Round four of the NASCAR Sprint Cup’s Chase For The Championship will be held this Sunday at the beautiful Kansas Speedway’s 1.5 mile oval. The Hollywood Casino 400 could likely alter an already skin tight points profile. The cream of the crop teams, at the top of the standings, will be looking to expand on their status as championship contenders. The teams in the middle of the rankings will be counting on a strong Kansas run to join them. The teams at the bottom of the dozen Chase hopefuls will be desperately trying to pull a very large rabbit out of a small magician’s hat in hopes of getting back into championship mode before it’s too late.
For you NASCAR racing fans who are not especially fond of fuel mileage outcomes, you may want to cinch up your seat belts this Sunday. The Hollywood Casino 400 has the distinct possibility of becoming a case of who had enough Sunoco Racing Fuel and who needed some.
THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN
To get a good idea regarding which driver has the good Kansas numbers, and who needs some, we again turn to the professionals from the Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, (WSE).
Topping the WSE’s Kansas profile is Jimmie Johnson who has been rated at 5 to 1 odds. A strong run at Dover last week elevated the five time champion from tenth to fifth in the standings and only 13 points from the top. There’s a good reason why Johnson is on top of the WSE Kansas listing: he has very good numbers at this track. He’s a previous winner there and has compiled three top five finishes, eight top tens and has an excellent average finish ratio, (AFR), of 9.1. He also qualifies well at Kansas and has won a series high three poles. This driver is a rock solid wager consideration and one to watch this Sunday.
At 6 to 1 you will find a quartet of heavy hitters featuring Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart.
Carl Edwards is currently tied, with Kevin Harvick, for the series’ points lead. He has been highly consistent lately and Sunday could be the day he scores his first win at Kansas. He has three top fives there and a 11.4 AFR. At this point of the season he a solid bet.
So is Jeff Gordon who may be a major driver to watch at Kansas. He’s currently ninth in the standings but only 19 points away. Gordon’s strength at Kansas lies in the numbers he’s collected there. He’s a two time winner and currently holds the track record for top five finishes at 8 as well as top ten finishes at nine. He also has an excellent 8.1 AFR.
When it comes to Kyle Busch I’m going to second guess the WSE and assume that they believe his Joe Gibbs Racing team has been placing a lot of emphasis on their intermediate track program. With five of the ten Chase events being held on intermediate tracks it makes sense. Busch is eighth in the standings and 15 points away. His Kansas numbers are not very good. He’s not only seeking his first win there he’s also seeking his first top five. He only has one top ten and an alarmingly high AFR of 22.4.
Tony Stewart won the first two Chase races and then had a horrible day at Dover which dropped him to third in the standings. However, Stewart is only nine points from the top and he’s capable of becoming a major player at Kansas next Sunday. He’s a two time winner there with five top fives, eight top tens and an 11.9 AFR. That’s assuming the team can avoid the horrible handling problems they experienced last weekend.
At 7 to 1 odds is Kurt Busch. Like his younger brother, he’s still seeking his first win and top five at Kansas. He also needs to improve on his 18.1 AFR. On the plus side Busch has the resources that comes with those high powered Penske Racing Dodges and he does have momentum from last weekend’s win at Dover which moved him to fourth in the standings nine points away.
At 9 to 1 odds you will find Chase contenders Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick. Kenseth is seventh in the standings this week 14 points away. He’s looking for his first win at Kansas and currently has a 19.3 AFR. Kenseth has a way of showing up at the end of a race and making a strong showing. If the car is right he could possibly do that again on Sunday.
Harvick is tied with Carl Edwards at the top of the Chase standings. His Kansas numbers are not that strong: no wins, one top five and a 14.3 AFR. But the real strength of this team is their refusal to bow to the pressure that comes with trying to win the Chase.
Brad Keselowski is ranked at 12 to 1 on Sunday. Now here’s a driver who is a serious consideration as a long shot wager. He’s currently one of the hottest drivers in the series. He’s also driving one of those powerful Penske Dodges. He understands the Kansas Speedway and proved it by winning there this past June. He’s sixth in the standings, 14 points away, and he’ll be looking to elevate that status this Sunday.
At 16 to 1 you will find the tandem of Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle. Both have the possibility of becoming race winning spoilers at Kansas. Hamlin’s disappointing start in the Chase virtually has him eliminated from championship contention and his focus is now on winning races.
After failing to make this year’s Chase line up, Greg Biffle is looking to build momentum for next year. Kansas is a very strong track for this driver. He’s a two time winner there, including last year’s event, with six top fives along with a very healthy 8.3 AFR. This is another driver who is worthy of longshot consideration.
Looking at the WSE’s middle tier this week, Kasey Kahne would love to get Red Bull Racing a win this year before he moves to his new ride at Hendrick Motorsports. However, the win may not come at Kansas. His numbers there, including an 18.9 AFR, are not that strong.
At 28 to 1 odds is the quartet of Dale Earnhardt Jr, Clint Bowyer, Mark Martin and Jamie McMurray.
The Kansas race could turn out to be a go or blow event in terms of Earnhardt’s Chase hopes. He currently tenth in the standings and 34 points away. Unfortunately his Kansas numbers are not that strong: no wins, one top five along with a 17.5 AFR.
Clint Bowyer has a top five finish and a 12.8 AFR at Kansas. But he could turn out to be a longshot spoiler on Sunday. First off, he’s from nearby Emporia-Kansas and would love to score a win at his home track. He will also be enjoying the euphoria of knowing what his 2012 plans are. By the time you read this, there should have been an announcement regarding Bowyer moving to Michael Waltrip Racing.
At the bottom of this week’s WSE listing you will find drivers David Ragan, Martin Truex Jr, Jeff Burton and Brian Vickers at 38 to 1. Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Reutimann and A J Allmendinger closes the list at 48 to 1. Any driver not mentioned by the WSE is automatically listed at 15 to 1.
Now for the disclaimer: NASCAR wants us to remind you that these posted numbers are for entertainment and information purposes. They neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their events.
On the other side of this are the extremely high unemployment figures in Las Vegas so maybe we should call the WSE to help create more jobs in Nevada.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Hollywood Casino 400 is 267 laps/400.5 miles around the Kansas Speedway’s 1.5 mile, D shaped, oval.
The race has 46 entries vying for the 43 starting berths. 11 of these entries are on the go or go home list meaning they are not a guaranteed a start because they are currently outside of NASCAR’s top 35 in owner’s points These teams will have to rely on qualifying speed to make the race.
The Kansas Speedway opened in 2001. Jeff Gordon won the first and second NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kansas. 11 Cup races there has produced eight different race winners. Seven of the 11 races, that ended under green flag conditions, had a margin of victory under one second.
The track qualifying record, 180.856 MPH, was set by Matt Kenseth in October, 2005. 11 races at Kansas has produced eight different pole winners. Seven of 11 races have been won by drivers who started within the top ten.
The Kansas Speedway’s 1.5 mile oval has 15 degrees of banking in the turns, 10.4 degrees in the tri oval and five degrees on the backstretch. The frontstretch is 2,685 feet long while the backstretch measures 2,707 feet. The asphalt racing surface is 55 feet wide. The speedway presently has seating for 74,000 fans.
The speedway’s pit road is 60 feet wide and has 44 stalls that measures 30 by 18 feet. The pit window is expected to be 48 to 52 laps dependent upon fuel mileage.
The Kansas weather forecast calls for partly cloudy skies on Saturday with daytime highs in the low 80’s and southerly winds 15 to 20 MPH. The Sunday forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the upper 70’s and a 20 percent chance of showers. In the event of rain, the speedway has a fleet of six jet dryers that can dry the track in approximately two hours.
The Hollywood Casino 400 will be broadcast live by ESPN with the “Countdown” show beginning at 1 pm eastern time. The green flag will fall at 2 pm et. The race re air will be on Monday morning, on ESPN2, at 12 am et and again on Wednesday, on SPEED, at 12 pm et.