Hollywood Casino 400 Preview: Round of 12 Continues

Hollywood Casino 400 Preview: Round of 12 Continues

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

This week we continue the Round of 12 in the Chase for the Cup. For the 12 remaining drivers in the field the pressure increases as we travel to Kansas and take one more step in narrowing the field of championship contenders to eight. Since so many drivers ran into trouble at Charlotte last week, this event will be like a reset and yet another opportunity to win and advance. For the fifth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR pays its second visit of the season to Kansas Speedway just outside Kansas City for the Hollywood Casino 400.

When we think of the Kansas oval we think of the many intermediate ovals on the circuit. This oval may not be exactly like Charlotte, Texas or Atlanta, but it could easily be the most important oval regarding the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship by the time we reach Homestead in November. As we visit the 1.5-mile oval in Kansas this weekend the schedule offers up a huge advantage to fantasy racing players and the drivers alike. For it was only five short months ago that the stars of NASCAR were locked in combat at this intermediate oval. The data from that race, the GoBowling.com 400, will be fresh and applicable to the field for this weekend's Hollywood Casino 400. The oval of Kansas Speedway is our third intermediate oval event in the Chase for the Cup. It is one of five races on ovals of this

This week we continue the Round of 12 in the Chase for the Cup. For the 12 remaining drivers in the field the pressure increases as we travel to Kansas and take one more step in narrowing the field of championship contenders to eight. Since so many drivers ran into trouble at Charlotte last week, this event will be like a reset and yet another opportunity to win and advance. For the fifth race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR pays its second visit of the season to Kansas Speedway just outside Kansas City for the Hollywood Casino 400.

When we think of the Kansas oval we think of the many intermediate ovals on the circuit. This oval may not be exactly like Charlotte, Texas or Atlanta, but it could easily be the most important oval regarding the Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship by the time we reach Homestead in November. As we visit the 1.5-mile oval in Kansas this weekend the schedule offers up a huge advantage to fantasy racing players and the drivers alike. For it was only five short months ago that the stars of NASCAR were locked in combat at this intermediate oval. The data from that race, the GoBowling.com 400, will be fresh and applicable to the field for this weekend's Hollywood Casino 400. The oval of Kansas Speedway is our third intermediate oval event in the Chase for the Cup. It is one of five races on ovals of this size in the 10-event Chase lineup that crowns our champion. That means ovals of this size and style makes up a whopping 50-percent of the championship-crowning Chase for the Cup schedule. So pay close attention this weekend as trends from this 400-mile race will set the stage at upcoming intermediate ovals. While Kansas had been a Toyota facility the past few seasons, the pendulum had recently swung in Chevrolet and Ford's direction. Our race in May of this year went back in favor of Toyota. Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. monopolized the lead in that event, with Busch eventually coming out on top. However, there were a handful of Chevrolet suitors that were close behind this duo. Considering that Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott have both been hot on intermediate ovals entering this weekend they should be top contenders again. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas were not invisible at Charlotte this past week, but they were shut out of victory lane. Matt Kenseth and Busch should lead the way at Kansas for this Toyota super-stable.

Since we're making our second visit of the season to Kansas Speedway, we need to take a brief look back at history at this intermediate oval. These numbers will be even more important than normal and even more relevant given that we've seen a lot of repeat winners at this facility. As you'll see in the table below, some of the hottest drivers in the series are making a very important start at Kansas Speedway this weekend. Here are the loop stats for the last 17 races at Kansas Speedway.

DRIVERAVG FINISHQUALITY PASSESFASTEST LAPSLAPS LEDLAPS IN TOP 15RATING
Jimmie Johnson7.97785355813,721110.4
Matt Kenseth11.15743316443,510107.4
Kevin Harvick9.46123074273,392103.4
Jeff Gordon11.2657159493,46799.4
Greg Biffle11.25522112823,01196.8
Martin Truex Jr.17.14432655182,76995.5
Carl Edwards9.96291551553,08295.4
Kasey Kahne13.66221691693,06091.8
Kyle Larson18.620890391391.8
Brad Keselowski12.1497931582,47791.6
Tony Stewart17.14801421642,36689.1
Kurt Busch16.15391422562,76588.5
Denny Hamlin16.853473682,68086.6
Joey Logano18.73891722921,94385.6
Ryan Blaney13.0946553585.4
Kyle Busch18.1506951562,41683.8
Clint Bowyer16.635748481,80381.1
Aric Almirola18.0168536992879.8
Chase Elliott 9.020409279.3
Paul Menard17.635336242,03978.2

The race earlier this season at Kansas Speedway was quite special. It was Kyle Busch's third of four victories to this point in the season, and his serving notice of how strong the No. 18 Toyota team would be on these intermediate ovals in 2016. He led only 69 laps that day but came on strong at the right time to defeat Kevin Harvick and his brother, Kurt Busch. Busch has been one of the most consistent drivers thus far in this season's Chase, going a perfect four-for-four in Top 10s to this point. Harvick and Kurt Busch were second- and third-place finishers that day, and it was another near-victory that slipped through Harvick's fingers as the checkered flag waved. For Charlotte winner, Jimmie Johnson, it's another opportunity to win again this weekend at the Kansas oval and taking another huge step toward the championship. He has been looking to make headway in the Chase standings, so this is a very timely visit to Kansas Speedway for this driver and team. Aside from the Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports drivers, the Furniture Row Racing stable should be poised for a big rebound this weekend. Truex struggled at Charlotte this past weekend, so he will be looking for a bit of redemption in the Hollywood Casino 400. With all that Truex and the No. 78 team has been through the last month, big expectations will be the order for this veteran driver at Kansas. With championship implications weighing heavily, we expect to see some real urgency in the racing, and some rebound performances for drivers that disappointed at Charlotte this past weekend. We'll highlight the drivers you need this Sunday afternoon and the ones you need to avoid in order to dominate the day at Kansas Speedway.

The Contenders - Drivers in the hunt for the win

Jimmie Johnson -
Our six-time Sprint Cup Series champion has three poles, three victories and 601 laps led in 20-career starts at Kansas Speedway. Johnson hasn't displayed the "winning touch" lately, until the big win at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday. The surprising win in the Bank of America 500 has roared this team back to life and into serious championship contention. The race at Kansas Speedway will afford Johnson another opportunity to sharpen his claws on these intermediate ovals in an effort to get ready for the championship-crowning race at the 1.5-mile oval in Homestead, Florida. The Hendrick Motorsports star has won as recently here as the spring of 2015, so it wouldn't be surprising at all to see Johnson win in back-to-back weeks.

Kevin Harvick -
The Stewart Haas Racing star has been battling consistency issues all season long. They've ran right into the Chase as his struggles at Charlotte this past weekend showed us. However, if there's anything this No. 4 team is good at its circling the wagons and making a huge comeback. The last three seasons have shown that Harvick has a knack for bearing down and claiming clutch victories when facing Chase elimination. That could be the case again this Sunday. Harvick is a one-time Kansas winner, and he's finished runner-up in three of the last five races at this facility. If Harvick hopes to contend for the championship he's got to break through for the win this Sunday afternoon.

Martin Truex Jr. -
The dark horse play at Kansas Speedway is Truex and the No. 78 Toyota team. The Furniture Row Racing driver had a big letdown and power outage at Charlotte this past weekend, but he's been one of the series most dominant drivers on these style ovals in 2016. With his win earlier this season at Charlotte and his win to kick off the Chase for the Cup at Chicago, there can be no underestimating this No. 78 team. Truex won the pole and led a whopping 172 laps in a dominant performance earlier this season at Kansas Speedway. However, bad luck and a loose wheel led to a 14th-place finish on a night when Truex had the most dominant car on the track. The homerun potential here simply can't be overlooked in fantasy racing leagues.

Kyle Busch -
At four races into the Chase for the Cup, Busch is showing that he will indeed be a championship contender by the time we reach Homestead. Busch has 127 laps led, a runner-up finish and two Top-5 finishes in the first four events of the Chase. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota had a fast car at Charlotte this past week, so he comes to the heartland this weekend with some real urgency to perform. Busch has never been that impressive at the Kansas oval, but he was our last winner here with his big victory at Kansas in May. He qualified sixth on the starting grid and grabbed his first Kansas victory in the GoBowling.com 400. With a win guaranteeing a spot in the Round of 8 of the Chase, don't be surprised if Busch pulls a season-sweep at the Kansas oval.

Solid Plays - Drivers who are near locks for the top 10 with an outside shot at winning

Matt Kenseth -
The Joe Gibbs Racing star comes to a great track this weekend. Kenseth has been strong on the intermediate ovals this season and Kansas has been no exception. The veteran driver has two-career victories at this facility and over 650 laps led. Kenseth cracked the Top 10 at Chicago to begin the Chase for the Cup, and he had an even better car at Charlotte this past week. The veteran driver led 5 laps and peddled his Toyota home to an impressive runner-up finish in the Bank of America 500. With the championship coming into closer focus with each race, you can bet the No. 20 team will be on their "A" game this Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway.

Brad Keselowski -
The Penske Racing star comes to the heartland oval this weekend looking to advance in the Chase for the Cup. His steady performances since Chicago have setup his potential advancement into the next round of the Chase, and he hopes to punch that automatic bid with a victory since we're visiting another intermediate oval. Keselowski is normally pretty strong on these style tracks as his Top-10 finishes in his last five starts on these style ovals this season shows. He won at Kansas Speedway in 2011 and he has seven Top-10 finishes in 13-career starts at Kansas Speedway. Keselowski led 3 laps and battled with the leaders in May at Kansas, before eventually finishing 10th. This time around can only be seen as finishing some unfinished business for the No. 2 Ford team.

Kurt Busch -
Another Chase for the Cup participant is eyeing Kansas Speedway this weekend with huge eyes. Busch quietly racked up a solid eighth-place finish this past week at Charlotte, and he's coming to the Kansas oval to keep that trend going. This 1.5-mile speedway hasn't been the best for this Stewart Haas Racing star over the years, but Busch intends to reverse those trends come Sunday afternoon. He's posted four Top-10 finishes in the last five intermediate oval races of 2016, and that includes his impressive third-place finish at Kansas Speedway in May of this year. Considering that Busch sits right in the middle of the current 12-driver Chase field, the stakes are high coming to Kansas this week.

Chase Elliott -
This will be Elliott's second-career Sprint Cup start at Kansas Speedway this weekend. The rookie driver qualified 13th and finished a steady ninth-place at this oval in May of this year. This time around the stakes will be much higher. Elliott is racing for a championship, and his poor finish at Charlotte this past week has put that in jeopardy. However, the No. 24 Chevrolet was very fast this past weekend. Elliott led 103 laps and had the speed to win before a wreck took him out in the late stages. We're willing to bet the young driver rebounds in a big way in the Hollywood Casino 400. The Hendrick Motorsports rookie might even have the speed to claim his first victory in NASCAR's top division.

Sleepers - Drivers with good history at Kansas who can provide a solid finish

Joey Logano -
Logano has been almost as impressive as his teammate Brad Keselowski on these 1.5-mile tracks in 2016. The driver of the No. 22 Ford finished runner-up at Chicago to start the Chase and he has four Top-10 finishes on these style ovals this season. The Penske Racing star hasn't been quite as strong on the intermediate ovals this year as he has been the past couple years, so that's the reason for the downgrade to the Sleepers list for this event. Logano sits in precarious points position to advance in the Chase for the Cup, so hopefully that motivation and urgency will spur him to a very good finish at Kansas Speedway.

Kasey Kahne -
The No. 5 team's late-season surge continued at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week. Kahne peddled his Chevy to an impressive third-place finish in the Bank of America 500. Despite not being in the Chase, this veteran driver has found a groove and continues to fire for effect as the season winds down. The Kansas cookie cutter oval should be just as kind to him this week. Kahne sports a 44-percent Top-10 rate at this oval, which is decent enough. Two of his last five visits to Kansas Speedway have yielded Top-5 finishes. We expect the Kahne Top-10 train to continue rolling down the tracks in this 400-mile event.

Kyle Larson -
Despite the blow of not advancing in the Chase, the No. 42 team pulled themselves up and turned in a great performance at Charlotte last weekend. Larson's fifth-place finish totally broke the mold for what this driver and team had done on intermediate ovals this season. Larson has only five-career starts at Kansas Speedway, and they've not been the most performance-filled starts of his career. He posted a runner-up and 12th-place finish here in his rookie season of 2014, but the other three starts have been less than impressive. Throw out the record books this weekend, as we should have at Charlotte last week. The driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet should stay on top of his recent surge again this Sunday afternoon.

Aric Almirola -
Despite missing the Chase for the Cup this season, Almirola hasn't let that demoralize him nor the No. 43 Ford team. In fact, since the Chase began, this has been some of the best racing of the season for the struggling Almirola. The journeyman driver has posted three Top-17 finishes in the last three races and has been racing with improved confidence each weekend. His Kansas Speedway resume isn't bad either. Almirola boasts three Top 10s in eight-career starts at this 1.5-mile track. Considering that the No. 43 team is coming off a steady 15th-place finish at Charlotte this past week, we believe they'll be good again in the Hollywood Casino 400.

Ryan Newman -
Historically speaking, this is not that great a venue for Newman. He has one-career victory and seven Top 10s in 21 starts. That works out to a lowly 33-percent Top-10 rate, but recent outings have been boosting that total. The RCR veteran has grabbed three Top 10s in his last four trips to Kansas Speedway. Those efforts snapped a string of seven-straight events without at Top 10 at the heartland oval. Newman has been one of the more consistent performers late this season on these style tracks with four Top-10 finishes in the last five intermediate oval events to-date. A Top-15 finish for the No. 31 team is nearly a given, but you also have the upside of a surprise Top-5 finish in the realm of possibilities for Newman this Sunday.

Ryan Blaney -
The Wood Brothers Racing youngster will be making his fourth-career start at Kansas Speedway this Sunday afternoon. Blaney had a disappointing outing at Charlotte this past weekend, but he should shake that off and rebound in the Hollywood Casino 400. Two of his three prior starts at the Kansas oval have netted Top-10 finishes, including his May visit which was an impressive fifth-place finish in the GoBowling.com 400. Blaney kicked off the Chase a few weeks ago with an impressive fourth-place finish at the similar oval in Chicago. In the weekly lineup fantasy racing leagues, Blaney presents a real opportunity to slide a good start into the lineup off the bench.

Slow Down - Drivers to avoid this week

Denny Hamlin -
Hamlin has been inconsistent all season long on these intermediate ovals. He posted fourth- and sixth-place finishes at Charlotte (May) and Chicago, but the other six outings had definite problems. Hamlin led 52 laps this past weekend at Charlotte before his engine expired and saddled him with the DNF. The Joe Gibbs Racing star has had similar inconsistency issues at Kansas Speedway over his career. He has a career 31-percent Top-10 rate at the oval, and that's not the greatest. Also, two of his last four visits have netted Top 10s while the other two were disappointing DNF's. Which Hamlin will show up at Kansas this weekend? It's hard to guess, and we suggest you don't in this very important race.

Paul Menard -
The Richard Childress Racing veteran has struggled quite a bit the past few weeks, and things don't look so rosy for Kansas Speedway this Sunday. Menard is limping home to one of his worst seasons as a Sprint Cup Series driver. He has only two Top-20 finishes in the last seven events and he's on track to score his lowest Top 10 total since the 2009 season. The Kansas oval has held five Top-10 finishes across 15 starts for the driver of the No. 27 Chevrolet. That works out to a decent 17.6 average finish for his career at this facility. However, the recent struggles for Menard have been so bad that we have to lower the importance of his historical success at this track. It's best to stay clear of the No. 27 team in this 400-mile battle.

Greg Biffle -
The No. 16 Ford team appear to have packed it in for the season. We hate to say that about any team and driver, but after the 35th-place finish at Charlotte this past week, there's not much positive to point to. Biffle's three Top-10 finishes this season is on pace for a career low in the category as the end of the season approaches. Kansas Speedway is a facility of much success for the driver of the No. 16 Ford. Biffle has two-career victories and a 45-percent Top-10 rate at the 1.5-mile track. However, he's not cracked the Top 10 here since 2012, and his two intermediate oval races of the Chase have been complete disasters. It would seem Biffle is eyeing another finish outside the Top 25 this week.

Carl Edwards -
The driver of the No. 19 Toyota comes to Kansas on life support in the championship picture. Not showing the speed to win, and sitting in precarious points position to advance to the Round of 8. Edwards' intermediate oval performances have been trending in the wrong direction since the late summer. Finishes of 15th and 12th at Chicago and Charlotte are not what we expect from this driver and team. Edwards sports good Kansas Speedway stats with a strong 67-percent career Top-10 rate at the oval. However, his current level of performance has to be concerning coming into this fifth race of the Chase. Edwards may prove us wrong on this one, but he's not looked good on the cookie cutter ovals since the Chase began.

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only NASCAR Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire NASCAR fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
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.
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Coca-Cola 600 and Monaco Grand Prix
NASCAR and F1 DFS: PrizePicks Selections for the Coca-Cola 600 and Monaco Grand Prix
NASCAR DFS: Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR DFS: Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR DFS Trucks: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
NASCAR DFS Trucks: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
Coca-Cola 600 Preview: Memorial Day Marathon
Coca-Cola 600 Preview: Memorial Day Marathon