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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Kansas Speedway

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Hollywood Casino 400
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Sunday, October 20
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)
2018 Race Winner: Chase Elliott

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Kansas Lottery 300
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Saturday, October 19
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2018 Race Winner: John Hunter Nemechek

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 
Next Race: NASCAR Hall of Fame 200
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Saturday, October 26
The Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 105.2 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 50),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 100), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2018 Winner: Johnny Sauter

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Elliott needs a strong performance at Kansas

Chase Elliott arrives at Kansas Speedway this weekend as defending winner of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and all the good juju that past achievement conjures will be welcomed with wide-open arms.

Thanks to an impressive rally through an afternoon of multi-car crashes and tough luck that targeted every Playoff driver, Elliott finished a solid eighth-place at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway’s rain-delayed finish on Monday. It wasn’t quite enough points-wise to overcome an engine failure and 38th-place finish at Dover a week earlier, so the sport’s reigning Most Popular Driver remains in a precarious points position heading to one of his best tracks this week.

After two races of the three races making up this Playoff round, Elliott is ranked 10th among the 12 Playoff drivers. Only the top eight advance with championship eligibility after Sunday’s checkered flag. Elliott trails eighth-place Joey Logano by 22 points.

The good news for Elliott is that Kansas has traditionally been one of his better tracks. He has four top-10 and three top-five finishes in seven starts there including the win last year. He’s finished fourth or better in three of the last four races – leading a combined 89 laps in the last two races.

Although glad to rally for a top-10 finish in Monday’s Talladega race, Elliott fully recognizes that his 2019 championship aspirations ultimately depend on how he fares at Kansas.

“You have to have the mindset to go out there and control what we can control and do everything we can to get a win,’’ Elliott said. “That’s all we can do.’’

Hamlin’s luck has changed quickly

Denny Hamlin’s measured and motivated run to a career first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup title remains on course after a dramatic but satisfying third-place finish on the unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway high banks Monday. It was his third top five in five Playoff races this season and was especially impressive considering Hamlin started last in the Talladega field after an engine problem in qualifying.

It brings Hamlin’s top-five total this season to 16 – a career-high mark. He has 20 top-10 finishes meaning 80 percent of the time he’s in the top 10, it’s a top-five performance.

His place atop the series points standings – eight points up on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. – is his best standing of the season and undoubtedly has fed the confidence of this popular driver, who is an annual championship favorite. Seven times in his 14-year fulltime Cup career, Hamlin has finished sixth or better in the title chase. He was a career best runner-up to Jimmie Johnson in 2010 and twice has finished third in the championship, including a headline-making 2006 rookie campaign.

The driver of the No. 11 JGR Toyota is a former Kansas Speedway winner, earning the trophy in Spring, 2012. Since then he’s been especially good in the Fall Playoff races – finishing runner-up in 2015 and fifth in 2017. The track has been hit-or-miss statistic-wise for Hamlin. He has two top 10s – both fifth-place finishes – in the last seven races. He was 16th this May and 14th in this race last October.

Very Happy Harvick

Few drivers may be happier to arrive at Kansas Speedway than Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick. His three wins at the track ties NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon for most ever and his three runner-up finishes are most of any driver in this week’s field.

Not only has Harvick been outstanding here in the past, he shows up this week in a highly-motivated championship mode. His 17th-place finish at Talladega last weekend – one of dozens of drivers collected in three large multi-car accidents – was his worst in nearly two months. He has five top-five finishes in the last seven races including a statement-making win from the pole position in the Indianapolis regular season finale.

And Harvick is an absolute favorite to earn his fourth victory of 2019 this weekend at the Kansas 1.5-miler where he’s already hoisted more hardware than any of his competitors. In 27 starts, Harvick has eight top-five and 14 top-10 finishes  – and won a series high five pole positions.

He’s led laps in 11 of the last 12 races – three times race-high numbers. That includes 104-laps out front in May when he finished 13th. He was 12th in last year’s Playoff race at Kansas – the two sub-10th-place finishes snapping a streak of five straight top-five runs.

Harvick joins Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman as the only drivers to have started all 27 Cup Series races held at the Speedway, which opened in 2001. Jeff Gordon won the track’s first two races in 2001-2002.

“I don’t really know [why],’’ Harvick said about his recent success at Kansas. “It’s a racetrack where I’ve won a couple races at and for whatever reason it just kind of its my style and what we do with the cars.

“We’ve had a lot of good race cars 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.’’

Turnaround time for Kyle Busch

It’s been an uncharacteristic few months for the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who hasn’t won a race since Pocono, Pa. – 17 races ago. The regular season champ has had an up-and-down Playoff run finishing 19th or worse in three races and top 10 in the other two. He’s led laps in only two of the three Playoff races – but that includes 202 laps out front at Richmond, where he finished runner-up.

Busch is ranked third in the championship standings coming to Kansas – 15 points behind leader and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.

The 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway has been a significant venue this season for Busch. His 30th place finish at Kansas in May snapped a historic run of 11 straight top-10 finishes to open the season. It also snapped an impressive run of eight consecutive top-10 finishes at Kansas that included a victory in 2016 and a runner-up finish to Chase Elliott in last year’s Playoff race.

Busch is the only driver with victories in all three NASCAR national series at Kansas. In addition to his Cup win, he has four Xfinity Series victories – including an unprecedented three straight from 2014-16 – and a pair of Gander Outdoors Truck Series trophies (2014 and 2017).

Peaking Penske

With Ryan Blaney’s victory Monday at Talladega and his two Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano inside the Top 8 of the Playoff standings heading to this Playoff round’s elimination race, this team has every reason to feel optimistic.

Blaney has an automatic berth in the Round of 8 – the second time he has advanced that far in the Playoffs. And Keselowski and Logano are currently two points apart, ranked seventh and eighth.

Keselowski is the most recent Kansas winner, taking the trophy in May after a dramatic overtime finish – his second career victory at the track. He has 10 top-10 finishes in 19 races there including a runner-up showing (2017-1) to go with his wins. Before being collected in an accident at Talladega, Keselowski had four top-11 finishes in the four previous Playoff races, including a best of third in the Las Vegas opener.

He has three victories (at Atlanta, Martinsville and Kansas) this season in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford and would love to join Martin Truex Jr. (2017) as the only drivers to sweep a season at the Kansas 1.5-miler.

Logano, the defending Cup champion, has certainly had to work hard for a chance to become the first back-to-back Cup champ since Jimmie Johnson won five consecutively from 2006-10.

The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford has a pair of Kansas wins – the 2014 and 2015 Playoff races – and seven of his career eight top 10s are also top fives. He was 15th here in May. In last October’s Playoff race, he won the pole and led a race-best 100 laps but finished eighth.

Logano managed an 11th-place finish at Talladega despite being caught in a multi-car accident. He’s had four finishes of 11th or better in the five Playoff races – the lone exception a 34th-place finish at Dover.

Blaney, who has already earned his ticket to the Round of 8, has five top-10 Kansas finishes in nine starts with a decided tip to the Playoffs. The driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford has earned four top-10 finishes in the last five Playoff races at Kansas with a career-best third place at the track in the 2017 Fall race.

Truex is feeling the good vibes

After another so-so outing at the Talladega big track on Monday, Martin Truex Jr. must be eager to head West. The 2017 champion is the only driver in history to sweep a season’s races at Kansas Speedway (2017) and then he finished runner-up in the very next race – a three-race streak of excellence unmatched in the track’s 19-year history.

Eight of his nine top-10 finishes have been fifth-place or better. He was fifth in this Playoff race last year and 19th here at Kansas this May.

Truex is already the winningest driver of the 2019 season with six victories – including two in the Playoffs (at Las Vegas and Richmond, Va.). He’s second in the championship standings – eight points behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.

He salvaged a 26th-place finish at Talladega after his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota suffered crash damage. Prior to that his worst finish in four Playoff races was a seventh place at the Charlotte ROVAL. He was runner-up at Dover. a week ago.

Truex won the 2017 title with a career best eight-wins and finished runner-up to Joey Logano last year. Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is the only active driver to earn more than one title.

“We’re pretty happy where we are in the Playoffs now that we’re through Talladega,’’ Truex said. “We knew that would be a wild card for us, but we’re confident we can go everywhere else and be competitive and have a shot to win.

“That starts this week in Kansas. We know what we need to do to move on to the next round, but we’d also like to add more Playoff points if that opportunity presents itself.’’

Playoff bubble gets bouncy

This Playoff round has certainly provided drama for many racing prognosticators, particularly based on regular season showings. The two race winners in this three-race Playoff round – Kyle Larson at Dover and Ryan Blaney on Monday at Talladega – celebrated their first victories of the season. That leaves several other pre-Playoff favorites really challenging for one of the remaining six positions to transfer into the Round of 8.

Alex Bowman, who earned his first career win at Chicago this summer, is ranked ninth – 18 points behind Joey Logano. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, a three-time race winner, is ranked 10th, 22 points behind Logano.

Kansas native Clint Bowyer is 11th, 24 points behind and the third Hendrick Motorsports driver still racing for a title – 21-year old William Byron – is ranked 12th, 27 points behind Logano. Ironically, Byron and Bowyer were the two Stage winners last week at Talladega before being collected in a multi-car accident (Byron) and having a mechanical issue (Bowyer).

Nevertheless, it’s go-time for the foursome.

Three of these four drivers finished top-five in the Spring. Bowman was runner-up, Elliott was fourth and Bowyer was fifth. And Elliott is the defending Playoff race winner.

Bowman’s work in May was his third top-10 finish in the last four races at Kansas. The driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was ninth in last year’s Fall race  He was involved in a crash while leading the Talladega race on Monday but has three top-10 finishes in the five Playoff races, including a runner-up finish at the Charlotte ROVAL three races ago.

Elliott certainly brings confidence into the event as the defending winner. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet rallied to a fourth-place finish in the May Kansas race after qualifying a season-worst 32nd place. He has four top-10 and three top-five finishes in seven Kansas races.

Bowyer has reason to feel optimistic as well. The driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford has three top-10s in five Playoff races this season. He started on the outside pole at Kansas this spring, led 12 laps and finished fifth – one of three top fives and seven top 10s in 22 career starts on his home track. He was 13th in last year’s Kansas Playoff race and has a career-best finish of runner-up in the 2007 Fall Kansas race.

Byron, who won the opening stage at Talladega (his second stage win of the season), now finds himself needing to rally to advance in his first Playoff appearance. The 21-year old, 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion had been ranked eighth prior to Talladega – just on the cutoff line to move to the next round. Now he’ll have to turn in a career-best day at Kansas Speedway, which hasn’t necessarily been a highlight on his resume. He has only one finish in three starts, finishing 20th this May and leading his first laps (four).

Best of the rest

Aric Almirola is continuing a competitive trend he mastered last season. Although he advanced to the penultimate Playoff round last year, he raced competitively enough to finish a career-high fifth in the points standings – best among those not racing for the title in Homestead. He’s on a similar path this year.

The driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford was 13th after the first round of the Playoffs – with the Top 12 moving on. Since then he has maintained that ranking and is coming off a fourth-place finish at Talladega last weekend.

As for the drivers who missed the Playoff cut, a certain seven-time series champion is leading the way. Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson holds a 1-point edge over Stewart-Haas Racing’s Daniel Suarez in the standings after both drivers were involved in accidents on Sunday. Johnson’s nine top fives and 18 top 10s at Kansas are most in the field in both categories.

From the start of the Playoffs at Las Vegas to last week’s race at Dover, Johnson finished – in descending order – 11th, 10th, ninth and eighth before Sunday’s DNF. Suarez, the first driver to miss the Playoff cut, has only one top 10 in the five Playoff races.

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media rotations

Six drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ryan Preece, Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Kansas Speedway in advance of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m., ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Clint Bowyer, 40, of Emporia, Kan., needs a good showing at his “home track.” A 23rd-place finish at Talladega, Ala. on Monday drops him to 11th in the standings with only the top eight drivers advancing to the next round of the Playoffs following Sunday’s race at Kansas. Bowyer had a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes snapped at Talladega and now trails eighth place Joey Logano by 24 points. The driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford is still looking for his first Kansas victory. He’s had seven top-10 finishes – three top-five efforts – in 22 starts at the 1.5-mile track. He led 12 laps and finished fifth this May – the most laps he’s led in a race since his first Kansas start (43 laps) in 2006.

Kurt Busch, 41, of Las Vegas, was one of the many caught up in some sort of accident at Talladega ultimately taking a 28th-place finish in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Although he made the 16-driver Playoff field, Busch was eliminated from championship contention following the first round. He shows up at Kansas Speedway this week looking for redemption. He has yet to win in 27 Kansas starts but he has come close – finishing runner-up in both the 2013 and 2017 Fall races. In 2011 he led a race-best 152 laps but had to settle for ninth place while his then- Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski hoisted the trophy.  Busch was seventh this May and 18th in this October Playoff race last year.

Chase Elliott, 23, of Dawsonville, Ga., rallied to an eighth-place finish at Talladega, Ala. but still needs to make up ground in the championship hunt this week at Kansas Speedway, where he is the defending Hollywood Casino 400 race winner. Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, has three top-10 finishes in the opening five Playoff races, but a 38th place finish at Dover last week (the result of an engine problem) has the season’s three-race winner still having to make up ground in the championship. He has four top-10 and three top-five finishes in seven Kansas starts. He led 44 laps last October in his victory and 45 laps this May en route to a fourth-place finish. Elliott has finished fourth or better in three of the last four Kansas races.

Ryan Preece, 28, of Berlin, Conn., is coming off an 18th-place finish at Talladega and matched with his 19th-place run at Dover. the week before has now had back-to-back Top-20 efforts three times this season. He’s ranked 28th in the championship, but only 17 points behind his closest Sunoco Rookie of the Year challenger, Daniel Hemric. Preece, driver of the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Chevrolet, started 22nd and finished 25th in his only previous Cup start at Kansas. His best previous finish on a similar 1.5-mile track is 21st at Kentucky this summer.

William Byron, 21, of Charlotte, endured a race of extremes of Talladega. He won Stage 1 and was running top-10 for most of the afternoon when he was collected in a multi-car accident. He led 13 laps at Talladega – the eighth time this season he’s led at least double digit laps in a race – but his 33rd-place finish leaves him last (12th)  among the current Playoff field. He is 27 points behind eighth place Joey Logano heading to Kansas Speedway. His best finish in three Cup races there is 20th this May. He did win a Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kansas in 2016 and finished fourth in a Xfinity Series race there in 2017.

Martin Truex Jr., 39, of Mayetta, N.J., a series best six-time race winner this season, essentially “survived” Talladega with a 26th-place finish after being caught up in one of the big multi-car accidents early in the day. It was the first time in five Playoff races that he finished worse than seventh place after winning the opening two races at Las Vegas and Richmond. He heads to Kansas Speedway ranked second in the championship standings, eight points behind his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin. Truex is a two-time winner at Kansas – in 2017 becoming the only driver to ever sweep a season’s races. He was 19th at Kansas this May and finished fifth in last year’s Playoff race.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Round of 8: Xfinity Playoffs head to Kansas

With the NASCAR Xfinity Series’ first three Playoff races in the books, eight drivers move on to the Round of 8 to challenge for a chance at the title in the Championship 4 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But first, the eight Playoff contenders must face each other at Kansas Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway in Phoenix to decide which four get to move on. Up next is Kansas Speedway nestled west of Kansas City, a true gem of the area, the 1.5-mile paved oval track has variable banking in the turns ranging from 17 to 20 degrees, and will host this season’s fourth Xfinity Playoff race, the Kansas Lottery 300, on Saturday, October 19 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The 200 lap (300-mile) Playoff event will be broken up into three stages – the first two stages will be 45 laps each and the final stage will be 110 laps (45/90/200) and will mark the 19th time the NASCAR Xfinity Series has competed at the facility. The first series event at Kansas was on Sept. 29, 2001 and won by 2000 series champion Jeff Green. The first 18 Xfinity races at Kansas have produced 14 different pole winners and 14 different race winners. Kyle Busch leads the series in wins at Kansas with four victories.

Since the inception of the Playoffs in 2016, Kansas has maintained the fourth race in the postseason. Interestingly, Kansas Speedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course are the only two active tracks in the Playoffs that have not had a Playoff driver win their Playoff races – ever. In 2016, Monster Energy Series driver Kyle Busch won the inaugural Kansas Xfinity Playoff race. In 2017, then-NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Christopher Bell grabbed his first Xfinity Series career win in the Kansas Playoff race. And again in 2018, John Hunter Nemechek, on a part-time Xfinity schedule, grabbed the checkered flag to play the postseason spoiler.

The Kansas Speedway Playoff race this weekend will be the eighth different Xfinity race on a 1.5-mile track this season. Of the Playoff drivers, Tyler Reddick has put up the best average finish on 1.5-mile tracks in 2019 with a 5.0; followed by Noah Gragson (6.7), Michael Annett (7.0), Cole Custer (10.7), Chase Briscoe (11.0), Austin Cindric (11.9), Christopher Bell (12.9) and Justin Allgaier (13.1).

Doesn’t get any easier in the next round of Xfinity Playoffs  

With just eight of the original 12 Playoff drivers still vying for the 2019 title, the pressure to perform has heightened and this Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway is the perfect stage for the challengers to battle it out.

The Round of 8 contenders are (in order of seeding) Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota), Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford), Tyler Reddick (No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet), Austin Cindric (No. 22 Team Penske Ford), Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet), Chase Briscoe (No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi Ford), Michael Annett (No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) and Noah Gragson (No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet).

Round of 12 Recap: The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff’s Round of 12 saw three different winners – Christopher Bell captured the first win at Richmond, then non-Playoff driver AJ Allmendinger took the checkered at the highly competitive Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL the following week, and then last weekend Cole Custer rounded out the three-race segment with a victory at Dover. Four drivers were eliminated from the Playoffs following Dover – John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Haley, Ryan Sieg and Brandon Jones.

2019 Current Playoff Driver – 2019 Postseason Stats
Drivers Starts Wins Top Fives Top 10s Poles Laps Led Completed Avg. Start Avg. Finish Rank
Christopher Bell 3 1 1 1 0 257 483 7.0 12.7 1
Cole Custer 3 1 2 3 0 36 517 6.3 4.0 2
Tyler Reddick 3 0 1 2 0 1 515 3.0 8.0 3
Austin Cindric 3 0 3 3 1 38 517 2.0 2.7 4
Justin Allgaier 3 0 3 3 0 67 517 5.7 3.3 5
Chase Briscoe 3 0 2 3 2 92 517 2.3 6.3 6
Michael Annett 3 0 0 2 0 1 517 16.3 10.0 7
Noah Gragson 3 0 1 3 0 0 517 9.0 6.3 8

 

 

Below is a statistical look at the eight Playoff drivers and their average finishing positions at the Round of 8 tracks (Kansas, Texas and Phoenix) and the Championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

 

KANSAS SPEEDWAY TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Rank Playoff Drivers Average Finish Starts Rank Playoff Drivers Average Finish Starts
1 Tyler Reddick 3.5 2 1 Chase Briscoe 7.5 2
2 Justin Allgaier 11.6 8 2 Austin Cindric 7.7 3
3 Christopher Bell 19.0 2 3 Cole Custer 9.8 5
4 Michael Annett 19.4 7 4 Christopher Bell 10.8 4
5 Cole Custer 26.7 3 5 Noah Gragson 13.0 1
6 Chase Briscoe 30.0 1 6 Justin Allgaier 13.1 18
7 Austin Cindric 39.0 1 7 Tyler Reddick 15.0 4
8 Noah Gragson 0.0 0 8 Michael Annett 15.3 14
ISM RACEWAY HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
Rank Playoff Drivers Average Finish Starts Rank Playoff Drivers Average Finish Starts
1 Chase Briscoe 6.0 1 1 Tyler Reddick 2.5 2
2 Tyler Reddick 8.3 4 2 Austin Cindric 5.0 1
3 Austin Cindric 8.3 3 3 Cole Custer 6.7 3
4 Justin Allgaier 9.1 18 4 Chase Briscoe 13.0 1
5 Cole Custer 9.6 5 5 Justin Allgaier 14.1 9
6 Christopher Bell 9.8 4 6 Michael Annett 18.4 8
7 Noah Gragson 11.0 1 7 Christopher Bell 23.5 2
8 Michael Annett 15.2 14 8 Noah Gragson 0.0 0

 Round of 8 Playoff drivers at Kansas

Seven of the eight Xfinity Playoff drivers have competed at Kansas Speedway in the past; among the Playoff drivers only Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Noah Gragson will be making his series track debut at Kansas this weekend. Here is a quick look at the other seven driver’s performances at Kansas:

Christopher Bell has made two series starts at Kansas Speedway posting a win (2017) and one top five. His average finish at Kansas is 19th due to a DNF in this race last season.

Cole Custer has made three series starts at Kansas Speedway putting up a best finish of 19th in 2017. His average finish is 26.7. He finished 26th in this race last season.

Tyler Reddick has made two series starts at Kansas Speedway posting a pole and two top-five finishes. His average finish is a Playoff driver leading 3.5.

Austin Cindric made his series track debut at Kansas Speedway last season; he started fourth but was caught in an incident and relegated to a 39th-place finish.

Justin Allgaier has the most experience at Kansas Speedway among the Playoff drivers having made eight series starts collecting two top fives and five top 10s. His average finish at the track is 11.6.

Chase Briscoe also made his series track debut at Kansas Speedway last season; he started 12th but finished 30th.

Michael Annett has made seven series starts at Kansas Speedway posting one top-10 finish. His average finish at the track is 19.4. 

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Just Two Sunoco Rookies Left – With the elimination of John Hunter Nemechek and Justin Haley from the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, just two Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders are left to challenge for the end-of-year rookie honors – Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson. Currently, Briscoe holds the rookie standings lead by eight points over Gragson following Dover. Looking ahead, Gragson will be making his series track debut this weekend at Kansas Speedway, but Briscoe will be returning looking to rebound from his series track debut last season where he finished 30th due to suspension issues.

Parade Laps: Insights to the drivers participating in this week’s media breakouts

Four NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff drivers – Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe, JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier and Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick  – will participate in this week’s media breakout sessions at Kansas Speedway ahead of the Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The media session will be this Friday (Oct. 18) from 1-1:15 p.m. ET in the Media Center.

Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: January 23, 1998

Driver’s Age: 21

Hometown: Ladera Ranch, California

Hobbies: Watching sports

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

Crew Chief: Mike Shiplett

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he made the Championship 4; ultimately finishing runner-up in the final driver standings while his No. 00 Ford won the owner’s title for Stewart-Haas Racing.
  • Made the Playoffs and finished fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings in his rookie year (2017).
  • Has nine career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins (Homestead-Miami, Texas, Auto Club Speedway, Richmond, Pocono, Chicago, Kentucky, Darlington, Dover); including last season’s Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway to win his way into the Championship 4 finale.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently ranked second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff driver standings with 3,050 points.
  • In 29 starts this season he has posted six poles (Bristol, Dover, Pocono, Iowa, New Hampshire, Las Vegas), seven wins (California, Richmond, Pocono, Chicago, Kentucky, Darlington and Dover-2), 15 top fives and 21 top 10s.
  • Has won seven stages and accumulated 50 Playoff points.

Kansas Speedway Performance:

  • Has made three series starts at Kansas Speedway putting up a best finish of 19th in 2017. His average finish is 26.7. He finished 26th in this race last season.

Chase Briscoe (No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: December 15, 1994

Driver’s Age: 24

Hometown: Mitchell, Indiana

Hobbies: Spending time with family, online racing, watching sports

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi

Crew Chief: Richard Boswell II

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Made NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in 2018 at Atlanta.
  • Ran 17 Xfinity races last season for Roush Fenway Racing (12) and Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi (five) and won the inaugural race at the Charlotte ROVAL.
  • Has made the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in his rookie season.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently ranked sixth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings with 3,013 points.
  • In 29 starts this season he has posted one win (Iowa-2), 11 top fives, 23 top 10s and an average finish of 8.1.
  • Has won three stages and has accumulated 13 Playoff points.

Kansas Speedway Performance:

  • Made his series track debut at Kansas Speedway last season; he started 12th but finished 30th.

Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: June 6, 1986

Driver’s Age: 33

Hometown: Riverton, Illinois

Hobbies: R/C cars, wakeboarding, graphic design, dirt racing

Team: JR Motorsports

Crew Chief: Jason Burdett

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he won the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship and made the Playoffs for the third consecutive season after posting a career-high five wins on the season.
  • In 2016 and 2017, made the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
  • In 2011, 2016 and 2017, scored career-best third-place finish in NASCAR Xfinity Series standings.
  • Won first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race in 2010, at Bristol in March. Currently has 10 career Xfinity wins.
  • Won 2009 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Playoff points standings with 3,014 points.
  • In 29 starts this season he has posted 14 top fives, 21 top 10s and an average finish of 9.4.

Kansas Speedway Performance:

  • Has the most experience at Kansas Speedway among the Playoff drivers having made eight series starts collecting two top fives and five top 10s. his average finish at the track is 11.6.

Tyler Reddick (No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: January 11, 1996

Driver’s Age: 23

Hometown: Corning, California

Hobbies: Riding ATVs, gaming, working on cars

Team: Richard Childress Racing

Crew Chief: Randall Burnett

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Won the 2019 Regular Season championship.
  • Won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.
  • Also won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors; just third driver in series history to win the title in his rookie season joining Chase Elliott (2014) and William Byron (2017).
  • In 2017, he captured his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Kentucky, while running a partial schedule. Currently has six series career wins.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Regular Season Champion.
  • Currently ranked third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff driver standings with 3,044 points.
  • In 29 starts this season, he has posted three poles (Daytona, California and Daytona-2), five wins (Talladega, Charlotte, Michigan, Bristol and Las Vegas), 21 top fives and 24 top 10s – leads the series in both top fives and top 10s this season.
  • Has won four stages and accumulated 44 Playoff points.

Kansas Speedway Performance:

  • Has made two series starts at Kansas Speedway posting a pole and two top-five finishes. His average finish is a Playoff driver leading 3.5.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

The Championship 4 grid is still blank

With non-Playoff contender Spencer Boyd taking the win in the opening race of the Round of 6, that means all four spots in the championship battle at Homestead-Miami Speedway are still up for grabs with Martinsville and ISM Raceway looming.

Defending champion Brett Moffitt sits in the best position – holding a 45-point advantage over fifth-place Tyler Ankrum, one spot outside the Championship 4 cutoff.

After that, however, the cushion diminishes significantly – making each of the next two races especially important.

Stewart Friesen is in second, 22 points ahead of Ankrum, while Austin Hill is third – 12 points ahead of the cutoff. And just one point separates Matt Crafton in the fourth and final championship-contending slot from Ankrum.

And despite a late-race crash from the lead at Talladega, Ross Chastain is only two points behind Crafton.

How they have fared at Martinsville

With the points standings so tightly bunched after the opening race of the second round of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs, the six drivers still in championship contention have their sights set on the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 at Martinsville Speedway in just over a week (Saturday, October 26 at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Here’s a breakdown of the Martinsville track record for each of the six drivers, in order of points standing:

Brett Moffitt – No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet: The leader of the points has competed four times at Martinsville, never finishing worse than sixth – which he did in his first trip to the track in the spring of 2017. Since then he put up finishes of third and second last year and was third again earlier this season on the half-mile circuit. Moffitt also competed in two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville during his Sunoco Rookie of the Year season in that series.

Stewart Friesen – No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing Chevrolet: Friesen, an ace on the dirt short tracks, has raced five times at Martinsville, putting up mixed results. He’s had two finishes of 20th or worse alongside a pair of top 10s (sixth in the fall of 2017 and fifth earlier this season). Friesen started from the pole in the spring race this year.

Austin Hill – No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota: In eight starts at “The Paperclip,” Hill has managed just two top-10 finishes – 10th in the fall of 2016 and ninth in the spring race last year. He has posted an average finish of 16.2 at Martinsville.

Matt Crafton – No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford: Crafton is the lone remaining Playoff contender who has recorded a win at Martinsville – in fact, he has two – in the spring of 2014 en route to his second series championship and then in the fall of 2015. In 35 starts at Martinsville, Crafton has recorded nine top-five and 20 top-10 results, as well as an impressive average finish of 10.2. He’s suffered only two DNFs there, both a result of mechanical issues.

Tyler Ankrum – No. 17 DGR-Crosley Toyota: Ankrum has the smallest sample size at Martinsville out of the Playoff drivers, having competed in just two races at the short track. He finished 18th last fall and was 19th earlier this season.

Ross Chastain – No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet: Chastain has made seven starts at Martinsville, posting a 12.7 average finish at the track. His best finish, and his lone top-five result, came earlier this year when he crossed the line fourth. He also had three top 10s, two of them coming in the most recent two races. Chastain has also competed in three Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Martinsville.

The remaining Round of 6 tracks

After opening with the high-speed, high-banked, 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway the Gander Trucks get the week off before heading to the much shorter and flatter 0.52-mile Martinsville Speedway.

With two races to go to determine the four drivers who will race for the championship in Miami, here’s a look at the two tracks remaining in the Round of 6:

Martinsville Speedway – Saturday, October 26: Martinsville, affectionately known as “The Paperclip” due to its shape, is a .52-mile short track. It has 12 degrees of banking in the turns and is perfectly flat in the straights. Each straightaway is 800 feet long. The race will be 105.2 miles (200 laps) long. Johnny Sauter won this race last year while Kyle Busch won the spring race this season. Matt Crafton has two wins at Martinsville (Spring, 2014; Fall, 2015) and is the only remaining Playoff contender with a win at “The Paperclip.”

ISM Raceway – Friday, November 8: ISM Raceway, located near Phoenix, Arizona, is a one-mile track that was recently reconfigured (prior to the 2018 fall race) to move the start/finish line to the former backstretch, just before the dog leg. The banking in Turns 1 and 2 are 11 degrees while it’s nine degrees in Turns 3 and 4. The frontstretch is 1,179 feet long and banked at three degrees and the backstretch is 1,551 feet long and has nine degrees of banking. Brett Moffitt won this race last year. He is the only remaining Playoff contender with a victory at the track.

— NASCAR —