Following Ryan Blaney‘s round of eight sealing win at Talladega, NASCAR heads north. Well, really, to the midwest but the direction is north. Regardless, the final round of twelve playoff race takes place at Kansas Speedway with the Hollywood Casino 400.
I know you’ve seen the replay of Blaney sling-shotting around Newman so we won’t recap that move. However, that win by the tiniest of margins did shake up the playoff picture. If Ryan Newman had been able to successfully beat Ryan Blaney back to the line, this is how the playoffs would look:
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 16, 2019
However, Newman didn’t do the one thing he’s supposedly best at… block.
With Kansas left in the round of twelve, both Larson and Blaney sit in the catbird seat. Their respective wins have them locked into the next round while the potential final six drivers all look comfortable. Denny Hamlin (+56), Martin Truex Jr (+48), Kyle Busch (+41), and Kevin Harvick (+36) all have solid cushions this weekend. In the final two transfer spots sit Brad Keselowski (+20) and Joey Logano (+18). Healthy leads albeit but nothing a wreck or blown engine couldn’t eviscerate.
18 or more points sit back the trio of Hendrick drivers (minus JJ) as well as Clint Bowyer all needing luck or a win to advance. A reasonable case can be made for anyone of these four, especially Chase Elliott who one this race last year. If Chase, Bowman, Byron, or Bowyer were to steal a win on Sunday, the field of eight would look really different from past years. Furthermore, a potential champion from the Penske stable would more than likely be on the outside looking in.
To be determined…
Kansas In Bar Graphs!
Our first Kansas race in the 550 HorsePower package looked like a typical Kansas race. Keeping the beat like a metronome, our top lap leader led just over 100 laps. A secondary driver led between 60-80 laps and a third driver led over 40.
In fact, this drumbeat has been the norm at Kansas and it was nice to see it continue last May. Below are where the top lap leaders started and finished each Kansas race.
|Starting Position||Final Position||Place differential||Total Laps Led||Fastest Laps|
From 2013 – 2018, the pole sitter either led the most or second-most laps in ten of twelve races. Definitely not uncommon for an intermediate track. And then we saw that continue under the lights as Kevin Harvick led 104 laps from the pole position. While Kevin doesn’t need any help holding a lead it probably did benefit him that several drivers started in the rear after failing tech Saturday afternoon. One of those drivers was eventual race winner Chase Elliott who led the third-most laps that day (45).
I honestly struggle with what else is left to review from May or past Kansas races before we get into the field. The lack of stickiness outside of who leads the laps is everywhere.
- The race in May is held at night. The race in October is a day event.
- We have three different packages accumulating stats trying to gauge what will happen in a package we have only raced one time in.
- Our one race data set in the 550 HP package saw nearly 1/4 of the field fail technical inspection. Thus, the starting grid played a big impact on the drivers upfront not having to contend with potential winners for the majority of the race.
- The last time we saw this package on an intermediate track was in the desert heat of Las Vegas. Before that, it was a July evening in Kentucky. Race time temperature is expected to be around 66 Sunday. We don’t have any good apples to compare to these apples.
Thus, if you want to watch the fifteen-minute race recap head to Youtube. If you want to see the loop data from the Spring then head to Racing Reference. I’m not posting them because I don’t know how well that race truly translates to this Sunday. Overall it was good to see the lap leader trend continue but that’s all I’m really gleaming from that race. Regardless, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of tomorrow.
Based on past trends it seems best to keep the dominator pool shallow. Not only shallow but centered around the front. However, you may only need one dominator now. More on that later…
Ryan Blaney starts off our Hog options even though he’s not on the front row. The front row is occupied by the odd couple of Daniel Hemric and David Ragan… somehow. Neither of Ragan or Hemric has the car, much less ability, to hold off the trio behind them. Therefore, don’t even try bargaining with yourself if they’re worth playing at their costs. Hemric may lead initially but it’s only a matter of time before Blaney or Brad pass him.
Back to Ryan. Kansas has been one of Ryan’s best tracks and with literally nothing to lose Blaney can go all out for a win. Next to Ryan is Brad Keselowski in fourth. Brad comes in as a recent Kansas winner, as in last Spring, and needs a strong showing to cement his way into the round of eight. In 5th sits Kyle Larson who has a similar scenario as Ryan Blaney. With a win already securing his spot into the next round, not much is stopping from Larson being aggressive and chasing an elusive win at an intermediate track.
Since we’re expanding our Dominator pool past the front row it makes sense to throw Martin Truex in the mix as well. Truex has been masterful at Kansas of late with two wins since 2017. Starting 11th gives Martin an added place differential floor that neither Brad or Blaney have.
Place Differential Options
In case you were doing something else besides following qualifying, let me get you up to speed. Kevin Harvick‘s team passed tech on the first run. However, they found something and self-reported to NASCAR who inspected them again. Four failures later Kevin Harvick still hadn’t passed and was no longer able to qualify. Thus, Kevin rolls off the grid 40th and is a lock in cash and pretty close in tournaments. His point potential is so elevated by his place differential he should outscore the second Hog. That’s if he isn’t that driver.
The other big fish in the back is Joey Logano. Thankfully his price has been on the downswing the past few weeks. Thus, jamming in your choice of Hog plus Logano and Harvick isn’t too salary constricting. Logano has a nice cushion over Alex Bowman but he can’t rest on his laurels driving not to lose. Kansas hasn’t been Joey’s best track, so Logano may be more of a cash-floor play. However, Logano does own two wins in this 550 HP package this season.
Because we’re all spending up to get Happy and Joey in our lineups we need reasonable, cheap options. After weeks of being overpriced, Chris Buescher is back under $7000 starting 26th. Buescher has outdriven his equipment at intermediate tracks with an average finish of 14.4 and should again tomorrow. Starting beside Buescher is William Byron in 25th who obviously needs a strong day to advance in the playoffs. With veteran crew chief Chad Knaus in his ear, a top ten is not out of the question for William.