Kansas Speedway is up next for the NASCAR Cup Series
After a wild race at the behemoth that is Talladega Superspeedway last weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series prepares for this Sunday’s Buschy McBusch Race 400 (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Kansas Speedway, its fourth event of the 2021 season on a 1.5-mile track.
Groundbreaking for Kansas Speedway was held on May 25, 1999. The official opening of Kansas Speedway was in 2001, with the first NASCAR Cup Series race being held on Sept. 30, 2001. The event was won by Hendrick Motorsport’s driver and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet). Gordon would actually win the first two NASCAR Cup Series races held at Kansas (2001, 2002).
During the 2012 season, between the April and October events, the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway track underwent a repave, adding variable banking in the corners bringing them to 17-20 degrees.
In total, there have been 30 NASCAR Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway, one event from 2001 – 2010 and two races per year since 2011. The 30 Cup events have produced 16 different pole winners and 15 different race winners.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick leads the series in poles at Kansas Speedway with five (fall 2013, 2014 sweep, spring 2018, spring 2019).
Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002, 2014), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011, 2015), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016, 2018), Joey Logano (2014, 2015, 2020) and Denny Hamlin (2012, 2019, 2020) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Kansas Speedway with three victories each. This weekend, eight of the 15 NASCAR Cup Series Kansas winners are active.
Race Winners (8) Wins Seasons
Denny Hamlin 3 2020, 2019, 2012
Joey Logano 3 2020, 2015, 2014
Kevin Harvick 3 2018, 2016, 2013
Brad Keselowski 2 2019, 2011
Martin Truex Jr 2 2017 sweep
Chase Elliott 1 2018
Kyle Busch 1 2016
Ryan Newman 1 2003
This weekend’s Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway is scheduled for 267 laps (400 miles) and will be broken up into three stages. The first two stages are 80 laps each and the final stage will be 107 laps.
This weekend’s starting lineup for the Buschy McBusch Race 400 was determined by Metric Qualifying and as a result last weekend’s winner and Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski will start from the pole and Hendrick Motorsport’s William Byron will join Keselowski on the front row.
Winners aplenty this season
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season has become the fourth different year in the Modern Era (1972-Present) with nine or more different winners in the first 10 races; joining 2003 (9 winners), 2000 (10 winners) and 1991 (9 winners). Which bodes the question, Will we see a 10th different winner this weekend at Kansas?
There are eight former NASCAR Cup Series winners entered this weekend at Kansas and five them have yet to win this season – Denny Hamlin (three Kansas wins), Kevin Harvick (three Kansas wins), Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman (each with one Kansas win).
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch is the only active driver to win in all three NASCAR national series at Kansas Speedway – NCS (2014), NXS (2007, 2014, 2015, 2016) and NCWTS (2014, 2017). He finished 11th in the first Kansas race last season.
Four drivers entered this weekend have won at Kansas in both the NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Denny Hamlin (NCS, three wins; NXS, one win), Joey Logano (NCS, three wins; NXS, two wins), Kevin Harvick (NCS, three wins; NXS one win) and Brad Keselowski (NCS, two wins; NXS one win).
Five other drivers entered this weekend in the NASCAR Cup Series race have won at Kansas Speedway either in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Chase Briscoe (2020), Christopher Bell (2017) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2012) or the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – Ross Chastain (2019) and William Byron (2016). Three of the five are looking for their first win of the season – Briscoe, Chastain and Stenhouse.
Interestingly, the 30 NASCAR Cup Series races held at Kansas Speedway have never been won by a first-time Cup Series winner. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon is the only driver in series history to win in his first appearance at Kansas Speedway.
Standings leader Denny Hamlin is the best among the winless
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin continues to hold the top spot in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings this season, but is still looking for his first victory of the year 10 races in. As the defending winner of the first Kansas race last season and one of only four drivers to post consecutive wins (2019, 2020) at the 1.5-mile facility – Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002), Matt Kenseth (2012, 2013), Martin Truex Jr. (2017 sweep) – Hamlin is looking to end his winless drought that has reached 15 races dating back to Talladega Superspeedway last season (Oct. 4, 2020).
With a stout 87-point lead on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. in second in the series driver standings, Hamlin has a firm grasp on the points lead heading into this weekend at Kansas Speedway.
This season, Hamlin has chalked up eight top-five finishes in the first 10 races. Even without a win his consistency to finish upfront has him leading the series in several key season-to-date Loop Data metrics – Average Running Position (6.736), Driver Rating (117.0), Laps In The Top 15 (2,279 laps; 90%), Laps Led (736 laps; 29.1%) and Percentage of Laps Run on the Lead Lap (96.15%).
Now the Chesterfield, Virginia native turns his attention to Kansas Speedway, a track he has three victories at (2012, 2019, 2020) and is tied for the lead in the series in wins with Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002, 2014), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011, 2015), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016, 2018) and Joey Logano (2014, 2015, 2020). In total, Hamlin has made 25 series starts at Kansas posting three wins, eight top fives and nine top 10s. His average finish at Kansas is 14.5 (sixth-best among active drivers). Hamlin finished 15th in last season’s Kansas Playoff race.
Kansas could be the place Kevin Harvick rights the ship
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick since running full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2001 has won in the first 10 races of a season in 12 of his 21 seasons (57.1%). Last season through the first 10 races he had already won twice (Darlington, Atlanta) and in 2018 through the first 10 races he had won three times (Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Phoenix). But this season, Harvick finds himself winless riding a drought that stretches back to Bristol Motor Speedway last season (Sept. 9, 2020) 17 races ago. The Bakersfield, California native, Harvick, heads to Kansas Speedway, statistically one his best tracks, to end the winless drought.
Harvick has made 30 series starts at Kansas posting five poles (series-most), three wins (tied for series-most), 10 top fives (series-most among active drivers) and 17 top 10s (series-most among active drivers).
Harvick also leads every key pre-race Loop Data category heading into this weekend at Kansas Speedway – Average Finish of 8.154, series-best, Average Running Position of 8.691, series-best, Driver Rating of 109.7, series-best, 640 Fastest Laps Run, series-best, 5,613 Laps in the Top 15 (81.3%), series-most and 997 Quality Passes, series-most.
Brad Keselowski’s Talladega win makes all three Team Penske drivers in the Playoffs & All-Star Race
Calling Team Penske the hottest organization in the NASCAR Cup Series this season wouldn’t be an understatement, especially after Brad Keselowski collected his first win of the season at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend giving all three Penske drivers a victory this year locking them into the Playoffs and the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway (June 13).
Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney kicked the trips to Victory Lane off this season at Atlanta Motor Speedway (3/21/21) then Joey Logano followed it the very next weekend in the inaugural race on the Bristol Dirt (3/29/21) and Keselowski rounded out the trifecta of winners last weekend at Talladega.
Looking to Kansas Speedway this weekend, don’t be surprised if Team Penske’s success continues. Joey Logano (2014, 2015, 2020) is tied with Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002, 2014), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011, 2015), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016, 2018) and Denny Hamlin (2012, 2019, 2020) for the series-most wins at Kansas with three each. Brad Keselowski (2011, 2019) also has multiple victories at the 1.5-mile track. Though Blaney has yet to win at Kansas, he has made 12 series starts at the track posting six top-10 finishes; including a best-finish of third in 2017. He finished seventh in the first Kansas race last season.
Keselowski will be looking to keep the recent momentum flowing this weekend at Kansas. Keselowski has made 22 series starts at Kansas posting one pole, two wins, six top fives and 12 top 10s. He finished runner-up to Denny Hamlin in this race last season.
Playoff Bubble: Stenhouse, Buescher and DiBenedetto straddle cutoff line
Just 12 points separate three drivers – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+12), Chris Buescher (+12) and Matt DiBenedetto (-12) along the Playoff cutline through 10 races of NASCAR Cup Series competition in 2021. Each week the Playoff bubble bounces shaking up the standings near the cutoff for this season’s Playoffs.
Nine drivers have secured their spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs on wins this season – Martin Truex Jr. (two wins), Joey Logano, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman and Michael McDowell (each have one win) – leaving just seven spots still up for grabs with 16 races left in the regular season.