The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Kansas Speedway for the first time this season today for the AdventHealth 400. 23XI Racing was victorious in both races on the 1.5 mile oval last year, first with Kurt Busch in the Spring, and then again with Bubba Wallace in September.
Driver to Fade:
It’s been a season to forget for Austin Dillon. He comes into Kansas this weekend buried back in 31st in the points standings. Dillon’s average finish of 22.1 this year sums up just how much the #3 team has struggled to find any sort of consistency. It’s worth noting Austin did finish 10th in both races here in 2021, so perhaps I’m wrong here and Dillon gets his year back on track. He’s gonna roll off 11th, and is hoping avoid his 3rd straight finish outside the top 20.
It feels kind of silly to consider a guy who has already been to Victory Lane this season as a “dark horse,” but it seems like Tyler Reddick tends to fly right under the radar. As stated already, 23XI took the checkered flag in both races here last year with two different drivers, and there’s a solid chance that Reddick joins in on the fun and makes it 3 in a row for Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin. Reddick didn’t have the finishes he deserved last year (30th & 35th), as he led 20+ laps in both races before running into issues. In the second trip here, he sat on the Pole and was in the lead when he cut a tire and wrecked to end his day. This year he’s looking for some redemption and he’s certainly in the equipment to do it.
Ryan Blaney returns to the track where he made his Cup Series debut back in 2014. But “The Sunflower State” has been just as forgetful as it has been kind for YRB. In 16 races here, he’s finished inside the top 10 nearly as many times (7) as he’s finished outside the top 20 (6). It is worth noting that Blaney had the 8th-best average finish at Kansas last year (10.5). It’s been quite some time since he’s has been to victory lane, but the Team Penske driver has consistently remained towards the front of the field and is coming off back-to-back top 5 finishes. I’m not sure this is the weekend Blaney breaks through to punch his ticket to the playoffs, but I feel good about him securing a top 10 finish for the 4th consecutive race.
Is it ever a bad choice to pick Kyle Larson to win? It seems no matter the track, the 5 team shows up in a big way and is a serious threat to take the checkered flag. That’ll continue today when he rolls off 2nd, after narrowly losing out on the Pole. He boasts 8 career top 10 finishes at the 1.5 mile speedway, including a current 3 race streak here. Kyle is looking to bounce back after back-to-back finishes outside the top 30 at Talladega and Dover. Larson already has a trip to Victory Lane at Kansas on his résumé, and is perhaps the favorite to get his 3rd win of the year.