Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:56 AM

Hollywood Casino 400

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Kevin Harvick is one of three drivers to have raced in all 27 Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway and his 9.8 average finish is tops among all active drivers. But it’s what he’s done in his last 12 races there that have been amazing with him grabbing all three of wins and leading 772 laps of his track record 855 laps led. Those numbers are why the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook posted him the 9-to-2 co-favorite to win Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 which is the third and final race of the Round of 12.

So what’s the deal with Harvick being so good at Kansas?

“I don’t really know,” Harvick said. “It’s a racetrack where I’ve won a couple races at and for whatever reason it just kind of fits my style and what we do with the cars. We’ve had a lot of good racecars there to capitalize on the good characteristics that fall into my driving style and we’ve been able to have some good results with it.”

In the May Kansas race, Harvick had the best car on the track and led a race-high 104 laps. He won the first stage, finished second in the second stage, but with about 90 laps to go he thought he had a tire issue -- he didn’t -- and came in for an unscheduled pit stop and eventually finished 13th.

In the May Kansas race, Harvick had the best car on the track and led a race-high 104 laps. He won the first stage, finished second in the second stage, but with about 90 laps to go he thought he had a tire issue -- he didn’t -- and came in for an unscheduled pit stop and eventually finished 13th.

Beyond the May race and his past history on the 1.5-mile layout, what I like about most about Harvick this week is what he’s done lately with this week’s race package with cars having aero ducts and engines producing 550 horsepower. In his last four starts with it he’s won twice (Michigan, Indianapolis), fourth (Darlington), and runner-up (Las Vegas) leading 187 laps combined. No driver has been more consistent than him over the same span.

The other 9-to-2 co-favorite to win Sunday is Martin Truex Jr. who swept the 2017 season at Kansas for his only two career wins there. He comes into this week with no playoff pressure but has an agenda.

“We’re pretty happy where we are in the Playoffs now that we’re through Talladega,’’ Truex said. “We knew that would be a wild card for us, but we’re confident we can go everywhere else and be competitive and have a shot to win.

“That starts this week in Kansas. We know what we need to do to move on to the next round, but we’d also like to add more Playoff points if that opportunity presents itself.’’

In addition to eight top-fives at Kansas, Truex has led 726 laps which is second-most behind Harvick among active drivers.

Kyle Busch is listed at 5-to-1 odds even though he hasn’t won a race since June 2 at Pocono. That was his fourth win of the season, and there had only been 14 races. We’re at race No. 31 this week at Kansas. So what’s wrong with Kyle Busch?

I don’t think anything is wrong. I just think that other teams got better and up to his level, especially his own Joe Gibbs Racing teammates. Harvick got better, Hendrick Motorsports got better, and Chip Ganassi Racing got better.

But Busch is a serious contender to win at Kansas. The first 14 races of his career at Kansas were awful -- no top-five finishes. His last nine have been stellar with eight top-10s that include six top-fives and a 2016 win. He was runner-up in this race last season. Two of his four wins this season have come using this week’s race package.

Denny Hamlin leads the series with 16 top-five finishes, the last coming at Talladega on Monday where he took a beat-up car layered in duct tape after being involved in a wreck to finish third. He almost won the race. It was amazing and it was at that point I was assured -- in my mind -- that my 20-to-1 future bet on him to win the title was going to cash. He’s 18-to-1 to win at Kansas, and of course, I was baited and added him to my Kansas betting portfolio.

Four drivers will be chopped from the playoffs after Kansas and the bottom four in the Round of 12 likely have to win to advance because Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski who sit eighth and seventh in points are likely to have decent runs this week. Keselowski won the May race at Kansas which was his third win of the season but it’s also his last win. The same theory of why Kyle Busch hasn’t won ina while applies to both Keselowski and Logano.

Clint Bowyer is probably going to have to win to advance to the Round of 8 and he might be a decent look at 30-to-1 to win just because of being Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate. Share some notes, Harvick, gosh darn it. Share the wealth. Tony Stewart is the boss and I have to believe he’ll take the notes, maybe even a No. 4 chassis, and do whatever it takes to give Bowyer the best car possible to advance.

In the May Kansas race, Bowyer started second behind Harvick and finished fifth after leading 12 laps. Bowyer, an Emporia, Kansas native has still yet to win on his home track in 22 Cup starts.

“This is where is all began for me,” said Bowyer, who made his 500th Cup Series start last week. “These people in the stands are the people who saw me race at Lakeside and I-70 Speedways growing up. A lot of them were the ones who helped me get my start. Back then, I was out there with them at Kansas Speedway watching the NASCAR race.”

Bowyer did happen to win a Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway in 2011, so it’s not like he’s never won there at all. He comes in this week 24-points behind the eighth-place position in points, Logano.

The other three drivers outside looking in to make it to the next round are all from Hendrick Motorsports. Alex Bowman is sitting ninth, only 18-points behind Logano, and he’s feeling pretty good about his chances this week.

“I can’t wait to get to Kansas this weekend,” Bowman said. “I feel like I gave that one away in the spring. I know that car we are taking there is really good. That’s one of my favorite tracks, regardless of everything. I am looking forward to getting there and it definitely is a race that puts on a great show. This track is probably the best place to showcase the current rules package.”

Bowman led 63 laps at Kansas in May finishing second and is 30-to-1 to win this week. When I first read the quote on Wednesday, I immediately made a wager on him.

Chase Elliott is 10th in points, 22 points behind Logano and is one of the favorites to at 6-to-1 odds.

“We are going to head out to Kansas and try to get a win,” Elliott said. “That’s about all we can do now. We just have to have the mindset to go out there and control what we can control and do everything we can to get a win. I feel as confident going there as I do anywhere. Just going to hope for the best. That’s all we can do.”

Elliott won this race last season after already having an automatic berth to the Round of 8 by winning at Dover. The main thing I don’t like about Elliott this week is that none of his three wins this season have come on tracks using this week’s race package (550 HP). However, he was fourth in the May race after leading 45 laps. Still, I’d need 12-to-1 to add him to my betting strategy this week.

William Byron is sitting 12th in points, 27 points behind Logano and is listed at 30-to-1 odds to win. His best Cup finish in three starts was 20th in May, but he does have a 2016 Truck Series win there to his credit.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #4 Kevin Harvick (9/2)
2) #18 Kyle Busch (5/1)
3) #19 Martin Truex, Jr. (9/2)
4) #42 Kyle Larson (10/1)
5) #22 Joey Logano (8/1)

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