The Cup Series Playoffs continue today with the 2023 Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. Kyle Larson is the only driver who can breathe easy this week, locking himself into the next round of the Playoffs thanks to his Southern 500 victory last Sunday. Several drivers are looking to rebound this week after lackluster performances to open the Playoffs, including Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, and Michael McDowell.
Kansas Speedway is a mile and a half oval that first opened in 2001 and has hosted a NASCAR race every single year since. Denny Hamlin has 4 career wins at Kansas, which leads all active drivers, followed by Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano with 3 wins apiece. Last year’s edition was won by Bubba Wallace, who improved all race long and led 58 laps on the way to his second career victory, as well as a season sweep for 23XI Racing, who also won the Spring 2022 race at Kansas with Wallace’s teammate, Kurt Busch.
Race coverage for the Hollywood Casino 400 can be seen on the USA Network, with pre-race beginning at 2:30 PM EST and green flag coverage beginning at 3 PM EST!
Driver to Fade:
Todd Gilliland started the year off strong, bringing home 5 top 15 finishes in his first 10 starts for Front Row Motorsports, but his recent results leave much to be desired, with just 1 top 20 finish in his last 6 starts. Kansas has not been particularly kind to Gilliland in his career either, finishing outside the top 20 in all 3 of his previous starts here. With the cream of the crop rising to the top during the Playoffs and the A-Listers bringing their best, it’ll be tough for smaller teams to make up any ground and find a good finish. Gilliland is a lock to finish outside the top 20 today at Kansas.
After a Playoff appearance last season, this season has been a bit of a let down for Austin Dillon, who has just 1 top 5 and 6 top 10 finishes and missed the Playoffs entirely. Dillon has spent the entirety of this season in the showdown of his new teammate, Kyle Busch, but there’s room for hope today. Dillon finished in the top 10 this year at both the Spring race at Kansas and at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, so he does have some mile and a half speed this year. Dillon has 6 straight top 15 finishes at Kansas, including 3 10th place finishes, and will roll out from 8th position today. A win is unlikely, but a 7th straight top 15 finish is within reach for Dillon.
The defending winner of this race, Bubba Wallace has had a quietly solid 2023 season, with 4 top 5’s and 7 top 10 finishes. Wallace has 3 top 5 finishes on mile and a half tracks this season, including a 4th place finish at the Spring race here at Kansas. Wallace showed solid pace in Practice yesterday, placing top 5 on the speed charts on both 5 and 10 lap runs. Wallace will start from the 10th position today and like it or not, he will be a threat to take home the victory. We predict that Wallace will be in the mix all day today and bring home his third straight top 10 finish at Kansas.
Kyle Larson had a solid, but seemingly underwhelming regular season, with 2 wins, 10 top 5’s, and 12 top 10 finishes. Larson kicked off the Playoffs in a big way by winning the Southern 500 for the first time in his career. With momentum on his side, Larson comes to Kansas, a track where he has also had great success, with a win and 2 runner up finishes in his last 4 starts here. Larson has yet to win on a mile and a half track this season, but has 2 runner-ups, most notably finishing second in the Spring race here in a controversial finish to Denny Hamlin. Larson had great short run and long run speed in Practice yesterday and will roll out today from the second position. With a win last week automatically locking him into the next round, Larson has nothing to lose today and can show a little more aggression on the track. All of this adds up to a Kyle Larson victory at Kansas Speedway!