In view of this year’s NASCAR Playoffs, Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas could prove quite interesting. By all means, this fall traditional offers drama on the track and around it with Mother Nature’s uncertainty.
Moreover, this 267-lap race serves as the penultimate intermediate track race of the 2020 season. Consequently, for those who might dread Martinsville, Kansas offers some solace for those thriving on the 1.5-mile speed palaces. Then again, while championships aren’t decided at Kansas, such bids can be derailed with a horrendous outing at this track.
Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists, consisting of columnists, photographers, and fans, preview the racing action. This weekend, Ashley Hobbs, Cody Shoppe, Kobe Lambeth, Luis Torres, Matt Sisoler, Matteo Marcheschi, Michelle Raynor, Terra Jones, and yours truly consider the best title threats outside of Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin and the most exciting 2021 combination.
Podium Preview: Hollywood Casino 400
Despite the incredible amount of Playoff points scored by Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, which of the remaining Round of 8 drivers and teams have the best shot at possibly challenging them starting at Kansas?
Sisoler : Brad Keselowski has a good chance, and I think a dark horse most people forget about is Kurt Busch. Sure, CGR hasn’t had the best 2020, but their best efforts come on 1.5-mile tracks, and we’ve got a couple coming up. I think that KB1 and BK2 are the best shots to shock the top-two come Phoenix.
Jones : I think Brad Keselowski has the best chance to challenge this duo. While he hasn’t won at Texas (in Cup), he’s no stranger to victory lane at Kansas and Martinsville. I expect to see him step up and make some noise starting this weekend.
Shoppe : Despite heading into the Round of 8 below the cutline, I see Martin Truex Jr making it in. Truex always finds a way into the final four and this year is no different. A potential sleeper pick to advance in my mind is Alex Bowman. While this 88 team is not on the top of many people’s list to make it, Bowman is peaking at the right time and may just have a shot at sneaking into the fourth spot!
Marcheschi : While Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t done what Harvick and Hamlin have, he’s been a solid contender all year, and we know he can get it done at Kansas and Martinsville, with two victories at each track. In fact, Truex hasn’t lost a race at Martinsville since March of 2019, having won each of the last two events at the half-mile track. Truex, however, has never won at Phoenix, and has scored only four top-five finishes there in a whopping 29 starts, or three in 13 since joining Furniture Row. So while it shouldn’t be a surprise to see MTJ in the final four, it would certainly be one to see him win the title.
Raynor : I think Brad or Chase has the best at challenging to be in the top four. These guys are coming out strong lately and can be good at the upcoming tracks.
Torres : There’s something about Chase Elliott this season where he’s been underappreciated. Even though Texas hasn’t been kind to him since the track was changed, the other two tracks (Kansas and Martinsville) I can see him either winning or making it on points due to how well he can be. Sometimes, having strong tracks in a certain round will lead to great performances and there have been times the No. 9 team can deliver when people question them. After the ROVAL win, confidence level has to be at an all-time high and you know something, Phoenix owes him one so don’t count out Chase.
Of the confirmed driver and team changes for the 2021 season, which one has you the most excited in terms of potential and promise?
Lambeth : I think Bubba Wallace joining the team co-owned by basketball legend Michael Jordan and fellow Cup competitor Denny Hamlin will certainly have tons of potential and promise in 2021. For the first time in his Cup career, there will not be a worry in the world for Wallace career-wise. He has sponsorship and people who believe in his abilities behind the wheel. This will be his best opportunity to become a winner in the NASCAR Cup Series. Ultimately, this will lead to the inevitable pressure to perform and show everyone what he can do in a competitive ride.
Tiongson : I’m pretty excited to see Alex Bowman taking command of the No. 48 car next year. While it’s just a number change as he’s still working with Greg Ives and his No. 88 personnel into 2021, it’ll be fun to see him carry on the awesome legacy of this legendary ride.
I’m also looking forward to Daniel Suarez with the No. 99 Trackhouse team in 2021. They’ll have their growing pains but they’ll be pretty competitive during the new year especially with RCR, Justin Marks and Ty Norris involved with this organization.
Hobbs : I am torn between Ross Chastain moving to the Cup Series and Alex Bowman moving from the 88 to the 48. In terms of excitement, I am excited to see how Chastain performs at the Cup level because he has put on quite the show in the other series. In terms of potential and promise, I have to give the edge to Bowman. If we take away the fact he will be driving the seven-time champion’s car, I think Bowman still has a lot to show us.
As always, solid job by the Podium Preview team with two solid laps around Kansas. In this case, let’s keep going with a review of last Sunday’s chaotic but thrilling Charlotte ROVAL race and points reports!
As Ken Squier said, “To come so far, to get so close, and have it end this way.” Next, here’s our picks for those who may be eliminated after the Round of 8.
Sisoler : Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr.
Jones : Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex, Jr., and Joey Logano
Hobbs : Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, and Kurt Busch
Shoppe : Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano
Marcheschi : Kurt Busch, Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, and Chase Elliott
Lambeth : Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, and Martin Truex Jr.
Tiongson : Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr, Alex Bowman, and Denny Hamlin
Torres : Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex, Jr., and Joey Logano
Raynor : Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, and Martin Truex Jr.
TPF Stats: Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr.
If you love numbers, then Ashley Hobbs serves you right by Crunching the Numbers for today’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas!
Lastly, let’s make our best predictions for today’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas!
Jones : Brad Keselowski needs to make a statement and secure a spot in the Championship 4 and I think it happens this weekend.
Marcheschi : Brad Keselowski has been strong at Kansas, winning last year’s spring race and finishing second this summer. In his last 14 races in the Sunflower State, he’s led laps in 12 of them, including double digits in eight. Keselowski’s also been fast this season, taking four wins. He made the round of eight on points, but he knows he can’t count on points any longer. So, he will punch his ticket to the final four with a convincing victory at Kansas Speedway.
Torres : If there’s one surprise driver that could make the Championship 4, you’re looking at Alex Bowman. That’s because Kansas has been one his better tracks and with a track similar to his maiden win at Chicagoland last year, there’s no reason why not to question how he’ll fare this weekend. He was robbed last spring due to a backmarker impeding his lane, so it’s time for vengeance that’ll punch his ticket to Phoenix.
Lambeth : I think we will have a surprise driver advance to the Championship 4. After the highs of earning the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet in 2021, Alex Bowman will take things to a new level, bringing home the checkered flag at Kansas and giving his team a shot to compete for a title at Phoenix.
TPF Stats : Best this year. Best at intermediate tracks this year (and overall). In the top-five for an average finish at Kansas Speedway. He is a virtual lock for racing for the championship anyway, but Kevin Harvick will make that statement this weekend in the Midwest.
Raynor : He’s good at this track.
Hobbs : He has been hot or not so hot on Intermediate tracks this year. But he has been hot at Kansas Speedway. I’m looking at Ryan Blaney to continue his hot streak in Kansas.
Shoppe : With the 12 team’s speed on the mile and a half tracks in 2020, I see Ryan Blaney playing playoff spoiler in Kansas!
Tiongson : I won’t be as concise as our friend Michelle but let’s say that a confident Chase Elliott could be bad news for the competition at Kansas. He won at Kansas in 2018 and he’s looking very poised for a serious championship run.
Sisoler : With the pressure of defending his championship gone, I think all that’s left for Kyle Busch will be anger and aggression. If he’s near the front, expect Rowdy to be cracking open a can of his own energy drink in Kansas’ victory lane, because he will do whatever it takes to get a win.
Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into this today’s 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! Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon! Please stay safe, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.
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.