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Podium Preview: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas

The second 2022 NASCAR Playoffs race kicks off in a somewhat cooler Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Chris Graythen | Getty Images)

The second 2022 NASCAR Playoffs race kicks off in a somewhat cooler Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Chris Graythen | Getty Images)

Following a feast or famine time for this year’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs field, it’s time for a stop in Kansas City for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400.

Make no mistake that the 400.5 mile, 267-lap race is not a Sunday picnic for any of the 36 drivers competing for the win. Instead, it’s rim riding, daring and high speed thrills for about four hours.

For the past 21 years, Kansas Speedway has proved itself as a competitive, tricky intermediate track. With corners progressively banked between 17 to 20 degrees in the corners, nine to 11 on the frontstretch and five on the backstretch, it’s no wonder that it tests drivers and machines.

Beyond the plethora of references with Kansas like Wizard of Oz or the band named after the location, the venerable track is known for windy conditions. Consider last fall’s Playoffs race in which the buffeting gusts played a factor in Turn 2 incidents, namely Ryan Blaney, as well as drivers using the high line in the late going.

Kyle Larson hopes to replicate his winning ways from last year. However, pole sitter Tyler Reddick, 2018 Cup champion Joey Logano and two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch seem like worthy contenders on this race day.

This weekend, Cody ShoppeJasmine Sharpe, Kobe LambethLuis TorresMatt SisolerMichelle RaynorNathan Solomon and yours truly ponder about the return of North Wilkesboro and Playoff racers looking for a Kansas City rebound.

Podium Preview: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas
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Question 1
She's back. (Photo: North Wilkesboro via Twitter)

She’s back. (Photo: North Wilkesboro via Twitter)

North Wilkesboro Speedway will host next year’s NASCAR All-Star Race. How monumental will it be to have this beloved track back on the Cup schedule for the series’ 75th anniversary?

Shoppe : This is a great move for NASCAR! It wasn’t a secret the Texas venue was a failure and so many fans wanted to see NASCAR return to the newly revived short track. I hope this is just the beginning of the sport’s commitment to going back to its roots with classic short tracks possibly rotating the All-Star Race! 

Tiongson : I love this move as a traditionalist, a journalist and motorsports fan. I was sad when this track was removed off the Cup circuit after the 1996 season. When this move was announced this past week, I felt like I was 10 years old all over again.

Perhaps the ASR may help North Wilkesboro return as a beloved staple for a points paying race during the Cup season. Anything is possible as we’ve learned since the COVID-19 pause in early 2020.

Sisoler : It is a fantastic move for NASCAR to move the All-Star Race to North Wilkesboro. The ASRs at Texas were not good, and with the push that the fans have been giving the sport to move the race closer to home, this is going to be wonderful to see NASCARs officially back at NW for the first time since the 1996 Tyson Holly Farms 400, which was won by Jeff Gordon.

Solomon : This move is amazing! So many fans want to see NASCAR return to grassroots tracks and this is a great start to that. The CARS Tour put on a great show and I’m sure the Cup Series will as well. I hope North Wilkesboro will stay on the NASCAR schedule for years to come and the sanctioning body will continue to add more tracks like that to the schedule.   

Question 2
Can Kevin Harvick rebound from a tough outing at Darlington? (Photo: Blake Ulino | The Podium Finish)

Can Kevin Harvick rebound from a tough outing at Darlington? (Photo: Blake Ulino | The Podium Finish)

Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe encountered problems last Sunday night at Darlington. How pivotal will it be for each to have a solid finish at Kansas?

Lambeth : The drivers listed above must have a good points day at Kansas if they want to head into next week’s Round of 16 cutoff race at Bristol with confidence of advancing to the next round. With the field being so close right now in the standings, it’ll be more important than ever to score stage points. This alone could be the difference between moving on to the Round of 12 and getting eliminated from the postseason.

Nobody is in a must-win situation yet and putting together a complete race from beginning to end at Kansas should give the best shot keeping their championship quest going.

Sharpe : Watching the Truck race on Friday evening perfectly summarizes the importance of having a solid finish at a Playoff track. Carson Hocevar battled and fought to finish second, only to be three points short of advancing to the next round of the Playoffs in the Truck Series.

Every single position is worth points. Elliott, Harvick, Chastain and Briscoe are all chasing after the same thing, of course that being the championship. There are twelve other drivers chasing after the same thing though. Consistency will be key not only in this week’s race, but next week’s as well as the cutoff looms closer.

Raynor : It will be very pivotal for Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott to have great finishes at Kansas after last week’s disasters. They need to gain as many points as possible and be in the top 5 if they want a chance to advance. I don’t see Chase Briscoe having a good finish at all. He hasn’t had the finishes they are capable of. I have Briscoe eliminated this round. 

Torres : One mulligan will set a driver back, regardless of the points gap. They must step their game up, which shouldn’t be a problem because they were solid prior to their issues at Darlington. Sometimes, people forget that it’s a team sport. And when things crumble in the car, it falls on the team, except for Harvick which was more of a sporting issue than with SHR.

Now, if they have bad luck again or don’t perform well this Sunday, it’s really going to make Bristol miserable for the drivers because of the hole they’re in.

Two laps around Kansas can be quite the blitz at this 21-year-old NASCAR venue! Before we reconsider the big picture for Sunday’s race, let’s rewind to last Sunday night’s Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington, Round 27 of 36 of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season with our race and points reports!
It was feast or famine for our panelists at Darlington.

It was feast or famine for our panelists at Darlington.

Shoppe enjoys a slim advantage over yours truly.

Shoppe enjoys a slim advantage over yours truly.

Now, let’s look at the top 10 starters for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway!
Row 1
Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

Tyler Reddick and Joey Logano (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

Row 2
Alex Bowman and Christopher Bell (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny and Riley Thompson | The Podium Finish)

Alex Bowman and Christopher Bell (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny and Riley Thompson | The Podium Finish)

Row 3
Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish and Chris Graythen | Getty Images)

Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish and Chris Graythen | Getty Images)

Row 4
Kyle Larson and Austin Cindric (Photo: Logan Skidan and Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

Kyle Larson and Austin Cindric (Photo: Logan Skidan and Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

Row 5
William Byron and Chris Buescher (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny and Josh Jones | The Podium Finish)

William Byron and Chris Buescher (Photo: Dylan Nadwodny and Josh Jones | The Podium Finish)

Last but not least, here’s our winning picks for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway!
It's anyone's guess for the second race of this year's Playoffs! (Photo: Logan Skidan, Jordan Anders-McClain, Blake Ulino and Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

It’s anyone’s guess for the second race of this year’s Playoffs! (Photo: Logan Skidan, Jordan Anders-McClain, Blake Ulino and Dylan Nadwodny | The Podium Finish)

Sisoler : He was runner up in the first Kansas race of 2022 and looked solid, finishing only behind Kurt Busch then, and he rolls off from the 7th place position tomorrow. I think Kyle Larson is gonna grab his third win of the year and lock himself into the Round of 12.

Torres : Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch put on an absolute barn burner last time in Kansas. With Kurt out of the picture, Larson is the next best choice the second time around. With the track being green due to rain on Saturday, it does neturalize the field. However, I don’t expect much of a change in terms who’ll navigate around the track better. Larson bounces back with a win at Kansas to move forward into the playoffs.

Shoppe : After a nice comeback last weekend in Darlington, it’s time for the defending champion to get on a roll. Kyle Larson and the No. 5 team will win Kansas again on their way to another championship run.

Lambeth : After going up in flames last Sunday night at Darlington, expect Kevin Harvick to bounce back in a big way and punch his ticket to the Round of 12 with a win at Kansas Speedway!

Solomon : Kyle Busch is facing a lot of uncertainty with his future at Joe Gibbs Racing. He’s great at responding to pressure, so I think he’ll go out and win at Kansas, a place he’s had success at in the past.

Tiongson : If there’s ever a time for Tyler Reddick to make noise, why not now? Not that any of these races are inconsequential, but look for Driver 8 to be great on Sunday afternoon after winning the pole.

Sharpe : Austin Cindric, the rookie Team Penske driver, has shown tons of potential during practice and qualifying. Even though he has had a tough season he’s continued to fight and persevere.

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! While we progress toward a new kind of normal, please do your part to curb the impacts of the pandemic by washing your hands and getting your COVID-19 vaccine or booster. By working together, we can minimize the threat of COVID-19 for ourselves, our loved ones and neighbors.

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.

Lastly, on the 21st anniversary of 9/11, we will never forget those who lost their lives and those who sacrificed all to defend the free world.

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 Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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