Kansas Promises a Million-Dollar Ticket For Cup Series Drivers

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KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - MAY 02: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Verizon 5G Ford, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 02, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Winning is on the mind of every NASCAR driver heading into Kansas Speedway for the AdventHealth 400 (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). That’s especially true for drivers who haven’t found victory lane in a while. Not only is a win the golden ticket to the Playoffs, but it’s also a berth in the prestigious All Star Race the following week in Texas.

The best drivers in the sport compete for $1,000,000 each year in the All Star Race, and even getting the chance is a big deal for Cup Series teams. A victory in 2022 guarantees a spot in the race, potentially joining the 20 drivers already in the event. 

And a win will calm Playoff nerves too. Darlington winner Joey Logano was the tenth different winner so far this year, meaning the window to get into the sixteen-driver Playoffs on points continues to tighten. With a quarter of the season already completed, plenty of drivers will be scrambling for a win. 

Rookie Harrison Burton, who’s looking for his first win in his debut season with the Wood Brothers, agreed. It “does definitely change” the outlook on the season, he said. “I think if I get in a spot where I’m racing for a win, I’m gonna be pretty aggressive for a multiple amount of reasons. If you get a chance to make a pass, you better take it.”

While Burton doesn’t have any Cup experience at Kansas, other drivers will be hoping that their winning ways at the track can continue, and none more than Brad Keselowski. He’s won twice at Kansas, but is currently mired back in 31st in the points in his first season driver for his own team. 

The champion driver said his team is looking to move past its teething struggles: “Our goal is to get back on track and keep finding speed as we head into the weekend.”

Similarly, veteran Kevin Harvick, who sits winless on the Playoff bubble, is hoping to make the best of the type of track he’s had the most success on. 

“Kansas has become one of the more unique racetracks,” Harvick said, “because of the fact the asphalt and the shape of the racetrack is so driver-friendly, as far as where you can drive on the racetrack. You can literally drive from the wall to the apron all the way around the racetrack. So, it’s a fun racetrack. It’s been good to us and, hopefully, we can continue that trend on Sunday.”

One thing’s for sure: as Joey Logano showed at Darlington, drivers will stop at nothing to get that first win. 

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – MAY 01: Ross Chastain, driver of the #44 Circle B Diecast Chevrolet, and Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, race during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Wise Power 200 at Kansas Speedway on May 01, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Truck Series Races Under The Lights

The Truck Series will add extra excitement to the Heart of Americas 200 (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) by running under the lights. For a competitive series that’s produced six different winners in seven races, that extra tension could bring finishes even closer than they already are – which is the closest in over five years.

Ben Rhodes leads the standings by 30 points over Darlington winner John Hunter Nemechek. The two have both led the most laps on the season, with Rhodes once again leading Nemechek in that tally. 

Only six spots are left open in the Playoff field, as Rhodes and Nemechek are joined by Carson Hocevar, Ty Majeski, Christian Eckes, Grant Enfinger, and Tanner Gray. Tyler Ankrum sits 21 points outside the cut line.

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: AdventHealth 400
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Sunday, May 15
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,117,591
TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 165), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Heart Of America 200
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 14
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
The Purse: $716,932
TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)

Owen Johnson