,1636499016,243106.1
Kyle Larson14.27373464553,315100.8
Martin Truex Jr.12.21,0725228275,676100.3
Chase Elliott11.27071671972,87996.9
Ryan Blaney16.46012001743,40595.1
Christopher Bell12.831979491,19493.0
Kyle Busch14.81,1373724225,32792.8
Denny Hamlin13.31,1312143495,40692.3
Brad Keselowski12.11,0452653274,82191.6
Joey Logano17.18522515024,27387.8
Tyler Reddick20.126072681,07686.8
William Byron15.14251201261,66686.8
Alex Bowman16.14931151832,11579.0
Austin Cindric15.01325054178.3
Erik Jones19.85389231,86676.7
Austin Dillon16.25702592,12173.6
Aric Almirola 19.347178722,36673.5
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.20.138965751,55870.8
Bubba Wallace21.9220286078268.2
AJ Allmendinger20.7287345396466.7

Our most recent Kansas winner, Bubba Wallace, will be challenged to defend his turf this Sunday afternoon at the Kansas Speedway oval. The 23XI Racing veteran came on strong late and was an upset victor in the Hollywood Casino 400 last September to claim his first-career victory at the oval. Wallace used good pit strategy and a strong car to supplant Alex Bowman and some other contenders at the point and lead the final 43 laps to the finish. Both Bowman and Wallace were non-factors in the recent Atlanta race, so it will be interesting to see if Wallace can rebound to contention this Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway. 

The Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports camps will pose the biggest threat to Wallace's Kansas crown this weekend. Kyle Larson, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Martin Truex Jr. have all raced well on the intermediate ovals we've competed on to this point and all are performing well entering Kansas weekend. Larson and Truex have past Kansas victories to their credit and shouldn't be underestimated in the AdventHealth 400. Aside from these two super-teams, some Ford drivers should pop onto our fantasy racing radar screens at Kansas. Joey Logano won at the Atlanta oval several weeks ago and he's a three-time Kansas winner. In fact, Logano is the only Ford driver to visit victory lane thus far in the 2023 season. He'll certainly be a name to watch closely at Kansas Speedway. We'll highlight the fantasy racing drivers you need this Sunday afternoon to dominate this 400-mile battle at the Kansas oval.

The Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win

Kyle Larson – Larson is looking to rebound from his crash at the Monster Mile this past Monday and Kansas Speedway is a good place to start the comeback. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet has led over 350 laps in his last five Kansas starts, and he cracks the Top 5 here at a strong 31-percent rate. Larson has improved those numbers in recent visits as he's collected one win and one runner-up finish at Kansas Speedway in his last three starts at the track. This event one year ago saw the Hendrick Motorsports star lead 29 laps and finish runner-up to Kurt Busch. Larson had a lot of momentum before being involved in a crash not of his making at Dover this past week. Kansas gives him an excellent opportunity to get back into the win column.

Kyle Busch – The Richard Childress Racing star has been a steady performer on the intermediate ovals dating back to the end of last season. He has three Top 10's in his last four starts on the 1.5-mile tracks. Busch is a two-time winner at this facility, and the last was this event two years ago. With over 400 laps led at Kansas Speedway and a steady 47-percent Top-10 rate, Busch is a performer at this intermediate oval. With two victories already this season, the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet is a possible breakout performer any weekend. Busch has three Top-5 finishes in his last five Kansas starts, so he's been pretty sharp in recent races at this track.  

William Byron – Monday's strong performance at the Monster Mile netted a season-high of 193 laps led but he would fade to fourth-place by the checkered flag. Byron is going to be strong on certain tracks this season, intermediate ovals included. He already has a win this season at the similar sized oval in Las Vegas. Byron has Top 10's in six of his last seven starts at Kansas Speedway, but he's never won in a Cup car at the track. That could change when the checkered flag waves at Kansas Speedway Sunday afternoon. Byron is looking for the missing ingredients to be strong at the end of a race, and he could very well solve that problem in the AdventHealth 400. Three of his six-career wins have come on intermediate ovals.

Joey Logano – Logano's ill-handling car this past Monday at Dover led to a late-race crash and DNF. He'll look to rebound at Kansas Speedway and the AdventHealth 400. The change to intermediate oval should help the No. 22 Ford team. Logano has won two of the last four 1.5-mile oval races dating back to the end of last season (Las Vegas and Atlanta). The Penske Racing star is tied with Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick for active wins at Kansas with three. It's been a very good oval for Logano with a 30-percent Top-5 rate and over 500 laps led for his career. More recent visits haven't measured up to his expectations, but we have a very strong feeling that Logano is motivated to rebound big in this 400-mile battle.  

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

Martin Truex Jr. – Coming off the big win at Dover this past weekend, 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 is beginning to heat up and turn the corner on his 2023 season. Truex rides an impressive seven-race Kansas Top-10 streak into Sunday's AdventHealth 400. Those finishes and his 800+ laps led at Kansas Speedway and 55-percent Top-10 rate speak to his career-long excellence at this facility. Continue to ride the No. 19 Toyota team while they're hot.  

Ross Chastain – The Trackhouse Racing veteran appeared to be on track for another challenge of victory lane at Dover Motor Speedway this past week, but he would get passed and held off by Martin Truex Jr. to finish second in the Wurth 400. The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet hasn't visited victory lane yet this season but he rides into Kansas atop the driver point standings. Chastain has eight-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 set new expectations at Kansas Speedway last year with a pair of strong seventh-place finishes in the AdventHealth 400 and Hollywood Casino 400. He should surpass those finishes Sunday at the Kansas oval.

Christopher Bell – Bell has a short Cup Series history at Kansas Speedway, but it's packed with results. The Joe Gibbs Racing youngster has grabbed two Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes in just six starts. Bell won the pole for this event one year ago and led 37 laps before finishing fifth-place on the day. He would return in the Fall and pilot the No. 20 Toyota to an equally impressive third-place finish in the Hollywood Casino 400. Bell has set the bar pretty high at Kansas Speedway with those performances last season. The notes from those races will indeed come in handy. Bell has been zeroed-in on the intermediate ovals this season with fifth- and third-place efforts at Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Ryan Blaney – With his third-place finish Monday at the Monster Mile, Blaney seems to have reversed his slow start to the season. He now rides a three-race Top-10 streak into Kansas Speedway this Sunday. The Kansas intermediate oval has held a good bit of success over the years for the No. 12 Ford team. With seven Top-10 finishes in 16 starts Blaney checks in at a reasonable 44-percent Top-10 rate and 16.4 average finish. His last start at the speedway last September netted a ninth-place finish in the Hollywood Casino 400. Given the current momentum of this driver and team and Blaney's sound history at Kansas Speedway, he should be a good bet for a Top 10 in the AdventHealth 400.

Sleepers – Drivers with good history at Kansas & solid upside

Denny Hamlin – Hamlin has posted a pair of Top 5's in the last three races and now seems to be clearing some of the inconsistency he's battled to start 2023. 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. Hamlin rides a three-race Kansas Top-10 streak into this weekend, which has lifted his career Top-10 rate at the track to 41-percent and a respectable 13.3 average finish. The No. 11 Toyota team have been very consistent on the intermediate ovals dating back to the end of last season. With finishes of fifth-, seventh-, 11th- and sixth-place in the last four cookie cutter oval contests, the finishing statistics are very reassuring.

Bubba Wallace – Last season's Kansas victor is looking forward to a return to the Heartland oval this weekend. Wallace led 58 laps and took a convincing victory in last September's Hollywood Casino 400. That performance marked one of two Top-10 finishes for the No. 23 Toyota team at the oval last year. The notes that Wallace and crew chief Bootie Barker made in those races will be invaluable. It's been a rocky season for the 23XI Racing driver so far, but the good news is that one of his two Top 10's so far this season came on the similarly sized and banked Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That was Wallace's best performance of the campaign so far (fourth-place). He's coming off an encouraging 12th-place run at Dover this past Monday and gathering some positive traction.    

Tyler Reddick – Both 23XI Racing drivers are due fantasy consideration this weekend. Reddick's No. 45 Toyota team won the last time they raced at Kansas Speedway. The former pilot, Kurt Busch, led 116 laps and took a dominant victory in last September's Hollywood Casino 400. Reddick is now the driver of this car and will look to benefit from all the knowledge gained in that performance. He's been steady on intermediate tracks this season with 15th- and fifth-place finishes at Las Vegas and Atlanta. Reddick also won the pole position at Kansas last Fall with his former No. 8 RCR team. The 29-percent Top-10 rate at Kansas Speedway isn't dazzling, but we believe Reddick has the recent experience to rise above that Sunday afternoon.  

Chase Briscoe – Briscoe hasn't been a world-beater at this track, but his recent level of performance has been very noteworthy. The Stewart Haas Racing youngster had a three-race Top-5 streak halted at Dover this past weekend. Briscoe will look to rebound on a much friendlier Kansas Speedway this Sunday. He collected a Kansas career-best 13th-place finish last September, and Briscoe will be looking for that and more in the AdventHealth 400. Intermediate ovals have been a bit of a mixed bag for this driver and team recently, but as Briscoe illustrated last October at Las Vegas, he's capable of leading laps on these size ovals and nabbing Top-5 finishes.

Brad Keselowski The owner/driver of the RFK No. 6 Ford has been heating up of late. Keselowski has fifth- and eighth-place finishes in his last two events and appears to be gathering some momentum. The veteran driver has fifth- and eighth-place finishes in the last two races and has climbed to ninth-place in the driver points. Keselowski is a two-time winner at Kansas Speedway and his 13 Top 10's checks in at a strong 50-percent rate. He wasn't overly inspiring at the 1.5-mile track last season, but he should rebound nicely Sunday given his current level of performance. Keselowski has a pair of Top 10's in his last three intermediate oval starts and that's a great indicator heading into the AdventHealth 400.      

Daniel Suarez – Suarez is looking to rebound from his mistake and crash at Dover this past weekend. Kansas Speedway will provide the backdrop for his comeback this Sunday. The Trackhouse Racing driver has four Top 10's this season and one of those came at the similar sized/banked oval in Las Vegas in March. In fact, two of his last three starts on intermediate ovals have netted Top-10 finishes for the No. 99 Chevrolet team. Suarez has been decent at Kansas Speedway since moving to the Trackhouse team in 2021. His last four starts at the 1.5-mile track have netted two Top-10 finishes, with his last netting 8 laps led and a 10th-place finish in the Hollywood Casino 400 last September.    

Slow Down - Drivers to avoid this week

Kevin Harvick – The No. 4 Ford team is still searching for the right stuff to lead laps and challenge for victories. Harvick enters the weekend snared in a three-race Top-10 dry spell. The Stewart Haas Racing star has three victories and five runner-up finishes dating back to 2013 at Kansas Speedway. However, last season Harvick seemed to fall off the edge of the cliff at Kansas. With very uncharacteristic 15th- and 36th-place finishes, the veteran driver and his team looked clueless on what has been a very successful track for him over his career. Harvick's current struggles coupled with his recent poor performance at Kansas indicate the fantasy bench is the only option this weekend.

Alex Bowman – Last week Bowman was involved in a sprint car crash on Tuesday night in Iowa. His car flipped several times and the veteran Hendrick Motorsports driver suffered a fractured vertebra. He was stated to miss the next three to four weeks with the injury and Josh Berry stood in very capably (10th-place) in the No. 48 Chevrolet at Dover this past Sunday. Bowman is going to be sidelined for a while so continue to keep him benched in the interim until we know more about his return date. As a side effect of the injury, Berry's fantasy status is worth reviewing and considering on the tracks that Bowman has had success with in the No. 48 Hendrick team.

Chase Elliott – Elliott has been just a bit underwhelming since his return from a broken leg. In the three races since his return, finishes of 10th-, 12th- and 11th-place have been his body of work. While that's not all bad, it's certainly not up to the A-tier level of performance we expect to receive from Elliott and the No. 9 team. It may be best to continue saving his starts in weekly lineup leagues until Elliott gets the rust completely knocked off and he gets into a better groove. He's a one-time winner at Kansas Speedway, with a very strong 57-percent Top-10 rate. However, Elliott's current level of performance coupled with his 29th- and 11th-place finishes at Kansas last season seem to indicate a non-start status this Sunday.

Austin Cindric – Currently mired in the deepest of funks, Cindric and the No. 2 team limp into Kansas Speedway this weekend. The Penske Racing youngster has just two Top 10's on the season and have only cracked the Top 20 once in the last five events. During that span Cindric has tumbled from 14th- to 19th-place in the driver standings. The search for answers this weekend could be fruitless once again for this driver and team. Cindric has three-career starts at Kansas Speedway and no Top 10's to this point. His last four starts on intermediate ovals have netted just one Top 10 and a subpar 16.3 average finish. Cindric's current struggles are very concerning, and we consider him a high-risk fantasy selection for the AdventHealth 400.

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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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