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AdventHealth 400 (Kansas) NASCAR Preview and Fantasy Predictions

NASCAR Cup Series AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway

This Kansas race will mark the halfway point of NASCAR's 2022 regular season

NASCAR hits the halfway point of its regular season with the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway. We’re already a dozen races into the life of a Next Gen chassis whose debut has been marked by parity and highly competitive racing on this type of intermediate track.

Already, the sport has 10 different winners, leaving just six postseason spots up for grabs. Among the familiar suspects to visit victory lane are Hendrick Motorsports, setting a new team record for how quickly they put all four of their drivers in playoff position. Joey Logano (Team Penske), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing), and Denny Hamlin (JGR) are other veterans expected to make the list.

But also sprinkled within this group are a trio of first-time winners. Cup rookie Austin Cindric started off the year with a huge upset, taking NASCAR’s Super Bowl, the Daytona 500, in just his eighth career start. It’s Chase Briscoe, not Kevin Harvick, leading the way for Stewart-Haas Racing after a victory at Phoenix in March. And Ross Chastain is tied for the series lead with two victories, the first for both him and the upstart Trackhouse Racing Team owned by Justin Marks.

A youth movement in full swing has left the championship race wide open. 13 drivers have led more than 100 laps this season and 24 have at least one top-5 finish. Chase Elliott leads the points by 65 but is tied for the fewest top-5 finishes among his Hendrick teammates. Not a single driver has more than 13 playoff bonus points, used to separate yourself from the pack in the Round of 16.

Perhaps Kansas will help provide some clarity, a track the Cup Series will revisit during the playoffs. Reigning NASCAR champion Kyle Larson was dominant here last fall, cruising to a 3.6-second victory from the pole position. Can he jumpstart what’s been a roller-coaster 2022 that has nearly as many DNFs (four) as top-5 finishes (five)?

It’s also an opportunity for Harvick to capitalize after a top-5 result at Darlington injected life into the No. 4 team. Kansas has historically been one of his better tracks, producing an 8.9 average finish and a career-best five poles. He remains winless since Bristol in September 2020, looking to reassert himself in the championship conversation at age 46.

During the race at Las Vegas, the only other 1.5-mile oval run with this handling package in place, 15 different drivers combined to lead 274 laps. Don’t be surprised for the total to be just as high here, a track that’s had a history of quirky finishes and provided slightly more competitive racing with its progressive banking.

Finally, keep an eye on drivers like Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick and Daniel Suarez. It’s the last chance for them to make the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway without having to race their way in during a preliminary event where anything can happen. Reddick and Suarez would also be making a little history of their own: Kansas has never produced a first-time winner in 22 years of hosting Cup competition.

AdventHealth 400

Date: Sunday, May 15
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Track: Kansas Speedway (Kansas City, Kan.)
TV: FS1
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90

Who's at the Front: Joey Logano

Logano let his front bumper do the work in moving aside William Byron to win Darlington’s Goodyear 400. It was Logano’s first victory on pavement since Kansas in the fall of 2020, leading 107 laps from the pole and clawing back after Byron inched ahead during the race’s final restart.

Logano felt Byron’s move to get the lead was dirty, justifying his piledrive on the No. 24’s rear bumper. But Byron saw it far differently, calling Logano an “idiot” that’s crossed the line on aggression multiple times.

“He runs everybody over,” Byron added after the race. “I don’t see what’s different… didn’t even let us finish. He goes in [the corner] 10 mph faster… stupid.”

Who's at the Back: Brad Keselowski

It’s been a rough road for the new owner/driver after a Darlington wreck dropped him to 31st in the season standings. Hit with a 100-point penalty earlier this year for an illegal parts modification, it’s been no better for Keselowski on the racetrack. He remains without a top-10 finish since the season-opening Daytona 500 and has finished on the lead lap only 50 percent of the time.

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News Briefs

SRX has added another big name to its list of racing stars running in its summertime events. Chase Elliott will join Ryan Blaney and Blaney’s father, Dave, in racing the SRX finale at Sharon Speedway, a track that’s partially operated by the Blaney family out in Hartford, Ohio. He’ll join 2023 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Matt Kenseth, three-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart, and former Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman among those popping up within this six-race series.

A new documentary about Kyle Busch will hit theaters later this year. Rowdy follows the life and career of the two-time NASCAR Cup champion and will debut in Nashville on June 23, in conjunction with the Ally 400 at nearby Nashville Superspeedway. Watch the trailer here for a movie that’s bound to generate some controversy. And congratulations to Busch and wife Samantha are in order as the couple welcomed their second child, daughter Lennix, through a surrogate on Tuesday morning.

NASCAR by the Numbers

13
Drivers who failed to finish the Cup race at Darlington, tied for the most at any racetrack this season (Talladega).

5
Career runner-up finishes by Tyler Reddick without a Cup victory, including one last weekend at Darlington.

Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)

Top Tier

Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t won at Kansas since sweeping both races here in 2017. Sunday should be a great opportunity to end his recent victory drought. Truex has five straight top-10 finishes here, leading 77 laps during that stretch, and was in contention at Darlington last week before spinning himself out. The No. 19 Toyota is battling with Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick for the title of “best winless driver remaining in 2022.” At some point, the law of averages has to even out and Lady Luck will turn Truex’s way.

Ross Chastain doesn’t have a career top-10 finish at Kansas. What he does have is a race-high 83 laps led at Las Vegas earlier this year, a track with a similar length and setup to Kansas. Add in last week’s wreck at Darlington while Chastain was fighting for the lead and I think he’ll be hungry to make up for that mistake on Sunday.

Related: Best Kansas Speedway Drivers for DraftKings

Middle Tier

Even during some of Kevin Harvick’s worst moments, Kansas has been a track where he’s always come through. Riding a streak of four top-4 finishes here, Harvick has led 94 laps during that span and produced a position differential of +9. Part of the problem for the No. 4 team has been struggling to find the speed they need until the final stage of the race. If they can find a track like this one where crew chief Rodney Childers can nail the setup early? Watch out.

Tyler Reddick earned the first top-10 finish of his NASCAR Cup career with a ninth at Kansas way back in 2019. He added a seventh in the spring race last year and has remained one of the year’s most competitive drivers, producing a setup at another intermediate (Auto Club Speedway) that would have won the race if not for a tire problem that caused a wreck.

Lower Tier

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is someone where you need to ride the hot hand. After a rough start to the year with JTG Daugherty Racing, Stenhouse has produced back-to-back top-10 finishes for the first time since joining the No. 47 team in 2020. It could be enough to overcome a rough road at Kansas, a track where he has yet to register a finish better than 11th in 18 starts.

Rookie Harrison Burton has quietly shown some signs of life in recent weeks, posting a career-best 14th place finish at Darlington last weekend. Kansas could be a track to build on that momentum, a place where Burton ran third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2020 while his current team, the Wood Brothers, posted a top-5 result with former driver Matt DiBenedetto in 2021.

What Vegas Thinks

The vegasinsider.com odds show you how wide-open this 2022 Cup season has been. Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott all have +700 odds to lead a tightly-wound pack entering the AdventHealth 400. William Byron, Ross Chastain and Martin Truex Jr. are all tied behind them at +1000.

Looking for a longshot pick? Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is sitting at the wild price of 150/1. For only $1, you could do worse!

What I Think

I’m picking Kevin Harvick in a bit of a mild upset. In yet another wild race, the type that’s defined this year, I expect the No. 4 team to deploy the right mix of strategy and speed to sneak through.

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at tbowles81@yahoo.com or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

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