Hollywood Casino 400
October 18, 2017
By Micah Roberts
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Wow, the race at Talladega SuperSpeedway on Sunday really shook up the standings as over half the field wrecked, including Las Vegan Kyle Busch -- one of the favorites to win the championship -- who now has to almost win this week at Kansas Speedway in order to advance to the Round of Eight in NASCAR's Playoffs.
“We’re going to do the same things we’ve always done – same preparation, nothing different," said Busch who is seven-points behind the eighth-place transfer position. "I think we need to go in there and do our best to be prepared and when it comes to race time, try to limit our mistakes. I think that helped out there over the years and that has turned our team into a contender every time we race there, now. We’ll just do the same things this time around. It’s no different than what we typically do each and every week, though. I know Adam (Stevens, crew chief) will have a good M&M’S Halloween Camry and we will keep doing what we’ve been doing well all year long and see where the points fall for us if we can’t get a win.”
I'm told by someone well versed in the situation that Busch has "The Car" this week. We'll see.
Kansas Speedway is a 1.5-mile cookie cutter layout with moderate banking and will be the ninth of 11 races on those type this season. This will be the second time this season they've raced at Kansas, the first coming in May won by Martin Truex Jr. who also led the most laps. This dude is almost unbeatable on these type of tracks this season. He's won five of the eight races on 1.5s this season, including the last three. The last race on this type of track was at Charlotte two weeks ago, which Truex also won.
It's hard to make a case for anyone but Truex to win this week which is why he's going to be a short favorite. Think of a price like Clayton Kershaw going against a rookie on the Marlins. That's what Truex is this week. Yes, he's the Cy Young of NASCAR on 1.5's. There are 39 other drivers, but no team has these tracks figured like the No. 78 squad.
If looking at past history, you'll see Jimmie Johnson has won three times and Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano have each won twice.
"Obviously we are in a tight spot in the playoffs after last weekend at Talladega," said seven-time champion Johnson who is currently eighth in points. "We know what we need to do in Kansas.”
Kenseth is the active leader with 774 laps led during his 23 career starts. He's started every race at Kansas since the track opened in 2001. His last win came in 2013.
The best long shot of the race is probably Ryan Blaney, who finished fourth there in May leading 83 laps. He also finished fifth there last season. But the entire problem with trying a long shot is that Truex is just so far superior to anyone. Great, I take Blaney at 25/1, he leads some laps, I get my hopes up of cashing and Truex takes over at the end. This Truex guy is taking all the fun out of betting NASCAR.
Chase Elliott is still looking for his first career win, but he's finished third or better in the past three races on 1.5-mile tracks -- runner-up in the last two. But Kansas has been a rough place for him.
“I don’t know," Elliott said. "We have had some really good cars there. We had one of the best cars I think I have ever had in the Cup Series last fall in the playoff race there. Very frustrating to have our tire go down there leading. I feel like we had another good car there this past spring, which was encouraging.”
Elliott is sitting comfortably in sixth-place, one point behind Denny Hamlin, but a bad day like he's had the last two times out -- 29th and 31st -- and he'll be eliminated from the playoffs.
I can't bet a driver at 5/2 odds to win a car race, but at the same time I have a hard time betting anyone else.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #78 Martin Truex Jr. (5/2)
2) #21 Ryan Blaney (25/1)
3) #18 Kyle Busch (4/1)
4) #24 Chase Elliott (15/1)
5) #4 Kevin Harvick (12/1)