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The Setup – Hollywood Casino 400 Race Preview
By Tyler Miller
@rickybobby_jr

This week, NASCAR visits Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400, the second of two visits to Kansas Speedway and the final race in the round of 12 for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney are locked into the Round of 8. Four drivers will be eliminated from the playoffs with Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer, and William Byron currently on the outside looking in. Kevin Harvick sat on the pole and led 104 laps at Kansas in May but had an overheating issue that necessitated a green flag pit stop and ended up finishing 13th. Brad Keselowski won at Kansas in May, beating Alex Bowman by 0.205 seconds. Erik Jones finished third, Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top 5. In reviewing the spring race from a DFS perspective, two things stood out. It was very difficult to pass the leader and multiple cars failed pre-race inspection. Those cars started at the rear with little notice for DFS players. The spring race was a Saturday night race and the biggest mistake I made was not pivoting to Chase Elliott who started 32nd due to failing inspection and finished 4th, scoring the most DFS points in the race.

Race Distance: 267 laps. Stage 1 ends on lap 80, Stage 2 ends on lap 160.
Lineup Lock 2:30 pm eastern Sunday
Spring winner – Brad Keselowski (started 4th)
Spring pole sitter – Kevin Harvick (finished 13th).
Last year’s winners – Kevin Harvick (Spring, started 1st) – Chase Elliott (Fall, started 13th)
Last year’s pole sitters: Kevin Harvick (Spring, finished 1st) – Joey Logano (Fall, finished 8th)
Prior race winners: Spring, Fall
2017: Martin Truex Jr. (started 3rd), Martin Truex Jr. (started 1st)
2016: Kyle Busch (6th), Kevin Harvick (11th)
2015: Jimmie Johnson (19th), Joey Logano (14th)
2014: Jeff Gordon (13th), Joey Logano (4th)

Talladega Recap:
What went right?

I love Talladega! The race was stressful but paid off in the end due to the crazy final stage of the race. I created a single lineup from drivers I mentioned in Victory Lane, and played two single entry contests with higher entry fees than I usually play. I played the $1500 NAS Checkered Flag ($33 entry) and the $500 NAS Gas Pedal ($25 entry). I cashed in both contests finishing 10th and 5th respectively with Hamlin, Elliott, Logano, Kligerman, and DiBenedetto (scoring 258.3 on Fan Duel). I was the only person who played Kligerman in either contest and if he wouldn’t have crashed on the final lap I would have seen a much larger payday.
I played Elliott and Logano with hopes of leading laps and battling for the win. Elliott led 20 laps and Logano led 16. Both cars got damage in various crashes but wound up finishing 8th and 11th respectively, 13th and 14th in Fan Duel scoring.

It wasn’t that Victory Lane properly identified the best drivers (other than Hamlin which was an obvious play). Victory Lane identified drivers that survived through the crashes and finished the race. Only Matt DiBenedetto, Brendan Gaughan, and Kurt Busch were written up and crashed out of the race early. Kligerman, Elliott, Logano, Hemric, and Preece were all solid plays. All I would have needed to do was swap DiBenedetto for Preece and I would have won the Gas Pedal and finished 3rd in the Checkered Flag (that lineup would have scored 276.5). My lineup was only 1 driver off of a single entry takedown and I had that driver written up in Victory Lane.

What went wrong?
Talladega is crazy and unpredictable and I absolutely love it. I am typically a cash game player, but for 7 races a year (2 Daytona, 2 Talladega, and the 3 road course races) I love playing in bigger tournaments for bigger money. Not identifying Blaney, Newman, and Austin Dillon were probably the biggest oversights from Talladega, but overall things worked out really well.

What to watch for in practice/qualifying:
Bowman and Elliott I am really curious to see what Hendrick Motorsports brings to Kansas this weekend. Mathematically Bowmanan and Elliott don’t need to win to advance to the round of 8, but the three cars ahead of them (Logano, Keselowski, and Harvick) are all going to run well. I think this ends up being a must win for Elliott and Bowman and I’m anxious to see if they have a car to compete for the win at the end of the race.

Will Martin Truex Jr. go back to his winning ways this weekend? Truex won the first two races in the playoffs at Las Vegas and Richmond, then finished 7th at Charlotte, 2nd at Dover, and 26th at Talladega. Truex is not in any danger of missing the next round of the playoffs but I’m curious to see how his car looks this weekend after a dismal 19th place finish at Kansas in May. It is possible the team was trying some different things back in May since they already had two wins under their belt. After his poor showing they followed it up with a win at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600, so Kansas really seems like an outlier.
What about Harvick? As I mentioned in the intro, Harvick won the pole and led 104 laps in the spring race at Kansas before having to pit under green because he ran over a windshield tear-off that caused his car to overheat. Harvick has quietly put together a really good run in the playoffs after winning the last race of the regular season at Indy, he has finished 2nd, 7th, 3rd, 4th, and 17th. Harvick will likely be a front runner throughout the day at Kansas.

Back to Back for Blaney? Ryan Blaney jumps off the stat sheet at Kansas Speedway. Blaney has the 5th best driver rating, 2nd best average running position, and has led 154 laps at Kansas Speedway in 9 career races. I’ve had a terrible time trying to predict Blaney’s good finishes this year but he could be a solid play if he is able to make the most of his Talladega momentum.

What Vegas thinks (via Westgate):
Harvick and Truex are favored at 9-2 with Kyle Busch and Chase Elliott closely behind at 11-2. My longshot pick would be Clint Bowyer who opened at 25-1.
Kevin Harvick 9-2
Martin Truex Jr. 9-2
Kyle Busch 11-2
Chase Elliott 11-2
Brad Keselowski 10-1
Joey Logano 10-1
Kyle Larson 11-1
Denny Hamlin 14-1
Ryan Blaney 20-1
Alex Bowman 20-1

Driver Ratings at Kansas:
1. Kevin Harvick 109.5
2. Jimmie Johnson 103.2
3. Martin Truex Jr. 98.6
4. Chase Elliott 94.2
5. Ryan Blaney 94.0
6. Kyle Larson 93.1
7. Brad Keselowski 91.9
8. Kyle Busch 90.8
9. Kurt Busch 88.4
10. Joey Logano 87.8
11. Denny Hamlin 86.1
12. Erik Jones 84.8
13. Clint Bowyer 80.2
14. Tyler Reddick 78.1
15. Aric Almirola 77.5

Average Running Position at Kansas:
1. Kevin Harvick 8.849
2. Ryan Blaney 10.409
3. Jimmie Johnson 10.816
4. Martin Truex Jr. 11.813
5. Brad Keselowski 13.094
6. Kyle Larson 13.150
7. Chase Elliott 13.585
8. Kyle Busch 13.641
9. Erik Jones 13.653
10. Denny Hamlin 13.837
11. Kurt Busch 14.349
12. Joey Logano 15.092
13. Tyler Reddick 15.900
14. Clint Bowyer 17.179
15. Paul Menard 17.548

Laps Led
1. Kevin Harvick 807 (13.2 percent of laps run)
2. Martin Truex Jr. 726 (12.5)
3. Jimmie Johnson 581 (9.5)
4. Joey Logano 400 (7.5)
5. Kyle Busch 328 (5.6)
6. Kurt Busch 267 (4.4)
7. Brad Keselowski 215 (4.2)
8. Ryan Blaney 154 (6.4)
9. Kyle Larson 104 (3.5)
10. Chase Elliott 93 (5.0)
11. Denny Hamlin 74 (1.3)

2019 Spring Top 10
1. Brad Keselowski
2. Alex Bowman
3. Erik Jones
4. Chase Elliott
5. Clint Bowyer
6. Jimmie Johnson
7. Kurt Busch
8. Kyle Larson
9. Tyler Reddick
10. Chris Buescher

2018 Spring top 10:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Martin Truex Jr.
3. Joey Logano
4. Kyle Larson
5. Denny Hamlin
6. Paul Menard
7. Erik Jones
8. Kurt Busch
9. Aric Almirola
10. Kyle Busch

2018 Fall top 10
1. Chase Elliott
2. Kyle Busch
3. Kyle Larson
4. Erik Jones
5. Martin Truex Jr.
6. Brad Keselowski
7. Ryan Blaney
8. Joey Logano
9. Alex Bowman
10. Aric Almirola

Only Kyle Larson and Erik Jones have finished in the top 10 in each of the last 3 races at Kansas Speedway.

Stay tuned for updated content following qualifying on Saturday.

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