Podium Preview: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas

Will Brad Keselowski and William Byron battle for the Hollywood Casino 400 win at Kansas? (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

Will Brad Keselowski and William Byron battle for the Hollywood Casino 400 win at Kansas? (Photo: Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

While there’s three races remaining before the newest NASCAR Cup Series champion is crowned, Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas serves as a great challenge. In this case, it’s at least 267 laps of hard charging racing around this 1.5-mile speedway that acts like a superspeedway.

As the middle race of the Round of 8, the only driver feeling quite relaxed is Kyle Larson. However, seven other drivers look forward to joining Larson and his No. 5 team for a championship duel at Phoenix.

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists preview each NASCAR Cup Series points-paying race. This weekend, Ashley HobbsJasmine SharpeKobe Lambeth, Luis TorresMatt SisolerMichelle Raynor, Taylor KitchenTerra Jones and yours truly think about four former Cup champions seeking their way back into the Championship 4 cutline and the code of etiquette between Playoff and non Playoff racers.

Podium Preview: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas
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Question 1
Can Joey Logano climb out of the early deficit he's in heading into Kansas? (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Can Joey Logano climb out of the early deficit he’s in heading into Kansas? (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano find themselves below the Championship 4 cut. Which of these four has the best chance of advancing this Sunday at Kansas or on Halloween Sunday at Martinsville?

Hobbs : Chase Elliott being the closest to the cut is mathematically the best one to find themselves back in the top 4. There are great tracks coming up for Kyle Busch, who is just on the inside. But, the only driver who has nothing to fear is Kyle Larson.

Raynor : Chase Elliott has been in this situation before. He and his team know what it takes to go out and win. He doesn’t even have to win. He needs to gain as many points as he can and not make mistakes. That will be the key. I also feel like Martin Truex can win Martinsville.

Sisoler : Obviously, with the way Hendrick cars are this year, Chase Elliott has to be the first guy of that list mentioned. He is a champion for a reason, because he can get it done. However, I wouldn’t count any of these guys out, as all of them (Elliott, Keselowski, MTJ and Logano) are all either defending or former champions, who can surprise someone by getting hot when it is completely unexpected to do so.  

Lambeth :  Chase Elliott is ready for the moment. While I do not think he’ll win at Kansas, I believe the high pressure situation at Martinsville will light a fire under him to rise to the occasion. Elliott will do anything to have a shot to go to Phoenix and defend his Cup title.

Shoppe : While I only see Chase Elliott being able to work his way above the cut line with points, any of these series champions could win their way through. If I had to pick someone, Martin Truex Jr. is most likely to win possibly at Martinsville to get to the Championship 4. 

Tiongson : I don’t think it’s wise counting out Joey Logano. He has quite the deficit to make up after Texas. However, he’s won at Kansas and Martinsville. If anything, the No. 22 team have the makings to be a Championship 4 contender.

In most years, the bottom four drivers would be a Championship 4. However, this is probably one of the best Round of 8 fields yet. Chase Elliott has what it takes to advance into the Championship 4 as does Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. What do all four drivers share in common? They’re all former champions. It’ll be intriguing to see who prevails once the clock strikes game over at Martinsville.

Question 2
Should NASCAR draw the line between Playoffs and non Playoffs racers? (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Should NASCAR draw the line between Playoffs and non Playoffs racers? (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

We’ve seen some intense racing between the non-Playoff drivers and the Round of 8 contenders. Is it fair game for the non-Playoff racers for every inch of real estate on the track against the Playoff drivers from here on out?

Torres : This isn’t an eight car series. It’s at least 36 cars with many looking to break through or secure a ride for next season. You got guys looking to put their car in the top-25 in owner’s points with some trying to even avoid the bottom three among chartered teams.

There’s always a lot at stake in NASCAR. Sometimes, the playoff contenders are appalled by the competition and that’s normal. But I can’t stress enough that they’re racing for a reason. 

Chase Briscoe and Daniel Suarez are looking to just get strong results. They want that elusive win if ideally positioned, but a top-10 is also neat.

The greatest example we’ve seen of “every inch of real estate” is the XFINITY Series. A few years ago, Elliott Sadler chewed the living hell out of Ryan Preece for racing him too hard. Sadler was going for the driver’s championship whereas Preece was competing in the owner’s title battle for Joe Gibbs Racing. Both had a lot to lose and it resulted in some hurt feelings.

I don’t see that changing anytime soon when there’s a lot on the line.

Jones :  It’s 100% fair game. The non-Playoff drivers still have a race to win and points to gain. The Playoff contenders raced around the non-Playoff field all season, they can do it now. Nothing gets my goat more when it comes to NASCAR than hearing Playoff drivers get upset at the non-Playoff drivers because they won’t “get out of the way.” Go race ‘em and prove you’re the best of the best and deserve to be a champion. 

Kitchen :  As far as real estate goes, I expect no one to budge on the issue. Every driver is expected to use every inch of the track to run their best race, regardless of the championship battle.

Each weekend, these drivers go to work, and like Daniel Suarez and Chase Briscoe said, they are racing for something too. That “something” is not a championship, but it is still very important that they give it 110% every weekend for their crew,  team, and sponsors.

NASCAR is a very unique sport in which all athletes remain competing during the championship battle. THe positive of this format is that it allows the playoff drivers to prove who is the best of the best and who can overcome the odds on the track. However, I do understand the frustration the playoff contenders are facing. However, if they were in the shoes of the non-playoff drivers, I bet these championship drivers would be echoing the same argument. 

Sharpe :  That’s the great thing about this sport, I’m expecting all the drivers to race equally as hard. To snag a win as a non-playoff driver during the playoffs is always a sight to see. Of course, there will be drivers still in contention that will be snappy and not want other cars in their way. It makes their job easier. Yet, that shouldn’t be the case, every single driver is being paid to drive to their best ability. 

I think this topic will be most important to look at next week at Martinsville, a short track with not much room to give or take. I can definitely see some tempers flaring there.

That’s two laps around a rather serene but intense Kansas Speedway. Next, we reflect on last Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas, Race 33 of 2021, with the race and points reports.
Luis Torres enjoyed a fine fourth with Brad Keselowski.

Luis Torres enjoyed a fine fourth with Brad Keselowski.

Meanwhile, Ashley Hobbs is crushing the competition.

Meanwhile, Ashley Hobbs is crushing the competition.

Up next, Ashley Hobbs crunches numbers worth considering for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas!
First, consider how your favorite team fares in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas.

First, consider how your favorite team fares in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas.

Since 2004, the Hollywood Casino 400 has an average starting spot of 9.4, led an average of 84.1 laps, started within the top five 47.06% of the time and started within the top 10 52.94% of the time.

Since 2004, the Hollywood Casino 400 has an average starting spot of 9.4, led an average of 84.1 laps, started within the top five 47.06% of the time and started within the top 10 52.94% of the time.

Chasing Elliott.

Chasing Elliott.

All things considered, the trends in the past 10 Hollywood Casino 400 races are quite similar to the past five races.

All things considered, the trends in the past 10 Hollywood Casino 400 races are quite similar to the past five races.

However, the pace is somewhat faster in the past five Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas races.

However, the pace is somewhat faster in the past five Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas races.

Hello, old friend.

Hello, old friend.

Now, let’s consider the top 10 starters for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas!
Row 1
Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney (Photo: Sean Folsom | The Podium Finish)

Row 2
Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch (Photo: Michael Guariglia | The Podium Finish)

Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch (Photo: Michael Guariglia | The Podium Finish)

Row 3
Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin (Photo: Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Row 4
Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano (Photo: Sean Folsom and Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano (Photo: Sean Folsom and Stephen Conley | The Podium Finish)

Row 5
William Byron and Christopher Bell (Photo: Sean Folsom and Michael Guariglia | The Podium Finish)

William Byron and Christopher Bell (Photo: Sean Folsom and Michael Guariglia | The Podium Finish)

Last but not least, here’s our picks for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas!
Not your garden variety Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas race picks.

Not your garden variety Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas race picks.

Jones : Denny Hamlin has won a few times at Kansas. He has something to prove this season, and while he might wreck Briscoe on his way to the checkers, I think he is the man to beat this weekend.

Torres : Kansas Speedway, specifically the fall race, has been kind to Joey Logano, who has three wins to his name. He is the defending race winner after all and that day was when he punched his ticket to Phoenix. The circumstances are different for the 2018 Cup champion.

Following an engine failure at Texas, he’s in a must-win situation if he wants to make the Championship 4 once again. Fortunately, Logano should look forward to running in Kansas again. Sense of urgency is vital for him to retain his crown as the Ruler of Kansas Fall.

Tiongson : I’m so behind in the standings that I really have nothing else to lose. Why not go with the man who won in the spring? Kyle Busch, I choose you.

TPF Stats : The season goes on, the battle gets tighter, and the driver list gets shorter. Coming off back-to-back top 10 finishes, as well as having a nice string of top 10 finishes at Kansas Speedway, Kyle Busch looks to lock himself into the Championship 4 this weekend.

Kitchen : Brad Keselowski has good stats at Kansas and has gained momentum these past few weeks. Could he win his way into the Championship 4? I believe his best opportunity is this weekend at Kansas.

Hobbs : The competition is fierce and if Brad Keselowski wants to survive, this is his chance. After a third place earlier this year in Kansas and a fourth place finish a year ago, Keselowski needs to find his footing now – or it may be too late.

Sharpe : After last week’s outstanding drive, Brad Keselowski is proving he is capable of fighting for his spot in the playoffs. Don’t count this Team Penske driver out.

Sisoler : I know I said that my fellow Michigander Brad Keselowski would be eliminated in this round of the playoffs. To be fair, that was before Joey Logano’s engine went over the limit at “No Limits Texas” and grenaded itself last week, and with Kes being a very solid driver at Kansas the past couple of times out, I think that he’ll punch his Championship 4 ticket on Sunday.

Shoppe : While it’s too little too late for the championship, Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team have been turning a corner of late. Motivated by facing a possible winless season, Harvick is as hungry as ever to win and Kansas is the place to do it!

Raynor : Chase Elliott. He needs to win to get in the final four.

Lambeth : For most part, we typically see playoff drivers win playoff races. However, after being eliminated from the playoffs, we have witnessed William Byron and Tyler Reddick step up their game. I expect both drivers to keep the good times rolling, with Reddick pulling ahead to score his first career Cup win! Talk about a surprise!

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

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Stay safe and wash your hands often. Help yourself, your family and friends by getting the COVID-19 vaccine! Take the shot to save your life and others! Also, thanks for reading our content throughout this season.

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. Ultimately, they are not indicative of TPF, the organization and its staff.

Also, if you are shopping for NASCAR or racing die-casts, be sure to check out our friends at Circle B Diecast! If your order is $20 or more, be sure to use coupon code TPF2021 for free shipping! Tell them we sent you and buy some new die-casts now!

Rob Tiongson

Rob Tiongson is a 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 his eyes.

From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat.

Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Communications at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's just as happy to be a Texan.

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