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Track Talk: Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway

Each weekend, our panel on The Podium Finish provide their thoughts on the latest stories in the world of NASCAR as well as discussing their race pick to win the upcoming Sprint Cup race of the weekend.  In this edition of Track Talk, we preview the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway!

This weekend, our panel consisting of Ashley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Kathleen CassidyKatie Copple, Sean Fesko, and Stephen Conley talk about Martinsville under the lights, the duress of The Chase, Ryan Newman’s return to Childress, and the potential of a non-Chaser crashing the Cup party!

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Question 1
Thank you Martinsville for lights.

Thank you Martinsville for lights.

Martinsville Speedway unveiled plans to have LED lights installed in time for the 2017 season as an “insurance policy” for races that may run late into the day.  With the later race time starts, might this prompt this popular track to eventually host at least one night race for the Cup or Truck Series in the future?

Hull :  I think this is a great thing to happen.  I remember that last year, after the whole Logano/Kenseth drama, they had to rush to finish the race because they didn’t have any lights.  I think that a night race at this track would be awesome too by the way.  Short tracks at night are truly magical.  I think a lot of fans would actually try to attend this race.  It could benefit Martinsville Speedway if they do this, so I think that in the future this might happen, and it would be an awesome thing!

Hobbs :  It better! Martinsville is epic enough; why not make it even more epic?! I am very excited about the possibility of night racing at Martinsville!!!

Copple :  A Martinsville night race would be fantastic!  I think night races add a new level of excitement to the race and it’s a fantastic idea for the track to add LED lights.  All tracks should have lights, regardless if they have night races or not.

Cassidy :  I think a night race would be very popular at Martinsville.  With the track willing to bite the bullet and install lighting, I do not see why this would not be possible.  However, whenever fans talk about tracks getting a night race, the answer always seems to be no.  We do have a fair amount of night races in the Sprint Cup Schedule already, but with this being said, I think of all tracks to try it, Martinsville would be it.

Conley :  They say they won’t and with every fiber of my being I hope they don’t.  Just imagine a Saturday night in Martinsville and race fans from that area are forced to decide which race to take in, the one at Martinsville or down the road to the historic South Boston Speedway.  Night racing is fun to watch, it’s exciting, but it’s overdone now with NASCAR.  You will flood that market with Richmond, Bristol, and now Martinsville if they decide to do that.  Leave as an insurance police and keep one of the rare traditions that is left, a Sunday afternoon watching 500 miles on the paperclip.

Fesko :  I could definitely see the Truck Series moving to a night race.  Cup?  Perhaps down the road.  Saturday night short tracking is the best, so I could see it happening especially after Richmond lost one of its races to the daytime hours.

Shoppe :  I would like to see at least a Truck Series race run under the lights at Martinsville!  It would be cool to see NASCAR’s shortest track under the lights!  I feel like if there were any tracks that would see positive results under the lights Martinsville would be it!  Drivers often complain lately about the track’s “racyness” lacking when the race is held at night rather then the day due to temperature differences.  The tiny paperclip however isn’t a track that would be effected much at all by these factors so I am totally in favor of seeing another old fashioned Saturday Night short track race in Cup!

Question 2
Can Joey Logano and his 22 team reemerge as a Chase contender? (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

Can Joey Logano and his 22 team reemerge as a Chase contender? (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

We saw some Chase favorites run into problems at Charlotte, like Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Denny Hamlin.  How much pressure is on each of these teams to control their destinies this weekend at Kansas as opposed to next weekend at Talladega, where they do not necessarily have total control of their fates?

Hull :  They will for sure have a lot of pressure.  Anytime you have one bad race in these series of races, it sets up a lot of stress.  They will have to perform well these next two races if they want to advance.  The problem is, Talladega is a crap shoot, and any of these drivers can get involved in a wreck and end up missing the next round.  There will be a lot of pressure on everyone these next couple of races.  The Chase always throws kinks in the drivers’ plans, so buckle up these next couple of races!  It will be an interesting one!!!

Hobbs :  Oh, they know the pressure is great with the looming Talladega.  I think as the years go on, these drivers hate Talladega more and more because of how much it can ruin a Chase.  It adds the unpredictability to The Chase, however, and that is part of the excitement of the sport.  However, only one driver will win at Kansas, therefore making Talladega an even more critical race for these drivers who had a rough go at Charlotte.  Luckily, half the (Chase) field had an issue at Charlotte so rather than, say, one or two drivers having and issue and battling with fewer people, the fact that many five Chasers finished 30th or worse keeps the competition quite close.

Copple :  Teams essentially go in to Talladega knowing the possibility of having a bad day is high.  Knowing that, they need to be on the top of their game for Charlotte and Kansas.  Those drivers that had a race in Charlotte need to be careful this weekend.  Another bad race, going in to Dega, is almost guaranteeing that you’re going to be eliminated.

Cassidy :  There is always pressure on the teams coming into the bottom four to six slots!  However, when you look at the points, there really is not that much of a difference.  These teams may have struggled last week at Charlotte, but it is possible for them to still make it to the next round without a win. But the win will be important for driver’s who want to sleep at night!

Conley :  This race may end up being one of the most intense as drivers will be fighting with all they’ve got to lock themselves in and not have to dwell on Talladega.  We’ve seen chaos come out of desperation and if some of those needing that win or strong finishes push the envelope too much, they may find themselves heading to Alabama licking their wounds and walking through the garage carrying a small trash can and that green sick look on their face.

Fesko :  The pressure is immense for these five, but honestly eleven drivers are going to be uncomfortable going into this race. The stakes are higher, for sure, as they’re behind, but the pressure might just be less. They know a win gets them in, and will likely be the only way to advance, and now they have two shots to do it rather than relying on points.

Shoppe :  Each of those who had a bad race at Charlotte are lucky that so many others did as well.  Despite finishing outside the top 30, those drivers still are less then ten points away from Denny Hamlin in eighth.  The problem for them is the top and are 19 points away.  The five drivers will be desperate for a good run, if not a win in Kansas with the unpredictable Talladega up next.  Nobody wants to have to depend on Talladega to be their must win race.

Question 3
Can you feeeeeeel it? The taste of Coca-Cola?

Can you feeeeeeel it? The taste of Coca-Cola?

Ryan Newman announced that he will continue to drive the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet in 2017 and for the foreseeable future.  Does this somewhat start the domino effect in terms of roster moves and changes for next season?

Hull :  I knew that Ryan Newman would stay with RCR.  Despite missing The Chase this year, he still performed decently, and I think being one of the top drivers there, he would stay.  I am thinking that either this year or next year, there will be a fourth car added to the roster, which will seat Richard Childress’ other grandson Ty Dillon.  That is to be expected.  So Ryan Newman’s resigning will not change that fact.

Hobbs :  Are there many seats to be filled in the Cup series?  Were we expecting a different announcement to come over Newman getting a contract extension?  Usually once the Chase gets going is when these stories start to come about.  But, I also feel like this is a relatively quiet silly season, at least for the Cup side.

Copple :  The juggles of the driver and team changes.  There are always big moves, changes and shake-ups during the off-season and this is only the beginning.  We have Smoke retiring and a new driver taking over at SHR while others are extending contracts.  And even more surprises that we won’t see coming will likely take place!  Bring on the off-season!

Cassidy :  I feel like this is the time of the year when you start hearing about changes in drivers and teams.  We already know major ones such as Clint Bowyer going to SHR, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see some big moves or even XFINITY drivers brought up.  It’s all a waiting game now for fans!

Conley :  I don’t think there really are that many dominoes to fall.  Had Newman not stayed, then I could have seen a few more that would have tumbled. W hat this really does is leave Ty Dillon wondering what is about to happen. The one I think might need to look over his shoulder and hope he’s not part of silly season is AJ Alllmendinger. Could the 47 seat have Dillon’s name getting stenciled on it soon?  JTG Daugherty Racing has that affiliation with RCR and business could get in the way.

Fesko :  I think it kind of closes off Silly Season to be honest. Everybody is staying put with the exception of Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones. Newman’s announcement really shut the door for anything major to happen. You might see Ty Dillon grab a ride somewhere, but other than that expect no big announcements in the future.

Shoppe :  Ryan Newman was one of a very few amount of drivers still unsure about 2017.  With his renewal at RCR, there really doesn’t seem to be much movement among big name drivers this silly season.  The only real question mark is beside Dale Jr’s name, whether he will be able to return in 2017.

Question 4
The consensus is on that Target ride! (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

The consensus is on that Target ride! (Photo Credit: Jeremy Thompson/The Racing Experts)

Let’s talk a moment about some non-Chasers as we head to Kansas Speedway this weekend.  Heading into Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, which of the non-Chasers do you think has the best shot at scoring a big victory?

Hull :  Based on statistics, I don’t see it really happening.  With the exception of Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman, Chasers occupy the top finish averages at Kansas Speedway.  In the past, a Chaser has won this race, and advanced himself to the next round.  So I see the trend continuing.  I think that the only non-Chaser who has the best shot at winning would be Kyle Larson, because he has had a decent year this year despite not making it to the this round. Other than that, I don’t see it happening.

Hobbs :  I look at a driver who has been quite fast recently, who was once a Chaser but bad luck found him at Dover; I am talking about Kyle Larson. However, when it comes to intermediate tracks, a Chaser named Martin Truex Jr. will be hard to beat…

Copple :  I could see Larson and Stenhouse running well at Kansas.  Both have had strong appearances in past seasons and would be poised to take the race win from a Chase driver!

Cassidy :  I think Kyle Larson.  This team has shown nothing but talent for years now.  Getting their first win at MIS was huge, but I don’t think they will stop there for the season.  They know they have something to prove for their faults in The Chase, so Kansas is the perfect time for that!

Conley :  Outside of a surprise at Talladega, I don’t think any of them do.  In fact, I’m not sure anyone outside of JGR will have many shots at Victory Lane, but if I must pick a dark horse, I look down the list and remaining races. Jeff Gordon could surprise us at Martinsville and I’d like to say Greg Biffle possibly at Texas, but really, what chance does a RFR Ford have of reaching Victory Lane this season?  It’s Chasers the rest of the way out.

Fesko :  None really, as the Chasers have been dominant in Chase races, and there’s no reason to expect that will change on Sunday.  If I had to pick one driver, Kyle Larson might surprise.  He’s been fast and is looking to prove his exit from the Chase was premature.

Shoppe :  Since Kyle Larson doesn’t count as a Chaser anymore, I’d say he’s the most likely to steal a win away from a Chase contender.  As far as those who didn’t make the playoffs at all, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, and Alex Bowman have consistently been the three best non-Chasers.

Nice opening run by Team TPF!  Before hitting up the final restart and going for the win, why don’t we review how we all fared last weekend at Charlotte right now with our race and points report!
Charlotte was quite meddling for the field...

Charlotte was quite meddling for the field…

...but it means Kansas Katie is atop the points chase!

…but it means Kansas Katie is atop the points chase!

It’s about that time to make those race winning picks!  Let’s see who we’ve chosen to win today’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Will one of these fantastic five stand tall in Victory Lane?

Will one of these fantastic five stand tall in Victory Lane?

Tiongson :  Matt Kenseth may have spun like a tornado and felt as angry as the Tazmanian Devil trying to chase down Bugs Bunny after Kansas.  But as Klingsons would say in Star Trek, “Revenge is a dish that’s best served cold,” Kenseth will feel that satisfaction from revenge by winning at Kansas.

Fesko : Matt Kenseth gets the win today.

Shoppe :  It’s Matt Kenseth time!

Hull : My pick to win is Kyle Busch!

Conley :  After scoring a win in Kansas this week, Kyle Busch will sleep soundly heading to Talladega in a week.

Hobbs/TPF Stats :  Because he has nothing to lose, and he wants to show he is truly here for the long haul, Jimmie Johnson will lead the pack down the yellow brick home, past the scarecrow, through the poppies, and back home to the checkered flag.  In case that got to lopopy for y’all, Johnson will win in Kansas.

Copple :  Going with Ricky Stenhouse Jr!

Cassidy :  Joey Logano and the No. 22 will score an upset today!

That wraps it up, race fans! Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!   We’re about ready for some racing.  How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into today’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and @Team_TPF and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team. We’d also like to thank Jeremy Thompson and The Racing Experts for sharing their photos in the article whereas noted, including the featured image!  The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors and do not reflect on any organizations that we are affiliated with outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

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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