GoBowling 400 Preview
May 3, 2016
By Micah Roberts
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It's time to get back into our 1.5-mile track mode with Saturday night racing at Kansas Speedway and it's also time to stop, reflect and acknowledge every Mother on the planet, something NASCAR has been doing since its beginnings.
Mother's Day has always a been a huge NASCAR tradition simply because they don't race on the holiday. NASCAR founder Bill France always said he never wanted to see any mother have to watch their son get injured while driving during a race on their special day, but the real reason was closer to the fact that no one came to any of the tracks in the bible belt on that particular Sunday, so it was bad for business.
The tradition still goes on to this day, but instead of an overall dry NASCAR weekend, we get Saturday night racing at Kansas. It'll be the fourth of 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks this season, and first of two at Kansas Speedway. The other will come in October during the Chase.
If you're wondering why Kansas has two race dates when a much better equipped and fun NASCAR experience in Las Vegas only has one, you just need to know that International Speedway Corporation (ISC), which owns Kansas Speedway, is a subsidiary of NASCAR.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway is owned by the competing Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (SMI). ISC got into the gaming business themselves with the Hollywood Casino located right at the track, so it serves them well to have two dates. It's a power move that we're on the wrong side of in Vegas.
With three 1.5-mile races already in the books, we should have pretty good look at who is most likely to win Saturday night. Jimmie Johnson won at Atlanta, Brad Keselowski won at Las Vegas and Kyle Busch won at Texas. We can also look at the Fontana race, a 2-mile layout, but with similar banking to Kansas, where Johnson won as well.
Johnson also led the most laps (76) at Las Vegas and has a series-best 8.7 average finish in 19 Kansas starts, which includes a three wins. Last season Johnson won four the 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks, including this May race. It's not hard to understand why he's the 5/1 co-favorite with Kevin Harvick who won at Kansas in 2013 and has been runner-up twice in the past four starts there.
Most signs point to Johnson winning again, but the driver I'm going to focus on this week is Joey Logano who has been Mr. Kansas over the past three seasons.
All Logano has done is win two of the past three races while on a run of five straight top-five finishes there. He's yet to win a race this season after having the most of any driver last season. He finished second at Las Vegas while leading 70 laps, then was fourth at Fontana and third at Texas.
This is the perfect spot for him to bust loose for his first win and because of Joe Gibbs Racing being the dominant force winning the past four races with the new low down force package, he should be able to fetch a nice price at around 8/1 odds in the sports books.
The best long shot possibility is Martin Truex Jr. who is getting only 15/1 odds. Yes, it's not that big of odds, but long shots really don't win at this track. Truex Jr. has never won at Kansas, but he's always run well there, including runner-up twice during 2012 season. This season he's running JGR equipment and led a race-high 141 laps at Texas last month. He easily had the best car and it's a great indicator that he may get his first win of the season. Last season Johnson led the most laps at Texas at won, and then won on the next 1.5-mile track as well at Kansas a month later.
Another driver with longer odds to consider is Dale Earnhardt Jr. who was third in this race last season. He finished second at both Atlanta and Texas and should be expected to be competing for the win Saturday night.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #22 Joey Logano (8/1)
2) #48 Jimmie Johnson (5/1)
3) #18 Kyle Busch (8/1)
4) #4 Kevin Harvick (5/1)
5) #78 Martin Truex Jr. (15/1)