Jake Ernst provides his predictions and picks for Sunday’s NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway, as the stakes are rising for the 12 drivers looking to advance.
The Hollywood Casino 400 will take place on Sunday, Oct. 20th at 2:30pm ET and will be streaming on NBC or NBC Sports Network. Following this race, the postseason field will be cut from 12 drivers to eight, and for the bottom-four drivers (Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Clint Bowyer and William Byron), this looks like it could be a win-or-go-home scenario. Interestingly enough, one of those drivers mentioned, already has a win at Kansas Speedway and will likely be willing to risk it all for another on Sunday.
In his seven-career races at the 1.5-mile tri-oval racetrack, Elliott has finished inside the top-five three times and inside the top-12 five times. In addition to his quality finishes, the 23-year-old led 44 laps and eventually won the October race at Kansas one year ago, marking his first win at Kansas and his third win overall.
The awe-inspiring thing about Elliott is that he didn’t just have one strong race at Kansas, he backed it up in the following-and-most recent race as well. Earlier this season in May, Elliott once again drove his #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet to the front of the pack, when he led 45 laps before ultimately finishing fourth.
“Definitely an interesting situation for us, I don’t know if it’s exciting to be where we are,” Elliott said. “But, we’re definitely in a position where we have to do good this weekend, and that’s the reality of where we are,” Elliott told Atlanta11 News in preparation for Sunday’s Kansas race.
Without a very proficient finish at Kansas, this could be the final meaningful race of Elliott’s 2019 season and that is certainly not what he or crew chief Alan Gustafson want on Sunday. Look for him to change that in a few days, with a victory at Kansas.
In Martin Truex Jr’s 22-career races at Kansas Speedway, the veteran has finished outside the top-10 on 13 separate occasions. On the bright side of things, seven of those came within his first seven races at the track, meaning he has finished inside the top-10 in nine out of his last 15. Talk about a career revival! What is even more impressive, is that he isn’t just rattling off top-10’s – he is finishing inside the top-five. In eight out of those nine top-10’s, he’s actually finished inside the top-five, including two wins and three second-place finishes. Something began clicking for Truex Jr. after his eighth race at Kansas, as he went from finishing 36th in 2011, to finishing 2nd in April of 2012. He hasn’t looked back since then, leading 694 laps over the course of his next 15 races.
It’s been three races since his last win at Kansas but at the age of 39, he seems to be executing better than ever and I expect another strong finish out of the New Jersey native. With 25-career victories and six in the 2019 season, he leads all drivers by two wins and will be looking to add to that total in the upcoming race at Kansas. Sitting at +41 points from the playoff elimination line, he is a strong bet to advance to the next round, but he’s not locked in yet. A win on Sunday would guarantee that he moves on to the third round of the postseason and that is very much accomplishable for NASCAR’s most dominant driver of the season.
Consistency has been a staple of Kevin Harvick’s 19-year NASCAR career and his Kansas results are just a small sample size of the 43-year-old’s success. In his 27-career races at Kansas, Harvick has an average finish of 9.81 and has finished sixth-or-better in nearly half of his races at the track (13 races). The 2014 NASCAR champion has three wins and three runner-up finishes at Kansas and has led laps in a remarkable 11 out of his last 12 races at the speedway.
The current standings show Harvick at +36 points from 9th place (the cutoff line) and barring any major setbacks on Sunday, he should have no problem advancing to the next round. Much like some of his competitors, he can however, put his fate in his own hands with a win on Sunday.