Hollywood Casino 400 Analysis & Picks

by | Oct 15, 2019 | nascar

Race: Hollywood Casino 400

Date: Sunday, October 20, 2019

Track: Kansas Speedway

Time: 2:30pm ET

Channel: NBC

What Did We Learn From Last Weekend?

Well, folks, Ryan Blaney has done it! Blaney took the checkers this weekend at Talladega, quieting all tongues regarding his ability to win again. It’s been a long time coming. He barely beat out Ryan Newman for the win, one that he desperately needed after his championship dream seemed to be coming to a slow end. Dover really held him back, after he experienced mechanical troubles, leaving him with a 35th place finish. The points were not on his side, but he managed to avoid any confusion and pressure moving into Kansas by driving to the front of the field and staying there when it mattered most. In a race that claimed a lot of carnage, Blaney should be proud to come out victorious. In fact, not only did he have to battle the typical Talladega issues, but the race was actually started on Sunday and finished on Monday after rain caused a red flag situation on Sunday afternoon. Interestingly enough, the Fords showed well at Talladega. It was the Chevy drivers, notably the Hendrick garage, that will need more than luck to come out on the other side to remain in championship contention.

Chase Elliott, William Byron, and Alex Bowman are all below the cutoff line, as the field will be trimmed from 12 drivers to 8 drivers after this week’s run at Kansas. Along with Clint Bowyer, they are all either going to need a win or a whole lot of prayer. There are six spots remaining to clench, but Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney are guaranteed a transfer spot into the next stage because of their wins at Dover and Talladega, respectively. For those not concerned with the Chase or the championship standings, we see some gutsier moves being made. Brendan Gaughan was one such driver who managed to gain the lead at Talladega, even if just for a millisecond. Unfortunately, Kyle Busch’s car was pushed up the track by the #17, leading to a chain reaction that resulted in Gaughan’s car dramatically flipping over Kurt Busch’s and proceeding to land on its wheels. Quite frankly, I’m not so confident that any physics experts could’ve predicted that outcome. Gaughan walked away in good spirits and later told his mom that “it didn’t hurt” in his interview. It was a pretty gnarly crash to watch with just seven laps remaining in the race.

We Are We Headed This Weekend?

This weekend, the drivers are heading away from restrictor plates and heading back to Kansas. This intermediate track is a 1.5-mile asphalt oval with 17-20 degree progressive banking through the turns, 9-11 degree progressive banking through the front stretch, and 5 degrees of banking on the backstretch. One of the more notorious things about this track is the tire wear that the drivers experience. Much has been improved, but it’s still something very much talked about at this track. Goodyear spent many millions of dollars testing and formulating the correct compound for this surface. While all is well in the safety department now, we still see our fair share of teams struggling with tire wear throughout the race, especially on the longer green flag runs. Another key component to Kansas is track position. Intermediate tracks lend themselves to this battle, as the field can become quite spaced out. It is essential to get to the front and to stay at this front. Without fresh tires, drivers often lose a lot of track position as well, so you will likely see several different pit strategies in the works.

Potential Winners & Odds

When it comes to picking a winner at Kansas, we likely have a better shot here than at Talladega. We can go back to looking at typical winners, drivers who do well at the intermediate setups, etc. This track lends itself to several different drivers. We have a few that are “hot” right now, including Martin Truex Jr. In fact, he’s finished in the top 5 in 4 of his last 5 starts here. He swept the 2017 Kansas races. That said, he definitely needs to be on your radar. Other drivers to watch are going to be Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski. So, who’s going to come away with the win, you ask? Let’s take a look at your potential winners heading into Kansas with theri odds as available at MyBookie.

Favorite: Brad Keselowski (10-1)
Middle of the Road: Ryan Blaney (20-1)
Dark Horse: Alex Bowman (20-1)

With Bowman in a position of a basically must-win, I think that we are going to see some aggressive strategy and aggressive driving from this entire team. Bowman has worked hard to get to this point, and I believe that he has the confidence to make some moves this weekend. With 20-1 odds, he’s a slim pick but look at his history here. If the odds were based solely on Kansas races, they’d surely be better. He holds 3 top 10 finishes in his only four races that he’s run here. Even better, he led 63 laps in the Spring race and came home with a runner-up finish. Ryan Blaney is another driver to watch, although odds going into Kansas are also at 20-1. Coming off a win at Talladega has undoubtedly given him some added confidence moving forward. Does he need to win? Nope. Would he like to win again? You bet! This is one of Blaney’s best tracks statistically. He boasts 3 top 5, and 5 top 10 finishes in only nine career starts at Kansas. Who will they be chasing? I’m taking a bit of a leap as he’s not the favorite with 10-1 odds, but Keselowski has been looking strong. Those odds best a good portion of the field no matter which way you slice it too. He’s a notoriously successful intermediate track racer. I just get a good vibe from him going into this weekend. Not that he needs to win either, but I think that he’s going to try and put himself into the best position possible moving into the next stage.

Here’s a look at your current top 12 moving into Sunday’s race:

  • Denny Hamlin (14-1)
  • Martin Truex Jr. (9-2)
  • Kyle Busch (11-2)
  • Kevin Harvick (9-2)
  • Brad Keselowski (10-1)
  • Joey Logano (10-1)
  • Kyle Larson (11-1)
  • Alex Bowman (20-1)
  • Ryan Blaney (20-1)
  • Chase Elliott (11-2)
  • Clint Bowyer (25-1)
  • William Byron (28-1)

Suffice it to say; I believe that all four of those drivers below the cutoff line are going to need some luck and prayer on their side. Keep in mind that Bowman is actually below the cutoff line. Blaney is automatically in because of his win. I’m telling you, I think that we are going to see some aggressive driving this weekend. Although it’s just an intermediate track, Kansas has its quirks. They will certainly present themselves as these guys fight for track position on Sunday, trying to desperately get that win. This weekend marks the cutoff for moving onto the next stage. Stay tuned to see who the eight drivers are that make it to the next set of races as they continue to fight for the championship!