NASCAR Cup Series News & Notes – Kansas Speedway

Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson became the first 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contender to secure their spot in the Championship 4 Round with his win last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Now, the remaining seven Playoff challengers have just two chances left to compete for the final three spots; including this Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Remember, a Playoff driver can advance to Championship 4 Round on a win, but with only three races in the Round of 8, one driver is guaranteed to get in on points.

Kansas Speedway is the final 1.5-mile track on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The paved oval boasts variable degree banking in the turns that fluctuate between 17-20 degrees.

Since the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs inception in 2004, Kansas Speedway has participated and played a pivotal role in the postseason occupying six different positions on the Playoff schedule through the years:

  • From 2004, 2005, 2011, 2013 and 2014 Kansas Speedway hosted the fourth race in the Playoffs.
  • From 2006-2010 Kansas Speedway hosted the third race in the Playoffs.
  • From 2015 to 2016 Kansas Speedway hosted the fifth race of the postseason.
  • From 2012, 2017, 2018 and 2019 Kansas Speedway hosted the sixth race of the Playoffs.
  • In 2020, Kansas Speedway hosted the seventh race of the Playoffs.

The 2021 season marks the first time Kansas Speedway has hosted the eighth race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, the second race of the Round of 8. Kansas Speedway is the third different track to host the eighth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (Race No. 34); joining Phoenix Raceway (2004) and Texas Motor Speedway (2005-2020).

A total of 12 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races at Kansas Speedway. Team Penske’s Joey Logano leads the NASCAR Cup Series in Playoff wins at Kansas Speedway with three postseason victories (2014, 2015, 2020).

NASCAR Cup Series Kansas Speedway Playoff Race Winners
Track Race Winners Date Race No.
Kansas Joe Nemechek Sunday, October 10, 2004 30
Kansas Mark Martin Sunday, October 9, 2005 30
Kansas Tony Stewart Sunday, October 1, 2006 29
Kansas Greg Biffle Sunday, September 30, 2007 29
Kansas Jimmie Johnson Sunday, September 28, 2008 29
Kansas Tony Stewart Sunday, October 4, 2009 29
Kansas Greg Biffle Sunday, October 3, 2010 29
Kansas Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 9, 2011 30
Kansas Matt Kenseth Sunday, October 21, 2012 32
Kansas Kevin Harvick Sunday, October 6, 2013 30
Kansas Joey Logano Sunday, October 5, 2014 30
Kansas Joey Logano Sunday, October 18, 2015 31
Kansas Kevin Harvick Sunday, October 16, 2016 31
Kansas Martin Truex Jr Sunday, October 22, 2017 32
Kansas Chase Elliott Sunday, October 21, 2018 32
Kansas Denny Hamlin Sunday, October 20, 2019 32
Kansas Joey Logano Sunday, October 18, 2020 33

Twice the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Kansas Speedway has gone on to win the title that same season:

  • In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won the Kansas Speedway NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race from the pole, leading 124 laps, and then went on to win his third consecutive series title later that season. Kansas was the third race of the Playoffs in 2008. The Kansas win was the first of three Playoff wins en route to the 2008 title.
  • In 2017, Martin Truex Jr. won the Kansas Speedway NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race from the pole, leading 91 laps, and then went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title later that season. Kansas was the sixth race of the Playoffs in 2017. The Kansas win was the second of four Playoff victories en route to the championship in 2017.

Three non-Playoff drivers have won a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Kansas Speedway:

  • In 2004, Joe Nemechek won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Kansas and was ranked 21st in the points at the time of the win.
  • In 2006, NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Kansas and was 11th in points at the time of the victory.
  • In 2007, Greg Biffle won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Kansas and was 14th in points at the time of the win.

The worst finish in a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Kansas Speedway by a driver that went on to win the championship later that same season was 15th by NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart in 2011. Last season’s champion, Chase Elliott, finished sixth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Kansas Speedway.

A total of eight different drivers have won the eighth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (Race No. 34). Jimmie Johnson leads the NASCAR Cup Series in Playoff race No. 8 victories with five (2007, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015) – all at Texas Motor Speedway. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in Playoff race No. 8 wins with three (2017, 2018, 2019) – again all at Texas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Race No. 8 – Race Winners
Track Race Winners Date
Phoenix Dale Earnhardt Jr Sunday, November 7, 2004
Texas Carl Edwards Sunday, November 6, 2005
Texas Tony Stewart Sunday, November 5, 2006
Texas Jimmie Johnson Sunday, November 4, 2007
Texas Carl Edwards Sunday, November 2, 2008
Texas Kurt Busch Sunday, November 8, 2009
Texas Denny Hamlin Sunday, November 7, 2010
Texas Tony Stewart Sunday, November 6, 2011
Texas Jimmie Johnson Sunday, November 4, 2012
Texas Jimmie Johnson Sunday, November 3, 2013
Texas Jimmie Johnson Sunday, November 2, 2014
Texas Jimmie Johnson Sunday, November 8, 2015
Texas Carl Edwards Sunday, November 6, 2016
Texas Kevin Harvick Sunday, November 5, 2017
Texas Kevin Harvick Sunday, November 4, 2018
Texas Kevin Harvick Sunday, November 3, 2019
Texas Kyle Busch Sunday, October 25, 2020

Three times the winner of the eighth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has gone on to win the title later that same season – all three at Texas Motor Speedway:

  • In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won from the eighth starting position at Texas Motor Speedway and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series title later that season. The Playoff win at Texas was his third of four consecutive victories in the 2007 Playoffs – the only driver to win four straight in the NASCAR Cup Series postseason (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas, Phoenix).
  • In 2011, Tony Stewart won from the fifth starting position at Texas Motor Speedway and went on to win his third NASCAR Cup Series championship later that season. The Texas Playoff win was Stewart’s fourth of his record setting five NASCAR Cup Series Playoff wins in a single postseason run in 2011 (Chicago, New Hampshire, Martinsville, Texas, Homestead-Miami).
  • In 2013, Jimmie Johnson won from the third starting position at Texas Motor Speedway and went on to win his sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship later that season. The Texas Playoff win was Johnson’s second of two postseason victories (Dover, Texas) in 2013.

The worst finish in the eighth NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race by a driver that went on to win the title:

  • At Texas Motor Speedway it was 38th by Jimmie Johnson in 2009.
  • At Phoenix Raceway it was 10th by Kurt Busch in 2004.

Last season’s champion, Chase Elliott, finished 20th in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway, the eighth race of the 2020 postseason.

Four times a non-Playoff driver has won the eighth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, all at Texas Motor Speedway:

  • In 2006, Tony Stewart was ranked 11th in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings at the time of the win.
  • In 2014, Jimmie Johnson was 11th in points at the time of the win. Johnson had made the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2014 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.
  • In 2015, Jimmie Johnson was 12th in points at the time of the win. Johnson had made the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2015 but was eliminated in the Round of 16.
  • In 2020, Kyle Busch was ninth in points at the time of the win. Busch had made the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2020 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.

Kansas Speedway’s NASCAR Cup Series Quick Facts

Groundbreaking for Kansas Speedway was held on May 25, 1999. The official opening of Kansas Speedway was in 2001, with the first events being an ARCA Menards Series race and an ARCA Menards Series West race on the same day – June 2.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway was on September 30, 2001 and the race was won by Hendrick Motorsport’s driver and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet).

During the 2012 season, between the April and October events, the 1.5-mile track underwent a repave, adding variable banking in the corners (17 to 20 degrees).

In total, there have been 31 NASCAR Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway, one event from 2001 – 2010 and two races per year since 2011.

The 31 NASCAR Cup Series races have produced 16 different pole winners and Six of the 16 NASCAR Cup Series Kansas Speedway pole winners are active this weekend, led by Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick with five poles.

Active Kansas Pole Winners Poles Seasons
Kevin Harvick 5 2013, ’14 sweep, ’18, ’19
Martin Truex Jr 2 2016, ’17
Joey Logano 2 2015, ’18
Ryan Blaney 1 2017
Brad Keselowski 1 2015
Kurt Busch 1 2011

This weekend’s starting lineup was decided by Metric Qualifying and as a result, Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson will start from the pole and Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney will join him on the front row. Six of the 31 NASCAR Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway (19.35%) have been won from the pole or first starting position; the most proficient starting spot in the field: Joe Nemechek (2004), Jimmie Johnson (2008), Matt Kenseth (spring 2013), Kevin Harvick (Playoffs 2013), Martin Truex Jr. (Playoffs 2017), Kevin Harvick (spring 2018).  Plus, eight of the 31 NASCAR Cup Series races have been won from the front row (25.8%). The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Kansas Speedway is 25th, by Brad Keselowski in the spring of 2011.

Eight of the 15 NASCAR Cup Series Kansas Speedway winners are active this weekend.

Active Race Winners Wins Seasons
Denny Hamlin 3 2012, ’19, ’20
Joey Logano 3 2014, ’15, ’20
Kevin Harvick 3 2013, ’16, ’18
Brad Keselowski 2 2011, ’19
Kyle Busch 2 2016, ’21
Martin Truex Jr 2 2017 sweep
Chase Elliott 1 2018
Ryan Newman 1 2003

 

Five drivers are tied for the all-time lead in wins in the NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas Speedway with three victories each: Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002, 2014), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016, 2018), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011, 2015), Denny Hamlin (2012, 2019, 2020) and Joey Logano (2014, 2015, 2020)

Team Penske’s Joey Logano is the most recent Playoff race winner at Kansas grabbing the victory last season. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch the most recent winner at Kansas collecting the win back in May.

Kyle Larson is the first of the 2021 Championship 4

With the most wins (eight) this season and his Championship 4 Round bid locked-up already, Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson is no surprise the frontrunner for the NASCAR Cup Series title this season.

It’s the first time the Californian has qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round which will guarantee his best career finish in the final standings; which until this year was sixth in 2019.

Plus, with three races left in the season Larson has the opportunity to etch his name alongside some of the greatest to ever compete in the series if he can reach double digit wins in a single season. Currently with eight victories this year, if Larson reaches 10 or more wins this season, he will become just the 11th different NASCAR Cup Series driver in the Modern Era (1972-Present) to accomplish the feat. He would also become just the second driver alongside Jimmie Johnson (10 wins, 2007) since 2000 to do it and the only active driver to achieve it scrubbing Kevin Harvick’s current record of most wins in a Cup season among active drivers at nine wins in 2020.

Larson has made 13 series starts at this weekend’s track Kansas Speedway posting three top fives and five top 10s. He finished 19th after starting 32nd at Kansas earlier this season.

Clinch Scenarios at Kansas Speedway

Looking to this weekend at Kansas Speedway, seven drivers are vying for three spots as Kyle Larson’s win last weekend at Texas has secured him one of the four positions in the Championship 4 Round. Interestingly, six of the seven Playoff contenders looking for Championship 4 spot are former NASCAR Cup Series Kanas Speedway winners.

Already Clinched

The following driver has clinched a spot in the 4-driver field of the next round: Kyle Larson.

 

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 3rd winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Ryan Blaney or Denny Hamlin.

  • Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help
  • Denny Hamlin: Could only clinch with help

If there is a new winner from Kyle Busch or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 2nd winless driver in the standings.

  • Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano

Playoff Bubble: Seven drivers fighting for three spots

Only two races left in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8; including this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Below is a look at the seven Playoff drivers not locked into the Championship 4 Round at Kansas Speedway.

NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Texas Motor Speedway
Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Kyle Larson (P) 4,123 8 16 65 In On Wins
2 Ryan Blaney (P) 4,072 3 4 24 17
3 Denny Hamlin (P) 4,064 2 10 30 9
4 Kyle Busch (P) 4,063 2 7 23 8
5 Chase Elliott (P) 4,055 2 4 22 -8
6 Brad Keselowski (P) 4,048 1 2 8 -15
7 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 4,041 4 5 29 -22
8 Joey Logano (P) 4,020 1 5 13 -43
9 Kevin Harvick 2,248 0 0 2 Eliminated from the Playoffs
10 Christopher Bell 2,198 1 0 5
11 Kurt Busch 2,196 1 3 8
12 Tyler Reddick 2,192 0 3 3
13 William Byron 2,183 1 3 14
14 Aric Almirola 2,136 1 0 5
15 Alex Bowman 2,135 3 0 15
16 Michael McDowell 2,107 1 0 5

Ryan Blaney has made 13 series starts at Kansas posting three top fives and six top 10s.

Denny Hamlin has made 26 series starts at Kansas posting three wins, eight top fives and nine top 10s.

Kyle Busch has made 27 series starts at Kansas posting two wins, nine top fives, and 13 top 10s.

Chase Elliott has made 11 series starts at Kansas posting one win, five top fives and seven top 10s.

Brad Keselowski has made 23 series starts at Kansas posting two wins, seven top fives and 13 top 10s.

Martin Truex Jr. has made 26 series starts at Kansas posting two wins, nine top fives and 13 top 10s.

“It’s obviously not the position you want to be in, but we’re not out of it,” said Truex. “We have two shots to win at tracks we’ve had success in the past. There’s an outside chance of making it on points, but you can’t count on that with how strong the teams we are racing are. At the end of the day, I’m not going to give up and our team isn’t going to give up, so we’re going to do all that we can these next two weeks and see what happens.”

Joey Logano has made 24 series starts at Kansas posting three wins, eight top fives and nine top 10s.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Parker Kligerman to make first Cup start since 2019 – NBC Sports pit reporter and part-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Parker Kligerman will be piloting the No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota this weekend in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway for the first time in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2019. Kligerman made his series track debut at Kansas Speedway in 2019 where he started 32nd and finished 29th. But he does have a win at the 1.5-mile track in the ARCA Menards Series in 2009.

For more about the Cup Series, click here…

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