NASCAR Playoffs at Kansas: How to watch, stream, preview, picks for the Hollywood Casino 400

Of all the things that last weekend’s opening race of the NASCAR Playoffs could have offered, few expected what the end result was: a preservation of the status quo.

With Erik Jones winning the Southern 500, none of the 16 drivers currently in the NASCAR playoffs have progressed to the next round with a win. In fact, most are fortunate enough to have simply escaped Darlington with championship hopes relatively intact. Falls and mechanical problems plagued the playoff contenders, significantly swaying the playoff standings without necessarily reducing their chances of reaching the knockout rounds.

After 500 miles trying to survive the Too Tough to Tame track, the NASCAR Cup Series makes its return trip to the Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400, the second round of the round of 16. While Kansas doesn’t quite have the reputation or history that Darlington does, no one should mistake it for an easy stretch. This speedway rewards a driver able to drive squarely against the perimeter wall, especially as the now decades-old tarmac has aged and lost the grip it once had.

How to watch the NASCAR playoffs in Kansas

Date: Sunday September 11th
Location: Kansas Speedway – Kansas City, Kansas
Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: USA network
Electricity: fuboTV (try for free)

Something to see

Playoff spoilers

In nearly two full decades of some sort of playoff format, the inaugural race of the NASCAR playoffs had never been won by a non-playoff driver. That all changed at the Southern 500 last Sunday, when Erik Jones became the first non-championship-qualified driver to win the first race of the playoffs — denying any driver in the round of 16 automatic entry into the round of 16.

The idea that another playoff noncombatant could be a spoiler in Kansas is very plausible given that three of the first four years of the NASCAR playoffs saw a non-playoff driver win in Kansas. Joe Nemechek was the first to do so in 2004 before Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle did the same in 2006 and 2007 respectively.

Based on the spring race results, Bubba Wallace could be a prime contender to turn the playoff picture on its head. Wallace had one of the fastest cars in Kansas in May, finishing 10th, but his 23XI Racing Toyota was able to finish in the top five and potentially fight for a win before falling due to pit lane errors and penalties again lost the position on the track.

Martin Truex Jr should also be on the lookout after another missed opportunity at Darlington. Truex has two career wins in Kansas, including the 2017 playoff race, and finished sixth here in the spring.

tire problems

Earlier in the season, Kansas illustrated the growing pains of the next-gen car when it came to the Goodyear tires’ ability to handle the car’s loads on moderate track conditions compared to the previous generation of cars. The Spring Kansas race was marked by a series of left rear tire failures that affected drivers such as Chase Elliott, William Byron, Martin Truex Jr. and others.

Goodyear has since addressed the issue, meaning teams will be running a different tire compound this weekend than they did in May. For this weekend in Kansas, as well as the upcoming 1.5-mile track races in Texas and Las Vegas, Cup cars will run left-side tires with a design upgrade paired with upgraded right-side tires that have already debuted.

“The loads generated on this next-gen car are very different than in the past, so we evaluated what we saw earlier in the season and designed some design updates to test on the track before making the improvements on the right hand side at the Pocono and unveiled Michigan races earlier this summer,” read a statement from Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s race director. “We’ve had good feedback from drivers throughout the process and have had good results on track since.

“The combination we’re racing in Kansas this week, which will also run in Texas and Las Vegas, introduces a design improvement on the left side to pair with the already introduced right side. This combination was confirmed in testing in Charlotte in early August.”

While the updated tire constructions should make them more durable and less prone to failure, the trade-off is that race teams will have their ability to adapt to the tendencies of the tire being tested, which could change which teams can carry over their performance from spring.

Toyota Terrific (?)

Aside from punctures throughout the field, the defining feature of the Kansas spring race was the sheer strength of all the Toyota teams. All six Toyota drivers finished in the top 10, with Kurt Busch taking the win, followed by Kyle Busch (third), Denny Hamlin (fourth), Christopher Bell (fifth), Martin Truex Jr. (sixth) and Bubba Wallace (10th). .).

These results should have given Toyota drivers and leaders alike full of confidence for this return trip inland – if it weren’t for last week at Darlington, where the manufacturer appeared to have the Southern 500 in hand before two engine failures late in the race. Martin Truex Jr. was leading late in the race when he snapped a water pump belt and Kyle Busch suffered a valve train failure while leading under caution shortly after.

According to RACER, Toyota Racing Development brought the Truex and Busch engines back to their headquarters after the race for a thorough examination. Regardless of their results, the hope is that Toyota can repeat their spring performance and that their engine problems at Darlington were both isolated cases and not the beginning of a pattern.

Choose to win

(Odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

Kyle Larson (+650): It’s been a while since I picked Kyle Larson as overall winner but this weekend seems like a very good chance for that given how Larson has raced in Kansas since joining Hendrick Motorsports. Larson has led 291 laps out of 801 in the last three races at the circuit, including a performance last fall where he led 130 laps out of 267 en route to victory.

Admittedly, Larson only led 29 laps here this spring, but it was when it counted: Larson led 24 laps late in the race before being passed by Kurt Busch for the lead and victory with nine laps to go. With bush still out with a concussionLarson projects as an easy choice to out-of-field win Kansas with its toughest competition from spring.

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