Kansas Weekend Preview

Kevin Harvick (Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick (Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick (Getty Images)

Harvick needs stellar performance at Kansas

It’s happened again.

Kevin Harvick finds himself in poor position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup following his 38th-place finish at Charlotte, caused by a blown engine.

He’s been able to overcome Chase adversity by winning in a dire situation in each of the past three seasons: New Hampshire this year, Dover last season when he finished championship runner-up and Phoenix in 2014 on his way to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Right now, Harvick sits last in the Chase’s Round of 12 standings – eight points behind Denny Hamlin on the cutoff line, while also trailing three other drivers for the final spot in the Round of 8. He’ll try to produce another stellar performance under pressure in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway (2:15 p.m. ET on NBC) where he has logged one win (fall 2013) and three runner-ups in his last six races.

“The repave is definitely what changed and turned things around for us at Kansas,” Harvick said of the 2012 resurfacing. “Really, I liked the race track the way that it was before with the asphalt really worn out and cars sliding all over. But once the repave happened we were able to really hit on some things and for whatever reason it kind of fits my driving style and we have got some good results out of it. It has been a really good performing race track for us and one that we look forward to going to and hopefully continue to get good results out of because it’s been so good for us in the past.”

Harvick doesn’t believe he has to win at Kansas or the next race in Talladega to advance like he has had to do in the past.

“You at least have another option,” he said. “As crazy as this thing can be, anybody can have trouble so it can even up pretty fast.”

Underdog Blake Koch readies to kickoff Round of 8

Playoff beards aren’t limited to stick-and-ball sports.

Blake Koch hopes to keep his “Chase beard” growing as the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase kicks off its Round of 8 in Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

  Blake Koch (Getty Images)
Blake Koch (Getty Images)

“When I said I was going to start this Chase beard, I didn’t know I was going to make it to the next round,” said Koch, a surprise competitor in the Round of 8, who advanced by producing an average finish of 12.3 in the first three Chase races. “It’s going to be like an eight-week beard.”

An underdog in every sense of the word, Koch’s single-car Kaulig Racing team, owned by entrepreneur Matt Kaulig, was created this offseason. Koch finished 12th in the regular season points, earning the final spot on the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase Grid.

“It was huge just to make the Chase,” Koch said. “After Chicago, I just felt a huge relief that we accomplished our goal, so going into the Chase, we kind of had nothing to lose because there are no expectations on me or our race team.”

Koch’s best finishes this season were eighth-place showings in the spring Richmond race and the fall Bristol contest. In five starts at Kansas, he has never finished better than 25th.
“It’s been able to pay off with some good, consistent finishes, but consistency, I don’t think, is what’s going to transfer into the final four,” Koch said after last Sunday’s Charlotte race. “I think we’re going to have to turn it up a notch. But I feel like we have. We had a pretty good car tonight and these last couple weeks we’ve been racing against cars we haven’t raced with all year, so I’m extremely proud of my team and proud of this series – making it so new teams can start up and be competitive like this is pretty cool.”

Koch’s success was not lost on the rest of the garage. Three-race winner Elliott Sadler praised Koch and the Kaulig Racing team following Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway where Koch advanced to the Round of 8 with a 12th-place finish.

“I don’t think you guys understand the kind of feat that Blake and those guys made,” Sadler said. “They were moving into their shop the week of Dover in May. To make the final eight. I think Blake and his guys’ start-up team kind of flew under the radar at the beginning of the season and got better and better and better. He and (crew chief) Chris (Rice) did a whale of a job in the first round. I think that’s definitely the story of the first round.”

Race Weekend Preview

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Race: Hollywood Casino 400

Place: Kansas Speedway

Date and Time: Sunday, Oct. 16 at 2:15 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps)

What to Watch For: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway for its second race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 12. Jimmie Johnson leads the Chase Grid due to his win at Charlotte. He is followed by Matt Kenseth (31 points above Austin Dillon on the cutoff line), Kyle Busch (+27), Brad Keselowski (+25), Kurt Busch (+24), Carl Edwards (+20), Martin Truex Jr. (+19), Denny Hamlin (+3), Austin Dillon (three points behind Denny Hamlin on the cutoff line), Chase Elliott (-3), Joey Logano (-6) and Kevin Harvick (-8). … Jimmie Johnson attempts to take sole possession of the Kansas Speedway wins lead. Johnson and Jeff Gordon both have three victories at the 1.5-mile track. Four drivers each have two wins at 1.5-mile tracks this season – Brad Keselowski (Kentucky and Las Vegas), Jimmie Johnson (Atlanta and Charlotte), Kyle Busch (Kansas and Texas) and Martin Truex Jr. (Charlotte and Chicagoland). … Non-Chasers Greg Biffle (twice), Tony Stewart (twice) and Ryan Newman have all won at Kansas and will try to spoil an automatic bid to the next round.


Race: Kansasa Lottery 300

Place: Kansas Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 15 at 3 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)

What to Watch For: The NASCAR XFINITY Series kicks off the Round of 8 of its inaugural Chase. The eight drivers remaining are Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, Erik Jones, Brendan Gaughan, Ryan Reed, Darrell Wallace Jr. and Blake Koch. … NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers competing in the Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race include: Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Regan Smith, Josh Wise and Matt DiBenedetto. … Kyle Busch is the defending race winner.

About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for Examiner.com and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.