Hollywood Casino 400 Preview: Chase for Cup Intensifies

Hollywood Casino 400 Preview: Chase for Cup Intensifies

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

This week the opening round in the Chase for the Cup will pick up the intensity. For the 16 drivers in the playoff field, the pressure continues to increase and so do the stakes. This Sunday we travel to Kansas Speedway and take the next steps in determining this season's champion. This is the second race of the opening round and the prelude to the Round of 12 cut that happens after next weekend's Bristol race.   

For this second race in the Chase for the NASCAR Cup, the series 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 for the Chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship by the time we reach Phoenix 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, as it was only just May of this year that the stars of NASCAR were locked in combat at this same intermediate oval. The data from that race, the Advent Health 400, will be fresh and applicable to the field for this weekend's Hollywood Casino 400. 

Since we're making our second visit of the season to Kansas Speedway, we need to take a

This week the opening round in the Chase for the Cup will pick up the intensity. For the 16 drivers in the playoff field, the pressure continues to increase and so do the stakes. This Sunday we travel to Kansas Speedway and take the next steps in determining this season's champion. This is the second race of the opening round and the prelude to the Round of 12 cut that happens after next weekend's Bristol race.   

For this second race in the Chase for the NASCAR Cup, the series 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 for the Chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship by the time we reach Phoenix 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, as it was only just May of this year that the stars of NASCAR were locked in combat at this same intermediate oval. The data from that race, the Advent Health 400, will be fresh and applicable to the field for this weekend's Hollywood Casino 400. 

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 29 races at Kansas Speedway.

DriverAvg. FinishQuality Passes# of Fastest LapsLaps LedLaps in Top 15Driver Rating
Kevin Harvick8.01,1516499016,212108.5
Kyle Larson14.66483394553,054101.1
Martin Truex Jr.12.51,0065008035,467100.3
Chase Elliott 11.26451641972,66897.9
Ryan Blaney16.95341921723,17895.0
Kyle Busch14.41,0893674225,23494.0
Brad Keselowski11.61,0372623274,77793.0
Denny Hamlin13.71,0692023495,22692.0
Kurt Busch14.21,0812473895,18490.3
Joey Logano17.17892425004,04887.7
Christopher Bell14.8276623792887.7
Tyler Reddick17.725455301,01185.6
William Byron16.13691131171,41385.1
Erik Jones19.15279231,85079.4
Austin Cindric16.5642030175.7
Alex Bowman16.945481761,85675.5
Aric Almirola19.247072692,35374.7
Austin Dillon16.35292562,01973.8
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.19.536250751,49170.9
Cole Custer17.01603044368.1

The race earlier this year at Kansas Speedway was very entertaining. Kurt Busch would outduel Kyle Larson to grab his first career victory at the facility and Toyota's fourth win in the last six Kansas races. Unfortunately, the 23XI Racing veteran is still sidelined with concussion-related symptoms and won't be able to defend his Kansas crown this weekend. Bubba Wallace will be piloting the No. 45 Toyota this Sunday afternoon, and it will be his task to defend that race win for the team. While Wallace looks like a possible Top-10 threat at Kansas Speedway, it will be a tall order for him to become a top contender to win. With the playoffs now underway there will be many suitors for victory lane at Kansas looking to grab that valuable spot in the next round of the Chase for the Cup. 

Runner-up finisher Larson has been an uneven performer at times this season, and he didn't start the playoffs well, with troubles this past weekend at Darlington and a somewhat disappointing 12th-place finish. He's looking to right the ship for a push deeper into the playoffs and a defense of last season's championship. The driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet is coming back to Kansas Speedway at the right time seeking redemption and rejuvenation. For a handful of other hopefuls, it's another opportunity to win this weekend and keep their championship hopes alive or build momentum for next season. With championship implications weighing heavily, we expect to see some real urgency in the racing and some rebound performances for drivers that got roughed up in the frantic racing at Darlington Raceway 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

Kyle Larson – Larson stumbled a bit out of the gate last week at Darlington Raceway and the pressure is now on for him to perform at Kansas Speedway. The Hendrick Motorsports star needs a win or a significant boost in the playoff points to assure passage into Round 2 of the Chase in a couple weeks. Fortunately for Larson, he's been zeroed-in on this track in recent visits. He won or finished runner-up in the last two Kansas Speedway events, and he's led a combined 351 laps in his last four races at this intermediate oval. Larson's start here in May of this year in the new stock car yielded 29 laps led and a brilliant runner-up finish in the Advent Health 400. With everything on the line, Larson should be a top contender to win the Hollywood Casino 400.      

Denny Hamlin – After an inconsistent season, Hamlin appears to be getting his act together in a big way heading into the playoffs. The Joe Gibbs Racing star led 6 laps and finished runner-up at Darlington this past Sunday and served notice that he'll be a factor in this season's Chase for the Cup. Hamlin is tied for the lead in active drivers with wins at Kansas with three and also has close to 350 laps led at this facility, much of which has come since the 2019 season. His career totals and averages aren't the greatest and they may cause some to pass on Hamlin this weekend, but that would be folly. Much of Hamlin's success at Kansas Speedway has come in just the last four seasons. Make no mistake, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota will factor in the outcome Sunday afternoon at Kansas.

Kyle Busch – Busch's late-race engine failure at Darlington this past week robbed him of a potential win and advancement in the Chase. What we can't overlook is how dominant the No. 18 Toyota team was last Sunday night. Busch led a whopping 155 laps and set the pace most of the evening at the South Carolina oval before the engine in his Toyota went sour within eyesight of the finish. The Joe Gibbs Racing star should rebound this week with advancement in the playoffs on the line. Busch is a two-time Kansas winner and has led well over 400 laps for his career at this 1.5-mile oval. His start there earlier this season in the Next-Gen car netted 18 laps led and a brilliant third-place finish after contending for the win. Toyota seems to have an edge at this track and that will play in Busch's favor as he looks for a big rebound performance this weekend. 

Joey Logano – The Penske Racing star has been one of the top performers in the last five races leading up to Kansas Speedway. Logano boasts three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes as well as 315 laps led over the span. He's a leader in many statistical categories in the last five events. Logano will carry that momentum into the second race of the Chase at what has been a good oval for him during his Cup Series career. The driver of the No. 22 Ford has three career victories at Kansas Speedway and 500 laps led. His 39 percent Top-10 rate here is a bit disappointing, but Logano knows how to race up front here and win. The way the No. 22 Ford team is running right now, you want Logano in your fantasy lineups this Sunday afternoon.   

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

Christopher Bell – Coming off a Top-5 Darlington performance, Bell has been pretty impressive the last few weeks. The driver of the No. 20 Toyota has two Top-5 and three Top-10 finishes in his last four races. Bell will carry that momentum into Kansas Speedway this Sunday afternoon. When he last raced at Kansas in May of this year, he peddled the No. 20 Toyota to the pole position, led 37 laps and finished a strong fifth-place. Bell's three career Top 10s in five starts at this intermediate oval work out to an impressive 60-percent rate. This driver and team represents good current performance and good track specific performance for the Hollywood Casino 400.   

Tyler Reddick – Reddick rides a three-race Top-10 streak, capped by a strong third-place effort at Darlington Raceway this past Sunday, into Kansas Speedway this weekend. The Richard Childress Racing youngster is participating in the Chase for the Cup playoffs and racing with urgency as we drive deeper into the playoffs. Reddick now has six-career Cup Series starts at the Kansas oval, with two Top 10s in those efforts. His No. 8 Chevrolet was strong here in May of this year, capturing the outside pole and leading 24 laps. However, Reddick would run into trouble and finish a distant 30th-place in the Advent Health 400. We look for the young driver to rebound in a big way in his second Kansas start of the 2022 season. 

Kevin Harvick – The Stewart Haas Racing star's Ford mysteriously caught fire and burnt at Darlington this past Sunday. While that would seem to be a bad omen, we have to remember how incredible a Kansas performer Harvick is before we write him off this week. The driver of the No. 4 Ford is a three-time winner at Kansas Speedway and has finished runner-up on five occasions. With 12 Top-5 and 19 Top-10 finishes, his 36- and 58-percent Top-5 and Top-10 rates are stellar. Harvick's DNF at Darlington Raceway this past week means that he'll need to be in razor-sharp form this week at Kansas to make up for that setback in the playoffs.

Chase Elliott – Mechanical failures seemed to be the theme at Darlington Raceway this past Sunday, and Elliott was not immune. His No. 9 Chevrolet suffered a suspension failure and spun into the outside wall. It's a big setback, to be sure, but the Hendrick Motorsports star should rebound solidly at Kansas Speedway this weekend. Elliott is a one-time Kansas winner and has finished runner-up here on two occasions. Expecting a visit to victory lane in Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 may be a bit of a stretch right now for the No. 9 Chevrolet team, but Elliott's 62-percent Top-10 rate at this oval is a good statistic to focus on heading into Sunday's 400-mile playoff battle.

Sleepers – Drivers with good history at Kansas & solid upside

William Byron – Whatever was plaguing Byron and the No. 24 team seemed to get washed away at Darlington Raceway last Sunday. He led a whopping 50 laps and finished a strong eighth place in the Cook Out Southern 500. In doing so, Byron wiped clean a 10-race Top-10 drought and set his team's focus on the remainder of the Chase for the Cup playoffs. Byron has nine career starts at Kansas Speedway, and his five Top-10 finishes are good for a nice 56-percent Top-10 rate, with 117 laps led to boot. He led 25 laps earlier this season at Kansas, although his finish wasn't the greatest in 16th-place. With the playoffs now in full effect, we expect to see more good performances from Byron and the No. 24 team.             

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski is another driver who put to rest a long dry spell at Darlington last weekend. The veteran driver of the No. 6 Ford led 11 laps and finished seventh at the Track Too Tough to Tame, snapping a six-race Top-10 drought in the process. Keselowski has had a long tough season with his new race team, but it seems he may be figuring this Next-Gen car out as the season winds down. As it relates to Kansas Speedway, this veteran driver has two victories and 13 Top-10 finishes (52-percent) for his career at this intermediate oval. It would seem to be a very good follow-up track for Keselowski on the heels of his strong seventh-place effort at Darlington Raceway.   

Erik Jones – Jones won a surprising victory at Darlington this past weekend and took owner Richard Petty back to victory lane for the first time since 2014. It was a big breakthrough for this driver and team, but you could see it building over the course of this season. Jones now has one win and 10 Top 10s this season and is enjoying his best campaign at NASCAR's top level since 2019. Kansas Speedway presents another opportunity for him to challenge for the Top 10. Jones has five Top 10s in 12-career starts at the Kansas oval for a respectable 42 percent rate. Times have been leaner at Kansas since his move to Petty, but he's now racing with a much better and much more well-equipped race team. Jones will challenge for the Top 10 Sunday afternoon in the Hollywood Casino 400.

Martin Truex Jr. – The Joe Gibbs Racing star is outside the playoffs but is looking to finish the season strong. Truex led 48 laps at Darlington this past Sunday, but a mechanical failure saddled him with a disappointing DNF. Truex should rebound, though, considering he has three Top 10s in the last five events leading up to this weekend. Kansas Speedway has yielded a lot of success to this driver and team over the years. Truex is a two-time Kansas winner with over 800 laps led, and his 15 Top-10 finishes register a respectable 53-percent Top-10 rate and 12.5 average finish. The veteran driver rides a strong six-race Kansas Top-10 streak into this weekend's action.

Bubba Wallace – Wallace makes for an intriguing fantasy racing play this Sunday in the Hollywood Casino 400. The 23XI Racing veteran had a car swap prior to last Sunday's Darlington race and is piloting the team's No. 45 Toyota for the playoffs in Kurt Busch's absence. Wallace has 11th- and ninth-place finishes in the last two races and is teasing some fantasy value as we head deeper into the playoffs. He has nine career Cup Series starts at the Kansas oval and only one Top-10 finish. Interestingly, though, that Top 10 came in his last start in May of this year driving the new Next-Gen car. That valuable experience coupled with his recent performance should be enough to power Wallace towards another Top-10 run at Kansas Speedway.   

Michael McDowell – McDowell bucked his season trend on mid-sized ovals and turned in a strong sixth-place finish at Darlington Raceway this past Sunday. The veteran driver now has a pair of Top 10s in his last three races and is looking to finish the season strong. McDowell has 22 starts of experience at the Kansas oval with few accomplishments to show for it. However, three of this last five starts have seen him finish in and around the Top 15. The Front Row Motorsports veteran has finished eighth- and 15th-place in his last two 1.5-mile oval starts, a very good sign for McDowell heading into this Hollywood Casino 400.      

Slow Down – Drivers to avoid this week

Ryan Blaney – The Penske Racing youngster has historically struggled at this intermediate oval. Kansas Speedway has only yielded six Top 10s to Blaney in 16 starts (a 40 percent rate), and he's failed to crack the Top 10 in each of his last three visits to the Kansas track. Blaney's performance on 1.5-mile ovals in general this season has suffered since NASCAR moved to the Next-Gen car. With just one Top 10 in five starts on those ovals, his average finish comes in at an inflated 19.8.  Blaney's current cold streak is another concern as he rides into Kansas Speedway mired in a three-race Top-10 drought. We consider the No. 12 Ford team to be a high-risk fantasy option for the Hollywood Casino 400.   

Austin Dillon – Intermediate ovals have been a bit of a mess for the Richard Childress Racing veteran in 2022. After early-season Top 15s at Las Vegas and Kansas, Dillon has cooled considerably and has failed to crack the Top 20 in his other three intermediate oval starts. Kansas Speedway has been a track of limited success for him over the years with just five Top 10s in 18-career starts (a 28 percent rate) and a mediocre 16.3 average finish. Dillon's recent victory at Daytona has been a real highlight of late, but outside of that win, it's been a challenge to crack the Top 15 for the No. 3 Chevrolet team. There are better fantasy options in the mid-field of drivers this week at Kansas Speedway.   

Chase Briscoe – Briscoe has fallen on hard times of late. He's failed to crack the Top 20 in each of the last six races and hasn't scored a Top 10 in the last 13 events. He's a participant in the Chase playoffs because of his early-season victory at Phoenix, but Briscoe is looking like a candidate for an early exit from the playoffs due to the deep slump he's in. The 27th-place finish Briscoe collected at Darlington Raceway this past week speaks to those struggles. In three career Kansas Speedway starts, the Stewart Haas Racing youngster hasn't finished better than 19th place. Additionally, 1.5-mile ovals have been a tough puzzle for Briscoe, with just one Top 10 in five starts and a lofty 18.8 average finish across the span. There are better fantasy racing options for Sunday's 400-mile Kansas race.          

Ross Chastain – Chastain was a fantasy racing darling for much of the season, but he's gone ice cold in recent weeks. The Trackhouse Racing veteran has fallen into a seven-race Top-10 slump and is desperately looking for answers with the playoffs now underway. Chastain didn't find many at Darlington last Sunday and staggered home to a disappointing 20th-place finish in the Cook Out Southern 500. Intermediate ovals have been dynamite tracks for the No. 1 Chevrolet team all season, but his current funk concerns us greatly. Chastain's 22.4 career average finish at Kansas Speedway is another bothersome statistic weighing on our minds.    

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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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