Podium Preview: Digital Ally 400 at Kansas

Pole sitter Kevin Harvick wants another Digital Ally 400 win at Kansas. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Pole sitter Kevin Harvick wants another Digital Ally 400 win at Kansas. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

While Kansas often reminds fans or press of a certain band or beloved movie, it’s also home to tonight’s Digital Ally 400.  Round 12 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series may prove interesting for the oft-mentioned 2019 package.  After all, with a relatively smoother surface than its 1.5-mile counterparts, there’s the hope that it may be similar to Round 7 at Texas.

Sure, drivers aren’t entering turn one at nearly 200 mph, but as prevalent with most other speedways, they’re holding it nearly wide open.  Certainly, yesterday’s only practice rounds showcased the importance of drafting which also means lots of pressure on the pit crews for excellent stops in the race.

Pole sitter Kevin Harvick, last year’s race winner, seeks for his fourth Kansas win. However, with this being the last points paying race before next weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, and other prominent racers want a victory so that they may be locked into the field for the “big dance.”

Before we think about Charlotte, our diligent team, Ashley HobbsChristina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen CassidyKatie CoopleKobe LambethMatt SisolerStephen Conley, and yours truly mull over the new single car, single round qualifying format and Kyle Busch’s concerns with the package.

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Question 1
Single car qualifying means more individualized time for folks like Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports at a place like Kansas. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Single car qualifying means more individualized time for folks like Bubba Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports at a place like Kansas. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

After a five year absence, NASCAR brought back single car, single round qualifying for its major three series.  Was this the right move by NASCAR to ensure parity and fairness with deciding the starting grid?

Bowman :  When qualifying became more about strategizing when to leave pit road rather than the setup of the car… you know it’s time for a change. Going back to single car qualifying puts the focus back onto the setup and performance of the car rather than who gets on track before whom.

Conley :  Without question! Group qualifying was originally set up for the road courses. It worked there, then the fans called to use it everywhere. Nice idea…on paper. The problem is, just like Daytona and Talladega, what works at Daytona, doesn’t always work at Talladega, and vice versa.

Group qualifying at some tracks before this new era package was exactly opposite of what drivers wanted. You always avoided trying to get into somebody else’s dirty air. That would end up slowing them down. So, we got to a point where they started to go out a little more spread out throughout their time. Then we got to the mess that we’ve had recently, games about who can time it, who can go fast and slow down another car. Plus, all but waiting to run just one lap.

It wasn’t the show NASCAR wanted, and in all honesty it shouldn’t be a show, qualifying is about the fastest car. That is what single car qualifying gives us. It’s about time this nightmare ended.

Hobbs :  If you look at social media, this is what the majority of fans were asking for; it also seems to be what drivers wanted too. Single car qualifying, while not exciting, gives each driver one shot to show what they, and their equipment, are made of. Qualifying is meant to put the fast drivers out front, not a time for plotting and playing games like group qualifying became.

Lucas :  Sure, it’s better than the cluster qualy sessions we’ve become used to. The idea of group qualifying was a great fresh breath of air in the beginning. However, strategizing became the downfall and eventual death of this format. I actually am excited to see single car qualifying again.

The one downfall though is no random draw to determine who goes out when. That always made things interesting for the “go or go home” teams (remember when we had bumping in qualifying?). Teams sometimes would have to wait and see if they were safe or would be packing it in and taking it to the house. I think it’s a win for everyone, let’s hope the teams keep the shenanigans to a minimum.

Shoppe : I am so happy to see single-car qualifying return! It is a great opportunity to have a concentrated look at each car and team during a session each weekend. Sponsors get that guaranteed air time that is an added incentive for potential new partners. The newly added “TV timeouts” that assures each car will make a run while the coverage shows them adds to this.

From a fan perspective, you get a chance to see each car go and see how they are doing that weekend. You also get that excitement of it finally being your driver’s chance to knock the leader off the pole!

Tiongson :  It was a much needed move by NASCAR and I’m pretty thrilled to see it return after a five year absence.  I enjoyed group qualifying but even when it was working, we all know that the single car qualifying format was the best way to determine the starting grid.  I’m not so sure if I like the new qualifying draw method, but otherwise, it’s pretty fair in deciding how the field lines up for race day.

Question 2
Kyle Busch expressed concern for this year's package following Monday's race at Dover. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Kyle Busch expressed concern for this year’s package following Monday’s race at Dover. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Kyle Busch was less than complimentary about the package following the race at Dover.  Should NASCAR look into finding a happy medium with the drivers, teams, and OEMs to help improve its on track product?

Acero :  Gotta give NASCAR props for trying to better the on track product. Just because the package was “awful” for KyBu doesn’t mean that they should overhaul and do over. He said you couldn’t pass, but look at Bowman and Truex coming from the rear! NASCAR should keep up chipping away at improving the racing which they will eventually get right.

Cassidy :  One complaint will not make a change – and it should not. Just because one driver is not happy with the way a race went, does not mean all drivers, teams and NASCAR felt the same way. NASCAR is always looking to improve so the feedback is good in most cases.

Copple :  Just because Kyle Busch complained, that doesn’t warrant a change by NASCAR. But, if they are starting to see similar complaints from multiple drivers, then something definitely needs to be looked at. All of that aside, I truly believe drivers and teams should have an input on the race package. They are the ones on track each and every week and behind the wheels of these cars. Not turning to them for insight would be a mistake.

Lambeth :  I think the main focus is currently on the Gen 7 car. The aero package for the next few seasons will likely serve as a gap until the new car is ready to race. Moving forward, I hope NASCAR finds some common ground between fans, drivers, teams and OEMs to produce spectacular on-track action. As for the current package, I think it works well at specific tracks but it is very forgettable at other tracks. One size cannot fit all.

Sisoler :  Not to put too fine a point on it, but Kyle is known for speaking his mind, and it doesn’t always equate to the general feel of the garage area.That being said, judging how Bob Leavine responded favorably to the tweet and I’m pretty sure Kyle Larson favorited it as well, it might very well be how drivers and teams are feeling.

NASCAR will have to take a look at the racing and the packages to see if there’s some tweak or change it can make, but to me, the racing appeared a lot better, even if MTJ did win by something like nine seconds, but then again isn’t that about the average margin of victory at Dover?

Two laps around Kansas sure feels better than dust in the wind.  Now, let’s rewind to just six days earlier and review our race and points reports from Dover!
...meanwhile, the points race continues to heat up for Kansas!

…meanwhile, the points race continues to heat up for Kansas!

Certainly, we have those who love numbers and want to be a race strategist!  Ashley Hobbs knows the score and thus knows the numbers to make you a true “mathemagician” for Kansas!
How does your favorite team fare at Kansas?

How does your favorite team fare at Kansas?

The average starting spot for a race winner is ninth while the average number of laps led by said winner is 59.4 in the Digital Ally 400.

The average starting spot for a race winner is ninth while the average number of laps led by said winner is 59.4 in the Digital Ally 400.

MTJ loves Kansas.

MTJ loves Kansas.

Here's the Digital Ally 400 trends since 2011.

Here’s the Digital Ally 400 trends since 2011.

And of course, your trends in the past five races at Kansas.

And of course, your trends in the past five races at Kansas.

TPF Stats seems to favor Kyle Busch for tonight's Digital Ally 400 at Kansas.

TPF Stats seems to favor Kyle Busch for tonight’s Digital Ally 400 at Kansas.

With all of the opinions and knowledge gained in our preview, perhaps you may have the winning pick in mind!  Here’s ours for tonight’s Digital Ally 400 at Kansas!
Nine different picks for the Digital Ally 400 at Kansas means an unpredictable race!

Nine different picks for the Digital Ally 400 at Kansas means an unpredictable race!

Hobbs :  Kansas Speedway is one place that Kevin Harvick truly shines, and he would certainly love to get a victory on the board.

Conley :  The Closer is back and in dominating fashion. Kevin Harvick with the repeat at Kansas.

Lambeth :  Clint Bowyer will party hard in his own backyard.

Cassidy :  Clint Bowyer.

Copple :  Logano takes this one at Kansas.

Sisoler :  I am taking Joey Logano to win Kansas!

Bowman :  Keselowski comes through in Kansas.

Acero :  Ryan Blaney for the win!

Lucas :  Ole William Clyde Chase” Elliott“ for the win please.

Shoppe :  Martin Truex Jr  Will go back to back!

Tiongson :  It has to eventually pay off.  Kyle Larson, I’m looking at you. Make me proud with this pick!

TPF Stats :  The man of year, and the man looking to keep his hot streak alive, Kyle Busch will take victory Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Digital Ally 400!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Saturday night’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races in 2019.  Last but not least, we want to wish you and all of our amazing mothers a truly Happy Mother’s Day weekend! Much love to all of you.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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