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Podium Preview: AdventHealth 400 at Kansas

It will be a Kansas City scorcher for Sunday's Advent Health 400. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

It will be a Kansas City scorcher for Sunday’s Advent Health 400. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kansas Speedway has played host to NASCAR Cup Series racing since 2001 with its annual Playoffs race weekend in September. However, since 2011, the AdventHealth 400 has been stock car’s annual, first Midwest race weekend of the season.

As one of the most competitive intermediates in the stock car scene, Kansas is an acclaimed track among competitors for its multiple grooves, worn out surface and sweeping corners. With progressive banking between 17 to 20 degrees in Turns 1 through 4, a tri-oval progressively banked nine to 11 degrees and a five degree banked backstretch, this track puts a premium on tires.

Those who prefer to jump ahead and run like a rabbit in the early going may find themselves struggling for grip and handling in the latter part of a green flag run. Then again, being too cautious early in a run may endanger a lead lap position.

If there is a track where track position can be regained with a methodical but calculative approach, it is this 1.5-mile speedway. That may prove promising for those tagged with a pit road speeding penalty or others who may be making up for lost track position for other, extenuating circumstances.

While Chevrolet leads OEMs with 16 victories at Kansas, Toyota is the dominant manufacturer during the spring race with four victories. More interestingly, only one of the past 12 runnings of the AdventHealth 400 have resulted in an Overtime restart.

In other words, it may be a purist’s type of race where strategy, teamwork and old school, good stock car competition is on display if Mother Nature does not have her way for the second week in a row. Simply put, this is a can’t miss race where this Gen 7 car performs at optimum performance.

Once the flagman unfurls the green flag on race day, it is anyone’s guess as to who will prevail in this year’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas. For the time being, come along for the ride this and each race weekend with Podium Preview.

This weekend, Jasmine SharpeKobe LambethLuis TorresMatt SisolerStephen ConleyTeresa Bennink and yours truly contemplate over Legacy Motor Club’s OEM switch to Toyota in 2024, taking on the first hot, humid race of the season and our race winning picks.

Podium Preview
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Question 1
The rebuilding Legacy MC team will be taking on a new OEM in Toyota starting in 2024. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

The rebuilding Legacy MC team will be taking on a new OEM in Toyota starting in 2024. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

Legacy Motor Club will switch from Chevrolet to Toyota in 2024. How does this switch benefit the team in terms of competitiveness and establishing themselves as frontrunners with Erik Jones and Noah Gragson?

Lambeth : Sometimes, getting a fresh start can be quite refreshing and that’s the route Legacy Motor Club chose. After Erik Jones scored a surprise Southern 500 victory last year at Darlington Raceway, expectations for this team increased heading into 2023. The hype went into overdrive when it was announced that Jimmie Johnson would join the ownership group. 

So far, it’s been an up-and-down year. With Toyota making it no secret they wanted to eventually grow its presence in the NASCAR Cup Series, this seems to be an opportunity that Legacy Motor Club couldn’t turn down, especially if it means making the organization more competitive long-term. A change of scenery might be for the best.

Torres : Toyota is one OEM that thrives on quality over quantity. But in this scenario, it’ll be beneficial having an organization that’s NOT affiliated with Joe Gibbs Racing.

It’s a much needed change and LMC decided to be brave enough as their vision is towards the future.

Noah Gragson hasn’t been involved with Toyota since 2017 and neither has Erik Jones since 2021. Both coming back to the fray should be helpful rather than a hindrance. Face facts, they’re not Chevys priority. Going to Toyota should boost morale and confidence they’ll be front runners in the future.

Tiongson : It will not be an overnight change to complete success for the Nos. 42 and 43 Legacy MC teams in 2024. However, it will be a good change of scenery to move up a bit in an Original Equipment Manufacturer’s pecking order. Let us be real and take note that Legacy MC has been a bit off the other Chevrolet teams this year as Erik Jones is a top-15 driver, more times than not, on an average day while Noah Gragson’s hustle and determination is better than a sub-25th place racer.

Of course, the consensus was not all positive for the Legacy MC’s OEM change with some feeling it is a betrayal for this team, with Jimmie Johnson, part of the ownership of this team, long associated with Chevrolet throughout his NASCAR career. Still, I will pose it this way. If you had a chance to get a better job that made sense in terms of atmosphere, opportunities and pay, taking that chance over what has been familiar is the right move.

In the long run, Chevrolet loses a long running organization while Toyota welcomes back two young drivers who have learned a great deal about Cup competition since their prior TRD tenures. I look for this to be a huge boost for the Toyota camp and their pipeline in the event that Joe Gibbs Racing does not have vacant seats for the likes of Isabella Robusto, Corey Heim, John Hunter Nemechek and other young, promising racers in their rides.

Question 2

Drivers like Kyle Busch will need to focus and prepare for the first of several grueling races in summerlike heat. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

The rebuilding Legacy MC team will be taking on a new OEM in Toyota starting in 2024. (Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

Kansas is likely the first Cup race weekend under hot, grueling conditions in 2023. How much of a test will this be on drivers and teams who will battle the elements on Sunday afternoon?

Conley :  It will be warm, but these guys are so conditioned that they would get out of the car, grab a Gatorade and be ready to go again. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear someone say they are off to a dirt track somewhere.

The cool suits that these drivers wear now really makes it easier to combat the heat. Plus, they’ve done an incredible job over the last year to keep the heat out of these cars. 

Shoppe : This will certainly be a factor in today’s race! Let’s hope these cool shirts are working properly! These guys train all year round for intensely great conditions so this being the first hot day shouldn’t catch these top athletes off guard too much. It will be interesting to see who’s the most worn out at the end of the day today!

Sharpe : Drivers and crew members are trained to handle hot weather conditions. This will be the first time this season where the temperature will be above 80°F. It’s not so much how the humans will handle the weather, but the cars themselves. 

Drivers nowadays have cooling suits that do an incredible job at keeping the drivers cool and relaxed. While pit crews are not as lucky, they’re able to shove numerous packs of ice in their firesuits. Dehydration might be the biggest issue as keeping hydrated with harsh conditions can be quite the challenge.

Sisoler :  It’ll definitely be different from what they’ve been used to for the first part of the season, but I don’t really think it’ll be a major strain on drivers and crews on Sunday. These guys and gals behind the wheel and on pit road are conditioned to work in all temperatures and push through adverse weather conditions, so while we may see some drivers and crews needing ice bags during the race, I don’t think it’ll be a huge challenge.

It is always a thrill to take a few laps around the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway! Before making the winning pass in the preview, let’s rewind to last Monday’s better late than never Würth 400, the 11th of 36 races of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, with our race and points reports.
Stephen Conley conquered the Monster Mile.

Stephen Conley conquered the Monster Mile.

Meanwhile, it was a Darwinian like race for the rest of the panelists.

Meanwhile, it was a Darwinian like race for the rest of the panelists.

Now, here are the top 10 starters for Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas!
Row 1 – William Byron and Kyle Larson
(Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

(Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

Row 2 – Ross Chastain and Martin Truex Jr.
(Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

(Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

Row 3 – Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano
(Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

(Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

Row 4 – Ty Gibbs and Denny Hamlin
(Photo: Trish McCormack and Josh Jones | The Podium Finish)

(Photo: Trish McCormack and Josh Jones | The Podium Finish)

Row 5 – Daniel Suárez and Ryan Blaney
(Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

(Photo: Christopher Vargas | The Podium Finish)

Last but not least, here are our picks for Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas!
One of these "Fab Four" racers may win Sunday's AdventHealth 400 at Kansas. (Photo: Chris Graythen | Getty Images)

One of these “Fab Four” racers may win Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas. (Photo: Chris Graythen | Getty Images)

Tiongson : If not for anything else but to gain back some lost momentum, Tyler Reddick is a good, safe pick for Kansas. He loves racing the high line and the No. 45 car has been in Victory Lane at this track in both races last year.

Might we see some history with Reddick being the third different driver to race his way to this track’s Victory Lane? Only time will tell after at least 267 laps.

Conley : No team has won at the same track with three different drivers… until now. Tyler Reddick is racing for the team that swept Kansas which has been Toyota’s playground.

Torres : After an abysmal outcome of a pick for me at Dover, I’m just going to stick with trends at Kansas. Look no further than Tyler Reddick. He’s in the No. 45 Toyota, the very car that swept Kansas a year ago with Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace. I feel that Reddick will have a super race and make it three-for-three for 23XI Racing.

Shoppe : Denny Hamlin showed a lot of speed in practice and has had some success here in Kansas. Now, the cars he owns swept here last year so maybe some of those secrets found their way over to the other Toyotas for this year.

Sisoler : The defending Playoffs race winner here at Kansas, albeit in the No. 45 Toyota in place of former teammate Kurt Busch last fall instead of his usual No. 23, Bubba Wallace‘s speed in practice was better than what he showed in his No. 23 Dr. Pepper Zero Sugar Camry during qualifying and he is pretty solid at Kansas over his career.

I like Bubba’s chances to repeat his feat from last year and take the third checkered flag of his career to lock a 23XI Racing car into the playoffs again.

Lambeth : With Hendrick Motorsports locking out the front row and Chevrolet looking strong, I’m going with polesitter William Byron to pick up his third Cup win of the season!

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 as we celebrate our 15th anniversary of operations!

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.

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Rob Tiongson is a sports writer and editor originally from the Boston area and resides in the Austin, Texas, area. Tiongson has covered motorsports series like NASCAR and INDYCAR since 2008 and NHRA since 2013. Most recently, Tiongson is covering professional basketball, mainly the WNBA, and women's college basketball. While writing and editing for The Podium Finish, Tiongson currently seeks for a long-term sportswriting and sports content creating career. Tiongson 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 is an alum of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and St. Bonaventure University's renowned Jandoli School of Communication with a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism.

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