Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, KS — October 18, 2020
The NASCAR Playoff’s Round of Eight kicks off today at Kansas Speedway. Three races to determine the four drivers that will compete for the Championship at Phoenix. It will be a cold afternoon on the track as temperatures hover in the mid-40’s at race time.
The Hollywood Casino 400 takes the green flag shortly after 2:30 pm eastern time on NBC. A total of 267 laps around the 1.5-mile speed make up the 400-mile distance. Stages are 80/80/107 laps, the fuel window is 60-65 laps and the choose rule is in use today. Denny Hamlin is the defending champion, he starts 7th on the grid.
Chase Elliott is on the pole with Joey Logano starting next to Elliott on the front row.
The pair are within 4 points of each other with Elliott currently holding the bubble spot. Harvick and Hamlin are favored to advance on points, barring a serious issue at Kansas, Texas, or Martinsville. The battle for the final two playoff spots likely will be contended among the other six drivers.
|Round 3 Playoff Cut Line|
|6||Martin Truex Jr.||4016||-10|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Martin Truex Jr. was slotted to start 5th, but after failing inspection twice he is starting at the rear of the 40 car field.
Ford Performance announced this week that popular driver Hailie Deegan will compete full time in the 2021 Camping World Truck Series. Deegan finished 3rd in points on the ARCA series this year and was named Rookie of the Year.
Deegan competed in her first Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway yesterday, finishing 16th. “We are very happy with Hailie’s progress as demonstrated in her first year as a part of our Ford Performance driver development program,” Mark Rushbrook — the global director for Ford Performance Motorsports — said. “Continuing with the consistency from DGR-Crosley, Hailie is ready to make the step to the NASCAR Truck Series, providing some intense competition and great racing.”
It was also announced this week that Matt DiBenedetto will be back in the #21 Woods Brother’s Mustang in 2021 and that Austin Cindric will take over that ride in 2022.
Chase Elliott(9) jumped to the lead immediately as drivers spread out 2,3, and 4 wide at the start in an effort to gain track position. Elliott held the top spot until NASCAR waved the yellow flag for a competition caution after 25 laps were in the books.
William Byron(24) exited the pits in the lead. Playoff contender Kurt Busch(1) was caught speeding on pit road and will have to make his way forward from the rear of the field when the race restarts.
More spread out side-by-side racing as the green flag dropped and the lead shuffled hands. With 25 laps to go in the Stage, Kevin Harvick(4) was out front, Elliott ran 2nd, Brad Keselowski(2) 3rd, with Ryan Blaney(12) and Denny Hamlin(11) sitting 4th and 5th. The battle for Stage points began to heat up.
Elliott took over the top spot with 16 laps to go. With eight to go, Keselowski got beside Harvick and passed for 2nd two laps later. Blaney, Hamlin, and Erik Jones(20) passed Harvick as well picking every point they could. Keselowski closed to Elliott’s bumper, but Chase held him off to take the Stage win.
Stage 1 Results
|1||9||Chase Elliott (P)||10|
|2||2||Brad Keselowski (P)*||9|
|3||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||8|
|6||88||Alex Bowman (P)||5|
|7||4||Kevin Harvick (P)*||4|
|8||19||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||3|
|9||22||Joey Logano (P)*||2|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Hamlin, first off pit road, took the lead after racing side-by-side with Elliott for the 1st lap on the restart. Blaney was the only car that could run with Hamlin and the two separated themselves slightly from the rest of the pack early in Stage 2. Elliott, Keselowski, and Harvick rounded out the top 5.
Green flag pit stops began just after halfway in the 80 lap Stage. Most of the field had pitted when Matt Kenseth got together with Erik Jones and hit the wall with 17 laps to go in the Stage. The untimely caution caught several cars a lap down. Including Chris Buescher(17), Ty Dillon(13), and Jones.
Restarting with 11 laps to go, it was Hamlin back to the lead with Blaney still in 2nd. Alex Bowman was running in third. Harvick was the one really hunting Stage points as he passed Bowman and Blaney to move into 2nd, with 5 laps to go Harvick was on the bumper of Hamlin.
Catching the car in front of you is one thing, passing is another. Hamlin held off every move by Harvick and took the Stage 2 win.
Stage 2 Results
|1||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||10|
|2||4||Kevin Harvick (P)*||9|
|4||88||Alex Bowman (P)||7|
|5||9||Chase Elliott (P)||6|
|6||2||Brad Keselowski (P)*||5|
|8||19||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||3|
|9||1||Kurt Busch (P)||2|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Kyle Busch stayed on the track and inherited the lead. Two tire stops for Logano and Aric Almirola(10) brought them to the front of the field in 2nd and 3rd, with Hamlin in 4th and Bowman completing the Top 5.
On the restart, Logano jumped ahead of Kyle Busch as the pack raced 3 & 4 wide behind them. Harvick decided to go for the lead early as he drove past everyone and into the 1st position. Keselowski, also with the right setup, cruised up to join the fight for 2nd with his teammate Logano.
Battling for 5th with Kyle Busch, Hamlin got into the wall and flattened a right rear tire. He was forced to the pits for a tire change. He returned to the track in 29th place, a lap down to the field.
With 80 laps to go, Kurt Busch began to lose pace. As the crew was trying to communicate with him to diagnose the problem, the engine let go and he retired to the garage. Starting last in this round, Busch will now have to win to advance as moving forward on points alone is no longer a realistic option.
The caution came out as Busch’s engine blew, amping up the drama. Teams pitted with 66 laps to go, right on the edge of their pit window. It’s possible the finish will come down to who can conserve the most fuel between now and when the checkered flag flies. Denny Hamlin stayed on the track when everyone pitted taking the wave around to get back on the lead lap.
Harvick and Kyle Busch led the field back to green. Harvick surged, Busch faded, and Logano moved up to lead the draft behind Harvick who quickly put time between himself and the pack.
As Harvick continued to build his lead the Team Penske drivers of Logano, Keselowski, and Blaney separated themselves slightly from their perusers, making it an all Ford Top 4.
With 47 laps to go, Tyler Reddick(8) hit the wall in Turn 3 and brought out the caution again. This will give teams the opportunity to gas up and get new tires for the sprint to the finish. It was a huge break for Hamlin who can now avoid pitting under green and repair the minor damage to his right rear caused by the earlier brush with the wall.
The lead changed hands in the pits as Logano came out in front of Harvick for the top spot heading to the restart with 42 laps to go. Blaney pushed Logano to the lead, but Harvick was able to get in between the teammates to take 2nd place.
Jimmie Johnson(48) and Ryan Preece(37) both scrapped the wall down the front stretch, the damage was minimal and the race stayed green. As Logano fought to keep Harvick behind him, Keselowski closed up to join the battle.
With 20 laps to go, Harvick was back to Logano’s bumper and they were having to weave through lapped traffic. The Top 5 were all playoff cars. Logano, Harvick, Bowman, Keselowski, and Elliott. At 10 to go, Logano had stretched the lead to a half-second.
Bowman joined the chase with 3 laps to go, but Logano held strong blocking Harvick from getting the big run. With the win, Logano clinches a spot in the final 4 at Phoenix. Harvick’s second-place finish moves him close to clinching on points. Good news for Ford Performance as the Blue Oval will have at least two Mustangs running for the championship.
Denny Hamlin’s 15th place finish cost him some valuable points. He is 20 points to the good over the cut line, but can’t afford another slip at Texas. Elliott trailed Keselowski by 9 coming into Kansas, he picked up 1 but Logano’s win dropped Elliott below the cut line. Alex Bowman was 17 points down when they unloaded, he gained 12 Stage points, finished 3rd, and left the speedway 27 points below Keselowski. That shows how difficult it is to pick up points in Playoff racing. Next week it’s the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 from Texas Motor Speedway and the picture will clarify further. Race coverage at 3:30 on the NBC family of networks.
|Round 3 Cut Line|
|7||Martin Truex Jr.||4051||-31|
Results of The Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway
|1||22||Joey Logano (P)||—||267|
|2||4||Kevin Harvick (P)||0.312||267|
|3||88||Alex Bowman (P)||0.680||267|
|4||2||Brad Keselowski (P)||3.197||267|
|6||9||Chase Elliott (P)||4.379||267|
|9||19||Martin Truex Jr. (P)||5.715||267|
|15||11||Denny Hamlin (P)||12.951||267|
|16||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||13.355||267|
|17||38||John Hunter Nemechek||16.254||267|
|38||1||Kurt Busch (P)||-70||197|