Kansas presents an early Playoff test and a chance to get in

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - SEPTEMBER 11: Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, and William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on September 11, 2022 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Six different winners have won the last six NASCAR races at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway. Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) could be an opportunity with the twelfth race on the schedule marking a quarter of the way through the season.

Though Kansas in its current state produces parity, some drivers have been able to find consistent success. Three drivers – Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Joey Logano – have won three races, while Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr are all multi-time winners.

Of those drivers, Hamlin, Harvick, and Keselowski are yet to win this year.

Plus, three drivers of the top five drivers in the points standings – Ross Chastain, Harvick and Ryan Blaney – have not gotten a win this season. Chastain is the points leader leaving Dover, but despite the strong points position, he says his team’s desire to win remains strong.

“It’s good to be the points leader but we still have a long way to go until we get to the Playoffs,” he said. “So much can change between now and then. My guys are focused and that’s what I really like about them. They are very steady and don’t get rattled, they’re very calm and us leading the points doesn’t change them. They still always have a solid plan and focus on executing.”

“It would be awesome to get a win this weekend though for many reasons,” Chastain added.

Another driver in the top five in points, Truex got his win at Dover last Monday, ending a 54-race winless streak. He’s a fan of the racing at Kansas, and added that it presents an early test for other 1.5-mile tracks in the Playoffs.

“I would say Kansas is a lot like Homestead but with a tri-oval,” Truex said. “Similar corners and little bit of progressive banking. The wall has really come into play the last couple of years there since the asphalt has worn out.”

“So, running high is very important there, and also momentum is very important at Kansas,” he said. “You have a big, wide front straightaway that gives you the option to make big bold moves on the restarts where it can get pretty wild there. Kansas is definitely high on my list of places I like to race.”

Aric Almirola echoed that Playoff sentiment.

“Well, Kansas, Texas, and Miami are all in the Playoffs,” Almirola said, “and in order to be a playoff contender, you have to get this right. All of these tracks are different in their own way and we’ve seen more success at different 1.5-mile tracks throughout the years, but it starts this weekend in Kansas, to find speed and build notes for the future.”

Denny Hamlin might not be in the top-five, but the driver who won back-to-back in 2019 and 2020 should be confident not only for his own chances but for his team too. 23XI Racing swept both Kansas races in 2022 with Busch and Wallace respectively.

“Kansas has been a great track for us the past few years, so I’m looking forward to this weekend,” Hamlin said. “I’m excited about how our 11 team ran and how well Toyota ran as a manufacturer there last year with all the JGR cars up front. We feel like this is an opportunity for us to put ourselves in contention and we’ll just have to execute all day to give ourselves a chance.”

Practice for the AdventHealth 400 is set for 5 p.m. ET on Saturday with qualifying following on FS1.


After a two-week layoff NASCAR’s CRAFTSMAN Truck Series returns to competition in Saturday night’s Heart of America 200 (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and the two winningest drivers in the track history will both be on the grid.

Three-time series champion Matt Crafton and two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch each have three Truck Series wins at Kansas.

Either is a good bet to earn the wins-record solo after this week, although Saturday night’s race does feature a robust five former winners in the field – including defending race winner Zane Smith, Ross Chastain and Johnny Sauter. A win for Busch would mark a historic 100th victory for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Crafton’s last series win actually came at Kansas Speedway in 2020. The veteran would love to end the winless streak he’d endured since and comes into the race ranked seventh in the championship with three top-ten finishes in the opening seven races. When it comes to Kansas, not only is the driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Ford tops in victories, but he leads the series with seven top-five and fourteen top-ten finishes as well as starts and laps competed at the track.

The series reigning champion Smith has proven to be especially strong at Kansas as well. He has top-ten finishes in all but one of his six starts there and since last year boasts six top-five finishes at the 1.5-mile tracks like Kansas – including a runner-up showing already this season at Las Vegas.

With victories already at Daytona and Austin, Texas, the Front Row Motorsports driver Smith is ranked second in points, 36 points behind Ty Majeski, who is still racing for his first 2023 trophy but who’s five top-five and six top-10 efforts in the opening seven races are best in the field. Majeski, driver of the No. 98 ThorSport Ford, has finished 11th or better in three of his four Kansas starts, including a runner-up showing to Zane Smith in this race last year.

“It’s been a really good start to the season,” Majeski said. “We’ve been super consistent. I think we’ve finished second through sixth, so just missing that win so far.”

“The points lead is nice,” he added, “but we really want to focus on winning some of these races and winning some stages just to make our playoff run and our path a little bit easier to Phoenix.”

Toyota leads all manufacturers with 11 wins and has won at least one Kansas race in nine of the last 10 seasons. The Fall Kansas winner, John Hunter Nemechek – one of only three drivers to earn a Kansas victory from pole position – is not entered this week. No driver has ever won back-to-back Kansas races and there have been eight different winners in the last eight races.

Of note, ARCA standout Tony Breidinger is hoping to pull double-duty this weekend and make her NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series debut. The 23-year-old, who also competes fulltime in the ARCA Menards Series, is entered in the No. 1 TRICON Garage Toyota for the NASCAR Truck race. Should she make the field, Breidinger would become the first Arab American woman to compete in the series.

Practice for the Heart of America 200 is set for noon on Saturday with qualifying following the session on FS1.

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – SEPTEMBER 11: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Acumatica Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on September 11, 2022 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: AdventHealth 400
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Sunday, May 7
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,536,752
TV: FS1, 2 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)

Next Race: Heart Of America 200
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 6
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
The Purse: $734,551
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