NASCAR's traveling circus hits the Midwest for the 2020 Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday. The 1.5-mile oval is celebrating its 20th year of Cup Series competition with a fall playoff race that's now the first inside the Round of 8.
Its sister track, Chicagoland Speedway, is now off the schedule for at least 2021, a sign of how much of a struggle at times it can be for these cookie-cutter ovals to be competitive. But Kansas has always been the quirkier of the two, producing weird endings like Greg Biffle winning in 2007 despite failing to cross the finish line first. One year later, Carl Edwards slammed into the wall off turn 4 in his desperation bid to beat Jimmie Johnson to the finish line.
Like with the other intermediate ovals, NASCAR will run its low-horsepower, high-downforce package this weekend. Track position will be crucial as passing can prove difficult over long green-flag runs.
That means all eight drivers still in title contention will begin with a major advantage. Continuing under COVID-19 protocols, they will start up front automatically as NASCAR won't have on-track practice or qualifying. Instead, the field is set according to the metrics outlined below.
25% of the metric will be the driver’s finishing position from the previous race.
25% of the metric will be the owner’s finishing position from the previous race.
35% of the metric will be the owner’s current position in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings.
15% of the metric will be their fastest lap during the previous race.
All drivers remaining in championship contention (8) automatically start ahead of all others.
That quirk in the rules means reigning champion Kyle Busch, after getting eliminated from the postseason last week, can start no better than ninth the next three weeks. Ditto for Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Austin Dillon, all of whom saw their title hopes come to an end at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
Forty teams are traveling to Kansas for 40 spots on the grid, meaning everyone who entered will start the race. Four "open" teams not guaranteed a spot are attempting the event: Gaunt Brothers Racing (No. 96), whose car is driven by Daniel Suarez, MBM Motorsports (Nos. 49 & 66) entering cars run by Chad Finchum and Timmy Hill, plus Tommy Baldwin Racing (No. 7) and driver Josh Bilicki.
1. Chase Elliott (P)
2. Joey Logano (P)
3. Kurt Busch (P)
4. Kevin Harvick (P)
5. Martin Truex Jr. (P)
6. Alex Bowman (P)
7. Denny Hamlin (P)
8. Brad Keselowski (P)
9. Ryan Blaney
10. William Byron
11. Erik Jones
12. Clint Bowyer
13. Cole Custer (R)
14. Jimmie Johnson
15. Tyler Reddick (R)
16. Aric Almirola
17. Austin Dillon
18. Matt DiBenedetto
19. Ryan Preece
20. Kyle Busch
21. Chris Buescher
22. Christopher Bell (R)
23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
24. Bubba Wallace
25. Ty Dillon
26. Michael McDowell
27. Daniel Suarez
28. Ryan Newman
29. Corey Lajoie
30. Matt Kenseth
31. Quin Houff (R)
32. John Hunter Nemechek (R)
33. James Davison
34. JJ Yeley (i)
35. Brennan Poole (R)
36. Reed Sorenson
37. Timmy Hill (i)
38. Joey Gase (i)
39. Josh Bilicki (i)
40. Chad Finchum (i)
(P) – Playoff Driver
(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
- Chase Elliott (1st) will start up front in his Chevrolet for the second time during the 2020 playoffs. A win Sunday would give him the first Championship 4 bid of his five-year Cup career.
- Joey Logano (2nd) is the best-qualifying Ford driver.
- Kevin Harvick (4th) has his sixth straight top-5 start. He enters the Round of 8 as the NASCAR point leader with a 45-point lead over the cutline.
- Martin Truex Jr. (5th) is the highest-qualifying Toyota driver.
- Denny Hamlin (7th) is the race's defending winner.
- Cole Custer (13th) has the best starting spot among rookie drivers.
- JJ Yeley (34th) steps into the No. 27 Rick Ware Racing Ford this weekend, replacing Gray Gaulding who did not have sponsorship for this event.
- Reed Sorenson (36th) will race the No. 77 Spire Motorsports car for the first time since Bristol Motor Speedway last month, replacing JJ Yeley.
- Josh Bilicki (39th) will run the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet, making a part-time Cup appearance for the first time since Bristol last month.
- Chad Finchum (40th) will make just his second Cup start of the year for MBM Motorsports and first since Las Vegas Motor Speedway last month (39th).
NASCAR RACE BREAKDOWN
Race: Hollywood Casino 400
Track: Kansas Speedway (Kansas City, Kan.)
Date: Sunday, Oct. 18
TV: NBC, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 267 laps (400 miles)
Stage 1: 80 Laps
Stage 2: 80 Laps
Final Stage: 107 Laps
Frontstretch podcast hosts Dustin Albino and Mike Neff talk to NASCAR Xfinity Series Charlotte ROVAL winner A.J. Allmendinger about racing in the rain. Then, they roll the dice to preview how the Round of 8 will fare in this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400.