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Kansas Speedway

The Monster Energy Series Playoffs roll on with Sunday's Hollwyood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)


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MRN's Pete Pistone gets you ready for Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway with a look at some of the drivers in the field for the last race of Round 2 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

Who’s HOT at Kansas

Kyle Busch: Definitely on the playoff hot seat, Busch heads to Kansas seven points below the cutline to advance to the semifinal round. While earlier in his career, Kansas wasn’t the best place for Busch, he’s been strong of late with an average finish of 4.0 in the last five races including a win.

Kevin Harvick: Right behind Busch on that chart of average finishes is Harvick at 4.8 dating back five races. He has finishes of first, second (twice) and third in that time span.

Martin Truex Jr.: The spring Kansas race winner has been a beast on intermediate tracks this year and that bodes well for the Furniture Row Racing driver Sunday afternoon. Truex has six wins this year and with a spot in the next round of the playoffs locked in, he can go for broke after victory No. 7.

Matt Kenseth: The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is only one point behind teammate Kyle Busch on the playoff grid and also faces a do-or-die weekend in Kansas. He has three top-10 finishes in his last five Kansas starts and came home 14th in the Mother’s Day weekend race.

Brad Keselowski: Last week’s Talladega winner also has little pressure in terms of playoff implications, already having a berth in the next round. But Keselowski wants more stage points, and has reason to race hard and follow up his second-place performance at the track in the spring.

Who's NOT

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: He’ll need a major improvement over his previous Kansas experience to have any shot of climbing out of the bottom four in the playoff standings and advancing. Stenhouse hasn't had a top 10 in his last five Kansas starts.

Jamie McMurray: The Chip Ganassi Racing driver will have to throw a "Hail Mary" on Sunday because winning appears his only way of moving on in the playoffs. McMurray is in the basement of the grid but did have an eighth-place finish in May.

Paul Menard: He’s playing out the string at Richard Childress Racing before moving to the Wood Brothers in 2018. Menard hasn’t fared well at Kansas in recent outings with an average finish of just 26.4 dating back to 2015.

AJ Allmendinger: It’s been a miserable year for Allmendinger and the JTG Daugherty driver would like to find some optimism in the closing races of the season to have something to build on for 2018. He’ll have to search hard for that to happen at Kansas after a 30th-place run there in May.

Aric Almirola: Enjoyed a top-five finish last weekend at Talladega. But based on his previous Kansas performances, Almirola and Richard Petty Motorsports need to savor that finish. He returns to the scene of the violent May crash that put Almirola on the sidelines for weeks with a back injury.

Who to Keep an Eye On at Kansas

Dale Earnhardt Jr.:  Only five more chances for Earnhardt to find Victory Lane in his final Cup Series campaign. He did finish third at the track in 2015.

Ryan Blaney: Doesn’t have a ton of Cup Series experience at Kansas, but Blaney’s been solid in limited starts. The Wood Brothers Racing driver has a 7.5 average finish in four starts including fourth place in May.

Jimmie Johnson: The seven-time Cup Series champion is right above the playoff cutline and will need to avoid disaster Sunday for an opportunity to shoot for title No. 8. He has finishes of first, third and fourth over the last five races at Kansas Speedway.

Denny Hamlin: Right in the middle of the playoff grid, Hamlin has some room for error but not that much. Kansas has not been kind in recent outings as Hamlin’s 23.6 average finish dating back to 2015 indicates.

Kyle Larson:  One thing’s for sure. Larson will run up near the wall on Sunday as he usually does most everywhere. He did have a solid sixth-place Kansas finish in the spring.

MRN.com Staff Picks

Jeff Wackerlin: Martin Truex Jr.

Pete Pistone: Martin Truex Jr.

Robbie Mays: Kevin Harvick

Tyler Burnett: Martin Truex Jr.

John Singler: Kevin Harvick

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