Last Updated: 2017-10-18
The Round of 8 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs starts on Saturday, but the Round of 12 wraps up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday, so we’ll have a contrast between the two races at Kansas Speedway this weekend. The Hollywood Casino 400 is this week’s Cup Series race and it is the second time that the drivers will visit the 1.5-mile oval in Kansas City. Martin Truex Jr. won that race and he is favored to win this one as well.
Last week’s race at Talladega was an absolute disaster. Of the 12 drivers vying to advance to the Round of 8, eight finished outside of the top 15. Somehow Brad Keselowski was able to avoid a couple of significant wrecks to come out with the win. He was the only one of the 12 drivers in the playoffs to finish in the top five. Plate races in the postseason are an unnecessary wrinkle since, more often than not, it comes to luck of the draw with the crashes. All of the sudden, Kyle Busch, who won two races in the Round of 16, is on the cut line because he’s finished outside the top 25 in each of his last two races.
The standings shake out like this. Martin Truex Jr. leads with 3,120 points. Brad Keselowski is second with 3,101 points. Kyle Larson is third with 3,096 points. Kevin Harvick is fourth with 3,089 points, followed by Denny Hamlin 3,088 points, and Chase Elliott with 3,087 points. Those drivers should all be safely into the Round of 8.
Ryan Blaney has 3,076 points and Jimmie Johnson has 3,074 points. Kyle Busch has 3,067 points would be the last one out at this point. Matt Kenseth has 3,066 points, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. with 3,052 points and Jamie McMurray with 3,045 points. Those final two are most likely out without a win. So, there is a little bit of drama for this week’s race, to say the least.
The top five spots in the first Kansas race this season went to drivers that are still in the playoff chase, so this should be a good one. The winner of that race was indeed Martin Truex Jr., your +250 favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook. You can basically auto bet Truex on any 1.5-mile track because he dominates them. He has four wins on 1.5-mile tracks this season and also has one on the long track at Charlotte for good measure. Ironically, Toyota cars with the Joe Gibbs Racing team have won seven of the nine Xfinity Series races on this weekend and four of the seven spring races at Kansas, but do not have a single win in this race. That probably changes this week and Truex is the guy most likely to do it. If you want to nitpick, Truex belongs to Furniture Row Racing, but they’re one and the same.
If not Truex, how about Kyle Busch at +400? The problem with taking Busch is that he has to be careful with how aggressive he is this week. He has to make up seven points, so he’ll have to take some chances, but crashing out of the race would take him out of the running entirely. Busch was fifth at this track in the spring and won the first stage. He won the spring race in 2016. He’s a gamble this week and a lot of drivers will be eager to block him from advancing since he’s such a good racer and his team is so strong. It helps a lot of drivers to keep Busch out of the Round of 8, so the deck is stacked against him a bit.
Kyle Larson is +450 this week. Larson has been fairly quiet lately. He had three top-five finishes in the Round of 16, but was 10th at Charlotte and 13th at Talladega, which was basically a win given how his colleagues in the playoffs did. Larson’s wins have mostly come on bigger tracks this season, with two at Michigan and one in California at Auto Club Speedway. He did score a short-track win at Richmond, which was big. He was second on the 1.5-mile at Kentucky and also in Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Atlanta, so he has run well at venues like this, but hasn’t gotten a win. He’s a sneaky look this week, but a decent one.
Kevin Harvick is at +550 and the rest of the field is +1150 or higher. Harvick scored his second career win at Kansas in this race last year, so that explains the price point. Harvick had a great run at Charlotte two weeks ago, as he led the most laps and won both stages, but finished third when it was all said and done. Since he’s safely into the next round, he can be a bit more aggressive, as he searches for his first win since Sonoma. He was third at Kansas in the spring.
With a lot of long shot prices, there are some darts in our hands to throw at the board. It seems like a bad time to count out Jimmie Johnson, right? At +1350, you’re getting a three-time winner at Kansas and this is a track that has only been around since 2001. Another bet at +1350 is Brad Keselowski. Last week’s fortunate win at Talladega was his first since Martinsville way back in the early part of the season. Keselowski was second at Kansas earlier this year and Fords tend to run pretty well there, with Joey Logano’s back-to-back wins in 2014 and 2015 and Matt Kenseth’s in 2012. He can be a bit more aggressive this week with that win in his back pocket.
At +1750, Ryan Blaney is probably the longest odds I would look to take. Blaney has two top-five finishes in the spring race in his Cup Series career at Kansas. He’s one of the few guys going out on Saturday to get a feel for the surface in the Xfinity Series race. He held the pole, finished fourth, and win the second stage in May, so he’s a guy that could be running up around the front of the pack. At the very least, consider a top-five prop on Blaney.
Coverage of the Hollywood Casino 400 will be on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.
Odds as of October 18, 4 p.m. ET
Martin Truex Jr +250
Kyle Busch +400
Kyle Larson +450
Kevin Harvick +550
Chase Elliott +1150
Jimmie Johnson +1350
Brad Keselowski +1350
Denny Hamlin +1500
Matt Kenseth +1500
Ryan Blaney +1750
Erik Jones +4000
Joey Logano +4000
Clint Bowyer +4400
Kurt Busch +4400
Daniel Suarez +6000
Jamie McMurray +6600
Kasey Kahne +10000
Ricky Stenhouse Jr +10000
Austin Dillon +11500
Dale Earnhardt Jr +11500
Ryan Newman +20000
Paul Menard +50000
Trevor Bayne +50000
Danica Patrick +100000
Michael McDowell +100000
Aric Almirola +100000
Ty Dillon +100000
Chris Buescher +100000
AJ Allmendinger +100000
-END OF 2017 PREVIEW-
There are seven races left on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule for 2016 and the importance continues to grow with each race. The Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway is the middle race of the Round of 12 in the Sprint Cup Series Chase and it’s a huge race for several of the drivers that are still eligible for the Chase. Rain wreaked havoc last weekend in Charlotte for a lot of the teams, but a familiar face, Jimmie Johnson, paid homage to his dominant past in the Tar Heel State for his third win of the season.
Johnson’s win was certainly surprising. Matt Kenseth was the only other driver still alive in the Chase to finish in the top 10, so there are a lot of drivers with a lot of work to do. This race carries a lot of weight because the next race is at Talladega, so a restrictor plate race is going to decide the fate of the drivers still fighting for the championship. Five of the 12 drivers still standing in the Chase finished 30th or worse, so there’s a lot on the line this week.
Jimmie Johnson is a lock to advance to the Round of 8 with his victory. Matt Kenseth finished second, so he’s going to advance. Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Kurt Busch are all in good shape with top-10 finishes. Things get dicey after that. Carl Edwards has 3,029 points after finishing 12th. Martin Truex Jr., who won two races in the Round of 12, was 13th and has 3,028 points. Denny Hamlin has 3,012 points after his 30th-place result. Chase Elliott has 3,009 after finishing 33rd. Austin Dillon also has 3,009 after finishing 32nd. Joey Logano was 36th and he has 3,006 points. Kevin Harvick, who had the pole position because the drivers could not qualify due to weather, was 38th. He has 3,004 points and basically has to win one of these last two races to be safe.
Back in 2011, NASCAR officials added a second stop at Kansas to the calendar. Six different drivers have won that race, which was the Go Bowling 400 this year. The Hollywood Casino 400 began as the Protection One 400 back in 2001 and has been a regular staple in the fall. It became part of the Chase in 2012 and has bounced around a little bit since then. As mentioned, this is a huge race because anything can happen in next week’s Alabama 500 at Talladega.
Nobody should be surprised to see Martin Truex Jr. as a co-favorite with Kevin Harvick at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Truex has been masterful on the 1.5-mile tracks this year and his +450 price tag seems pretty reasonable. Truex won two races in the Round of 16, including the first race of the Chase at Chicagoland, a 1.5-mile track. Truex also won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, a 1.5-mile track, and at Darlington, which is a little shy of 1.5 miles. Truex hasn’t won at Kansas, but he has a couple of top-five finishes here in the past. He was 15th last year, but fourth the previous year. Truex led the most laps in the spring, but finished 14th. He also led the most laps last year in the spring race and finished ninth.
Another driver that runs well on the 1.5-mile tracks is Kevin Harvick. Harvick has had tremendous speed all season long, but a series of mishaps and pit crew blunders have kept Harvick from having a bigger season. He’s +450 this week and he’ll need to be very aggressive. Harvick won this race back in 2013 Over the last two years, he hasn’t fared very well here, finishing 12th with the pole in 2014 and 16th last year. After two awful results at Dover and Charlotte in his last two races, you can bet that he wants to have a big run this weekend. He’s finished second three straight times in the spring race at Kansas.
Kyle Busch is +600 this week, which should come as no surprise. Busch won the Go Bowling 400 to snag his first Cup Series win at Kansas. He was fifth in this race last year and third the previous year. Many of the Joe Gibbs Racing cars run extremely well on these 1.5-mile tracks, as evidenced by Truex’s dominance with Furniture Row racing. Busch has five straight top-10 finishes and it feels like he’s on the cusp of doing doughnuts on the infield again soon.
Jimmie Johnson is +625 this week after his dramatic win at Charlotte. Johnson needed that and it came at his best career track. He has three wins here, including the win in the 2015 spring race. His fall wins came back in 2008 and 2011. The pressure is off for Johnson, who can go out and try to win the big money prize for this race since he had that win last week at Charlotte. It was a throwback kind of performance for Johnson and maybe his team has found some of that old magic.
It’s a little bit surprising to see reigning two-time winner Joey Logano priced at +1350 this week. There is some game theory involved in that line, however, since Logano just needs to find a way to have a good finish since he was 36th last week at Charlotte. The drivers that need to accumulate points aren’t going to be as aggressive in trying to get to the front of the pack. Logano runs well at Daytona, another restrictor plate track, so he has to like his chances to advance if he can crack a top-10 or top-five finish this week.
The best value on the board this week is Brad Keselowski. Keselowski is going off at +1300 and he has wins at Las Vegas and Kentucky on 1.5-mile tracks this year. He only has one career win at Kansas and it came in the inaugural first race, which was then a June 5 date. Keselowski has three straight top-10 finishes here at Kansas and he was ninth last year with the pole position. He’s in that sweet spot where he can go for it after finishing seventh last week. Two of Keselowski’s four wins during the regular season were at Daytona and Talladega, so the restrictor plate race won’t concern him next week.
Coverage of the Hollywood Casino 400 will be on NBC on Sunday afternoon just after 2:00 p.m. ET.