Kansas Speedway is set to host the Round of 8 Playoff opener for all three of NASCAR’s top divisions along with the championship race for the ARCA Menards Series.
The NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series standings have been reseeded and eight drivers in each division will begin their three-race quest this weekend to secure a spot in the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway next month.
Kansas will be the first of two 1.5-mile tracks in this round for all three series with Texas Motor Speedway up next.
Denny Hamlin, who is seeded second, 13 points behind Kevin Harvick, comes into Sunday’s Cup Series Hollywood Casino (MRN, 1:30 p.m. ET) as the winner of the last two races at Kansas.
“I have a good setup,” said Hamlin when asked what makes Kansas so good for him. “That’s all that I can equate it to. In years past, Kansas has not always been a strong suit. Mile-and-a-halfs in general haven’t been a super strong suit for most of career. I don’t know. You could argue the statistics and wins would say otherwise, but it seems like on the mile-and-a-halves we’ve got a really good package or setup going that seems to be working.”
Hamlin is the only multiple winner at 1.5-mile tracks this season. He is one of six drivers that are still eligible to run for the championship that includes Harvick, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano that have visited Victory Lane in the nine overall races at those types of tracks. Austin Dillon and Cole Custer, who have been eliminated from the Playoffs, are the other two drivers.
The last mile-and-a-half track was Las Vegas to kick off the Playoffs where Busch won.
“Looking forward to it,” said Busch, who is the eighth seed in the Round of 8. “We got a couple mile-and-a-halves here in the Round of 8. Those are our strengths at Chip Ganassi Racing. So we’re in a great spot right now.”
See Also: One on One with Kurt Busch
Harvick and Hamlin are tied with Jimmie Johnson for the most wins at Kansas with three. Among the Playoff drivers, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. each have two Kansas victories while last weekend’s winner at the Charlotte Roval Chase Elliott won this event in 2018.
“It’s a racetrack where I’ve won a couple races and, for whatever reason, it just kind of fits my style and what we do with the cars,” Harvick said. “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.”
Erik Jones, who is currently 17th in the standings, is the only driver that has finished in the top 10 in each of the last five races at Kansas.
“I like Kansas a lot and with the momentum from the last few weeks on our side, I think we can go there this weekend and contend for the win,” said Jones, who will start 11th. “We’ve come close to winning in the past at Kansas and it’s a place I’ve always run well at over the years in Cup, Xfinity and Truck.”
Kansas: Race Info and Starting Lineups
In the Xfinity Series Brandon Jones enters the Round of 8 as the sixth seed and as the winner of the last two races at Kansas.
Jones, who will return to Joe Gibbs Racing next season – announced this week, is the only driver in the field for Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 (MRN, 6:30 p.m. ET) with a win at the 1.5-mile track.
“Our mile-and-a-half program has been extremely competitive across the board this year,” said Jones, who will start fifth. “This track is fun because the groove constantly moves, so it allows you to adjust your line during the race to find speed.”
Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric, the top two seeded drivers, lead all drivers this season with three wins each on the mile-and-a-half tracks. Briscoe dominated the last in the Playoff opener at Las Vegas, leading 164 laps.
“We know we need to win early in this round and lock ourselves into Phoenix, but we can’t make any huge mistakes to give away our points lead, so we went back and found some things to work on for this race,” Briscoe said. “We’re taking the car we won with at Vegas, so I feel really good about our chances.”
Cindric and Ross Chastain, the seventh seed, lead the series with nine top 10s each in the 10 races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2020.
Noah Gragson will start from the pole. He finished second at Las Vegas to join winner Briscoe, Justin Allgaier and Ryan Sieg as the Playoff contenders that finished in the top five that day.
“Kansas is one of those tracks that doesn’t look great on the stats sheet for me in the Xfinity Series but I really enjoy running there,” Gragson said. “It’s similar to Homestead where you will see us up against the wall and that’s where I am the most comfortable.”
After an off-weekend, the Round of 8 for the Gander Trucks will start with Saturday’s Clean Harbors 200 (MRN, 3:30 p.m. ET).
Playoff drivers Austin Hill and Matt Crafton are among the drivers looking forward to competing on two mile-and-a-half tracks to open the round.
Hill, who is currently the No. 1 seed and is tied atop the standings with Sheldon Creed, won at Kansas in July and the Playoff opener at Las Vegas.
Crafton, the defending series champion, has finished in the top 10 in the last six races this season at 1.5-mile tracks, including a win in the second race at Kansas.
“That middle part of the season was really good for us,” said Crafton, who leads all drivers with three Kansas wins. “We had a lot of speed. We finished fourth in the first race in the doubleheader and then won there. Then right before that we went on that stretch of top-three finishes at Kentucky and Texas. Had a lot of momentum going there and our mile-and-a-half program is very good right now. So really looking forward to that.”
See Also: Crafton Confident Going into Round of 8
Along with Crafton and Hill, Johnny Sauter is the only other driver in the field with a victory at Kansas.
The ARCA Menards Series season finale will start the weekend at Kansas with Friday’s running of the Speediatrics 150 presented by The NASCAR Foundation (MRN, 6 p.m. ET).
Bret Holmes brings an eight-point advantage over Michael Self into the 100-lap race. Both drivers have a great record at Kansas with Holmes winning in July for his third straight top 10 and Self posting a 3.0 average finish in six starts, including a win in this event in 2017.
Holmes led 82 laps en route to the win at Kansas and Self finished sixth after starting second.
“Despite our struggles at Kansas a few months ago, it’s still one of my favorite tracks and racing in Kansas City this time of year is always enjoyable,” Self said. “We feel like we have a good idea of why we struggled at this track over the summer and we’ve looked at the notes from our teammates who ran well that night and we’re confident that we can build on their top-three finishes. Our goal is to go in and lead laps and win. We have nothing to lose from the championship perspective, so we’ll be giving it all we’ve got.”