NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Kansas Speedway

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Super Start Batteries 400 presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Thursday, July 23
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 7 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)
2019 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Kansas Lottery 250
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Saturday, July 25
The Time: 5 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 4:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250.5 miles (167 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 167)
2019 Race Winner: Brandon Jones

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Next Race: Kansas 200
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Friday, July 24
The Time: 7 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 6:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)
2019 Race Winner: Ross Chastain 

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Next Race: Kansas Speedway 200
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Saturday, July 25
The Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134

NASCAR Cup Series

Midweek Racing: Kansas Speedway under the lights

You read that right, the NASCAR Cup Series is bringing all the action to the fans in a mid-week showdown with  Thursday night’s Super Start Batteries 400 Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts race at Kansas Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. This week’s Kansas race will be the 80th time the NASCAR Cup Series has competed on a Thursday.

Leading up to this season in the Modern Era (1972-Present) racing on a Thursday has been rare; it only happened a few times when Daytona International Speedway held their July race on the fourth (1974, 1985). But, prior to the Modern Era, mid-week racing was quite common – 76 of previous 79 Cup races held on Thursday were prior to the Modern Era from 1949 to 1971.

Below are the last 15 NASCAR Cup Series races held on a Thursday:

Date Track Race Winner Season
1 Thursday, May 28, 2020 Charlotte Chase Elliott 2020
2 Thursday, July 4, 1985 Daytona Greg Sacks 1985
3 Thursday, July 4, 1974 Daytona David Pearson 1974
4 Thursday, July 15, 1971 Islip Richard Petty 1971
5 Thursday, April 15, 1971 Maryville Richard Petty 1971
6 Thursday, April 8, 1971 Columbia Richard Petty 1971
7 Thursday, February 11, 1971 Daytona Pete Hamilton 1971
8 Thursday, February 11, 1971 Daytona David Pearson 1971
9 Thursday, August 6, 1970 Columbia Bobby Isaac 1970
10 Thursday, July 9, 1970 Thompson Bobby Isaac 1970
11 Thursday, May 28, 1970 Maryville Bobby Isaac 1970
12 Thursday, April 30, 1970 Columbia Richard Petty 1970
13 Thursday, February 19, 1970 Daytona Charlie Glotzbach 1970
14 Thursday, February 19, 1970 Daytona Cale Yarborough 1970
15 Thursday, September 18, 1969 Columbia Bobby Isaac 1969

Kansas Speedway has hosted the NASCAR Cup Series 28 times, but this week’s will be the first on a Thursday. The 28 previous 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 with five (fall 2013, 2014 sweep, spring 2018, spring 2019). NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002, 2014), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016, 2018) and Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011, 2015) are all tied for the series-most wins at Kansas with three each. NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon won the first NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway on September 30, 2001; actually, Gordon won the first two series races at Kansas (2001, 2002). The series’ most popular driver Chase Elliott holds the record for the youngest series Kansas winner at  22 years, 10 months, 23 days (October 21, 2018) and NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin is the oldest series Kansas winner at 46 years, 9 months, 0 days.

NASCAR Cup Series
Kansas Active Race Winners
Active Race Winners Wins
Jimmie Johnson 3
Kevin Harvick 3
Brad Keselowski 2
Denny Hamlin 2
Joey Logano 2
Martin Truex Jr 2
Matt Kenseth 2
Chase Elliott 1
Kyle Busch 1
Ryan Newman 1

In this week’s event, 10 of the 15 former NASCAR Cup Series Kansas race winners are entered; including last season’s winners Brad Keselowski (May) and Denny Hamlin (Playoffs). The May race last year was dominated by Kevin Harvick, who led 104 laps, but it was Brad Keselowski who passed Alex Bowman with 11 laps to go to take the checkered flag and his second career win at the 1.5-mile track.

Of the 10 former Cup Kansas winners entered on Thursday, four of them are still looking for their first win in 2020 – Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman.  Of the four, Kyle Busch is the most recent winner at Kansas grabbing his lone victory at 1.5-mile track in 2016.

Playoff picture is taking shape; two new winners in last two races

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff picture is starting to become clearer over the last two weeks as two new drivers – Cole Custer (Kentucky) and Austin Dillon (Texas) – have locked themselves into the postseason on wins. Now just six spots are left to make the Playoffs as the series heads to Kansas Speedway for Thursday night’s Super Start Batteries 400 Presented by O’Reilly Auto Parts at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Drivers with wins that are locked into the Playoffs are Kevin Harvick (four wins), Denny Hamlin (four), Brad Keselowski (two), Joey Logano (two), Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Austin Dillon,  and Cole Custer (each have one win).

With just eight races left in the regular season, each event will ratchet up the pressure on the drivers to win; especially the six drivers clinging to their points in Playoff contention.

Heading into this week’s race at Kansas, Aric Almirola (109 points up), Kurt Busch (108) and defending series champion Kyle Busch (95) all have sizable points leads over 17th place William Byron. Almirola is the highest ranked driver in the standings without a win. He has made 16 starts at 1.5-mile track posting six top 10s. Kurt Busch leads the series in the most starts at Kansas without a win at 28, but he has had some success putting up four top five and 11 top 10s. Of the three with sizeable points cushions heading into Thursday night, Kyle Busch has had the most success at Kansas posting one win (2016) and seven top fives. In last season’s May Kansas race Kurt Busch finished seventh, Almirola finished 12th and Kyle Busch was 30th.

Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto is next in the driver standings and is having a career year, currently 14th in the Playoff outlook with a 51-point cushion up on 17th place William Byron – the first spot outside the Playoff cutoff. This season DiBenedetto has collected two top fives and five top 10s. He has made 10 series starts at Kansas posting an average finish of 25.6; including his career-best finish in last season’s Playoff race of 15th.

Next up in the Playoff outlook is Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer, currently 15th just 36 points up on postseason cutline. This season Bowyer has amassed two top fives and five top 10s. But the Emporia, Kansas, native is hoping a trip to his home track can get him his first win of 2020 and locked into the Playoffs. Bowyer has made 23 series starts at Kansas posting three top fives and eight top 10s. He finished fifth in the May Kansas race last season.

Just like last week, Jimmie Johnson continues to teeter along the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff’s cutline, currently 16th in the driver standings a mere two points up on his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron in 17th – the first spot outside Playoff transfer spots. Johnson is riding a winless streak that has reached 113 races – dating back to Dover in 2017 – but all that could change this Thursday at Kansas, a track at which Johnson shares the series lead for wins. Johnson has made 27 series starts at Kansas posting three poles, three wins, nine top fives and 19 top 10s. His average finish at Kansas is a strong 10.3.

Johnson finished sixth in the May Kansas race last season.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
11 Aric Almirola 534 0 2 2 109
12 Kurt Busch 533 0 1 1 108
13 Kyle Busch 520 0 0 0 95
14 Matt DiBenedetto 476 0 0 0 51
15 Clint Bowyer 461 0 2 2 36
16 Jimmie Johnson 427 0 1 1 2
17 William Byron 425 0 2 2 -2
18 Tyler Reddick # 413 0 1 1 -14
19 Erik Jones 403 0 0 0 -24
20 Bubba Wallace 351 0 0 0 -76
21 Chris Buescher 341 0 0 0 -86
22 Christopher Bell # 325 0 0 0 -102
23 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 321 0 1 1 -106
24 Michael McDowell 320 0 0 0 -107
25 John Hunter Nemechek # 307 0 0 0 -120
26 Ryan Newman 300 0 0 0 -127
27 Ty Dillon 255 0 0 0 -172
28 Matt Kenseth 253 0 0 0 -174
29 Corey LaJoie 243 0 0 0 -184
30 Ryan Preece 190 0 0 0 -237

Of the five drivers outside the Playoffs but within a 100 points of the cutoff,  Tyler Reddick (9.0) has the best average finish at Kansas Speedway; followed by Erik Jones (16.9), Chris Buescher (17.8), William Byron (24.0) and Bubba Wallace (28.2).

Harvick’s lead could carry him to the Championship 4

Through 18 races this season, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has been the class of the field and his lead on his competitors might be enough to carry him to the Playoff’s Championship 4.

He is currently tied with Denny Hamlin for the series-most wins this season with four each, and he is leading series driver standings by an astounding 91 points over second place Ryan Blaney.

All those stats sound great, but what does mean come Playoff time? Well, it isn’t good news for his competitors.

Harvick’s four wins (five Playoff points each) plus two stage wins has garnered him 22 Playoff points currently. With almost a two-race lead in points over second place Ryan Blaney (-91) it will be nearly impossible for him to not win the regular season championship, which will award Harvick 15 more Playoff points bringing his total to 37 Playoff points to carry through the postseason – nearly a race winning total of 40 above his competitors. And that’s if he doesn’t win anymore in these last eight races of the regular season.

Harvick has made 28 series starts at Kansas posting five poles (series-most), three wins (tied for series-most), eight top fives, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 9.7.

NASCAR Cup Series Etc.:

Practice/Qualifying cancelled rest of 2020 – This week, NASCAR has announced that the remainder of the 2020 season will be run without practice and qualifying in all three national series.

Please see the below statement from Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition.

“Following discussions with our race teams and the broader industry, NASCAR will continue to conduct its race weekends without practice and qualifying for the remainder of the 2020 season in all three national series. The current format has worked well in addressing several challenges during our return to racing. Most importantly, we have seen competitive racing week-to-week. NASCAR will adjust the starting lineup draw procedure for the Playoff races, and will announce the new process at a later date.”

Sunoco Rooke Update – NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate and Richard Childress Racing driver Tyler Reddick posted his series career-best finish last weekend at Texas (runner-up). Its was the first time since 2011 (Talladega: Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton) that RCR drivers finished 1-2 in the series. It was also Reddick’s eight rookie of the race award of the season. He now has an 88 point lead on second place Christopher Bell in Sunoco rookie standings.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

On Deck: Kansas Speedway for Xfinity Series

The NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Kansas Speedway this weekend for a Saturday showdown. The Kansas Lottery 250 will be at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. After last weekend’s excitement at Texas Motor Speedway where Austin Cindric collected his third consecutive series win after Kyle Busch’s No. 54 Toyota was disqualified, the series looks forward to 167 laps at the 1.5-mile track.

Cindric is now sitting pretty in second place in the Playoff standings, 24 points behind leader Chase Briscoe. Briscoe leads the series with five wins this season and Cindric is right behind him with three.

There are currently six drivers locked into the Xfinity Series Playoffs including Briscoe, Cindric, Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton, Justin Haley, and Brandon Jones.

Burton, a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, is the highest-ranked rookie and has two wins so far this season.

Justin Allgaier is the highest-ranked driver without a win so far this season in sixth, 146 back from the points leader.

Jones got his first career Xfinity Series victory at Kansas Speedway last season and is the only driver currently entered with a previous win at the track. Jones, who has been the recipient of a streak of bad luck in the last few weeks, will head into Saturday’s race with that momentum on his side.

Matt Kenseth holds the series qualifying record at the track from October 17, 2015, at 184.906 mph and Christopher Bell holds the race record from October 21, 2017 at 141.158 mph.

Kyle Busch holds the record for the most wins (4), Kenseth holds the record for the most poles (3) and Busch holds the record for most top fives (8) and most top 10s (10).

Toyota has the most race wins by a manufacturer with nine and in 2016, we saw the most caution laps in a race at the track with 51 and the fewest caution laps in a race was 20 in 2017.

The inaugural Xfinity Series race at Kansas was in 2001 and won by Jeff Green, current crew chief for RSS Racing. He went back-to-back, winning in 2002 as well.

Only two races have been won from the pole position (2010 and 2016).

This weekend’s Kansas Lottery 250 (5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be 250.5 miles and 167 laps. The stages will end on Lap 40 and Lap 80.

Playoff Shakeup: How Xfinity Series looks after Texas

The Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway shook up the Playoff outlook for the drivers.

With six drivers locked into the Playoffs with a win, spots seven through 12 are still up for grabs and the competition is getting crazier each week.

Ross Chastain holds the seventh spot in the driver Playoff standings as the first driver without a win. Justin Allgaier is right behind Chastain in eighth and his JR Motorsports teammate Michael Annett is in ninth. Riley Herbst, another Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, is handing on to the 10th spot while Ryan Sieg and Brandon Brown round out the top 12.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Pts. Behind
1 Chase Briscoe 691 5 3 IN ON WINS
2 Austin Cindric 667 3 5 IN ON WINS
3 Noah Gragson 643 2 8 IN ON WINS
4 Harrison Burton 536 2 0 IN ON WINS
5 Justin Haley 550 1 1 IN ON WINS
6 Brandon Jones 448 1 2 IN ON WINS
7 Ross Chastain 614 0 0 297
8 Justin Allgaier 545 0 7 228
9 Michael Annett 481 0 0 163
10 Riley Herbst 377 0 0 60
11 Ryan Sieg 375 0 2 58
12 Brandon Brown 348 0 0 31
13 Jeremy Clements 317 0 0 -31
14 Myatt Snider 310 0 0 -38
15 Jesse Little 297 0 0 -51

Jeremy Clements has seen a lot of success in recent weeks, bumping himself up right below the cutline in 13th. Rookie of the Year contender Myatt Snider is sitting in 14th and fellow rookie Jesse Little is in 15th. Little hasn’t been ranked that high in the Playoff standings all season until now.

Gragson has the most stage wins of any driver this season with eight and his teammate Allgaier has the second-most with seven.

JRM’s Hemric, Allgaier show Kansas strength, speed

Taking a look at the numbers as the season takes on Kansas Speedway, Justin Allgaier is ranked first in the closers category with an average finish of 10.9, average number of spots gained 3.3 and positions moved up being 30. Allgaier has the eighth-best average running position and sixth-best average driver rating at 90.1.

If it were not for a lot of bad luck, Allgaier would likely have a win already this season. But, penalties and wrecks have taken him out of contention in numerous races.

He has led 417 laps so far this season and has seven stage wins but has yet to get the checkered flag. He has four top fives and eight top 10s in his 16 starts. His laps led is the third-most of any driver in the series.

Daniel Hemric, who runs on a part-time basis for JR Motorsports in the No. 8 Chevrolet, has strong numbers at Kansas and is another one from the JR Motorsports camp to keep an eye out for.

He has the second-best driver rating at Kansas at 115.8 behind Kyle Busch in first. He has the best average speed early in a run, best average speed late in a run, is ranked third for fastest laps run (54), is the fastest on restarts. Hemric is also the only driver entered this weekend had won a pole award previously (2018).

Of his 10 starts, Hemric has two top fives and six top 10s. He has also led 10 laps. With his experience at the track, he might be able to secure a win for the No. 8 team.

Sunoco Rookie Update

Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Rookies Points
Harrison Burton 536
Riley Herbst 377
Jesse Little 297
Joe Graf Jr. 218
Myatt Snider 158
Kody Vanderwal 95

Harrison Burton finished fourth last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, making him the highest-finishing rookie and awarding him the Rookie of the Race award. Burton has 11 rookie awards this season.

Jesse Little was the second-highest finishing rookie in 14th. Riley Herbst, who won the rookie award at Kentucky Speedway with a strong run, was involved in an early on-track incident, forcing him to finish in 36th.

Luckily for Herbst, he is still holding onto his second-place ranking in the rookie standings.

Looking ahead to Kansas, Burton has made one start at the track and that was in 2019 for Joe Gibbs Racing. He will be looking for redemption on Saturday as he finished 34th last season after being involved in a wreck on Lap 70.

Burton is the only rookie with any experience under his belt at Kansas so the other five drivers will make their track debuts.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Grala back behind in No. 21: Kaz Grala will be making his 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series debut this weekend at Kansas Speedway in the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. The race will mark his 28th career start. Last season, he made five starts for RCR and had a season-best finish of fifth at Road America. Grala has never made a start in his Xfinity Series career at Kansas so this weekend will mark his first. As far as his Xfinity Series career thus far, Grala has three top fives and six top 10s to his name with 13 laps led.

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 

Making History: First NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series doubleheader this weekend

The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will make history this weekend at Kansas Speedway as they embark on their first ever doubleheader weekend.

The series will kick off with their first race on Friday night for the Kansas 200 (7 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Then, they’ll do it all over again on Saturday for the Kansas Speedway 200 (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The Gander Trucks have never been a part of a doubleheader weekend, but with the COVID-19 pandemic and the various schedule updates, the stars aligned this weekend.

There have been 19 Gander Trucks race at Kansas Speedway with the inaugural race being on July 7, 2001 and won by Ricky Hendrick.

Since then, there have been 17 different race winners and 15 different pole winners. Three races have been won from the pole position and the reigning Gander Trucks champion, Matt Crafton, holds the race record at 139.857 mph on May 8, 2015.

Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Ross Chastain are the only previous winners entered to run this weekend at Kansas. Crafton has two wins at Kansas (2013, 2015) Sauter has one (2010) and Chastain is the most recent race winner from last season with one.

The two Gander Trucks races at Kansas will be 201 miles and 134 laps. Stage 1 will end on Lap 30 and Stage 2 will end on Lap 60.

Two drivers in history have gotten their first Gander Trucks career win at Kansas Speedway.

William Byron won on May 6, 2016 and Chastain’s win on May 10, 2019. The series has a lot of drivers still looking for their first Gander Trucks win. Could Kansas be the place to get it done?

Triple Truck Challenge is back!

The Triple Truck Challenge is returning his year after a successful debut last season. This year, the program will start at the Daytona International Speedway road course at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 16.

The second race will take place at Dover International Speedway and the third race of the challenge will be at World Wide Technology Raceway at gateway on August 30.

This year’s rules will copy last season. The drivers will compete for cash prizes like:

  • $50,000 bonus for the race winner of any of the three events
  • If a driver wins two of the three events, they’re awarded an extra $50,000, totaling $150,000
  • Win all three events and take home an additional $300,000 for a total of $500,000 in prize money.

Greg Biffle came out of retirement in 2019 to win the first Triple Truck Challenge evets at Texas Motor Speedway for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Brett Moffitt won at Iowa Speedway and Ross Chastain won at Gateway.

“The Trip” was originally supposed to take place beginning April 18 at Richmond Raceway and continuing into May at Dover and Charlotte Motor Speedway, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic it was rescheduled.

Shaking up the Playoff picture post-Texas

The only two drivers currently locked in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs heading into Friday night’s Gander Trucks race at Kansas Speedway are ThorSport Racing’s Grant Enfinger and GMS Racing’s Sheldon Creed. That means there are still eight postseason spots still up for grabs.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Playoff Pts Pts from Cutoff
1 Grant Enfinger 252 2 11 In On Wins
2 Sheldon Creed 268 1 8
3 Austin Hill 300 0 0 86
4 Ben Rhodes 278 0 0 64
5 Christian Eckes # 267 0 0 53
6 Zane Smith # 254 0 1 40
7 Brett Moffitt 253 0 1 39
8 Tyler Ankrum 248 0 0 34
9 Todd Gilliland 234 0 0 20
10 Matt Crafton 225 0 0 11
11 Derek Kraus # 214 0 0 -11
12 Johnny Sauter 203 0 0 -22
13 Stewart Friesen 203 0 0 -22
14 Tanner Gray # 177 0 0 -48
15 Raphael Lessard # 168 0 0 -57

With 16 races in the books, former series champion Johnny Sauter is below the Playoff cutline after a tough performance last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. He currently sits in 12th, 22 points back from leader Austin Hill. Sunoco rookie Derek Kraus in 11th – the first spot outside the Playoff cutoff. Matt Crafton was outside the postseason cutline prior to the race at Texas but his third-place finish at Texas pushed him to the hot seat. He is now sitting in the final Playoff spot.

Looking to Kansas, the ThorSport Racing teammates of Sauter and Crafton are the only NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship contenders entered this weekend with previous wins at the 1.5-mile track. Ross Chastain is also a previous winner but is not a championship contender. Although, if he wins, that does mean another week without a fulltime Gander Trucks race winner.

Johnny Sauter has made 11 series starts at Kansas, with a win coming in only his second start in 2010. He’s posted six top fives, seven top 10s and has an average finish of 10.0.

Crafton has made series-most 19 starts at Texas two wins (2013, 2015) five top fives, 10 top 10s, one pole and an average finish of 12.1.

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, Etc.

Rookie update: Christian Eckes still leads the way for the Gander Trucks Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders. He has four awards and 267. Zane Smith is right behind him, only 10 points back, with two awards. Derek Kraus is sitting in third in the rookie points with one award and Tanner Gray is in fourth with one award and 177 points.