Hollywood Casino 400 Picks & Predictions

by | Last updated Sep 7, 2023 | nascar

Race: Hollywood Casino 400

Date: Sunday, September 10, 2023

Track: Kansas Speedway

Time: 3 pm ET

Channel: USA

What Did We Learn From Last Weekend?

That was a pretty great opened to the playoffs, if I do say so myself! Although Darlington has turned into a mostly one-groove track, there was plenty of racing throughout the day, more so than I actually expected. Although Hendrick has struggled somewhat this year with both Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott missing the playoffs, they still have their crown jewel with Kyle Larson. Larson was able to be in the right place at the right time to strategically gain the lead and stay there when it mattered most. While Elliott missed the playoffs, he’s still contending for an owner’s championship, which is huge to the Hendrick organization. He came away with a respectable 8th-place run. William Byron also had a strong run, coming in 4th, leaving no one in the Hendrick garage with their tails between their legs. For Larson, this was definitely a huge win, though. It was his first win at Darlington, which is a tremendous feat in the NASCAR. Honestly, it’s kind of surprising that it took Larson to win this one. At Darlington, the key is to ride the wall. Larson is the king of that strategy. He showed why on Sunday night after leaving the wall with a little Hendrick love quite a few times. It was never enough to damage to cause major damage, and he always seemed in control of the car. For the organization, this was the 299th win. What a feat it will be to see the 300th win probably sooner rather than later.

For other drivers, their days were a little worse off. Denny Hamlin, especially, had a rough go of it late in the race after winning the first two stages and seemingly having the car to beat. For some reason, he thought he had a loose wheel, leading him to pit road for consecutive laps and really putting him out of contention for the win even after leading a race high 177 laps. A late race accident also helped put him out of contention, leaving him with a solemn 25th-place finish. Kevin Harvick suffered from a slew of miscommunications instigated by Tyler Reddick’s team trying to undercut Harvick’s pit strategy. Essentially, Harvick was planning on pitting a lap before Reddick, with his crew chief waiting as long as possible. Reddick’s teammate was listening to Harvick’s radio and called for Reddick to hit pit road before Harvick could get there, but Reddick ended up missing and was late to the call. This caused Reddick to turn back to the track when Ryan Newman was in his path. Newman spun, the caution came out, and pit road closed. Unfortunately for Harvick, he still came down and decided to service the car despite pit road being closed. Had they simply done a pass through, they wouldn’t have been penalized, but because they serviced the car while pit road was closed, they weren’t so fortunate. He came home 19th after the entire debacle.

Where Are We Headed This Weekend?

They will need some strong strategy heading into Kansas being below the cut line. For Harvick, it’s no big deal. He plans on doing what he’s done for 23 years and just put the gas pedal to the floor and go for the win. This track is a 1.5 mile asphalt tri-oval with 17-20 degrees of progressive banking through the turns and 9-11 degrees through the tri-oval. The backstretch is a mild 5 degrees. Much like Darlington (and all intermediate tracks, for that matter), track position is king. While Goodyear has had its fair share of tire testing and troubles, tires aren’t nearly as much a concern as they used to be, so the ultimate goal is to get up front and stay there. Like we saw last weekend, pit stops are going to be mission critical. They can really make or break a race for the drivers, especially in the playoff season.

Odds and Value Picks

When it comes to picking a winner at Kansas, if last year’s winner is any indication, I don’t think we’re going to have a repeat. I’m not saying Bubba Wallace can’t win again, but I think his win at Kansas last year was very much a result of the misfortune of many others. Denny Hamlin had a strong run here last year as well, and I’d put much more money on Denny taking the win in a head-to-head with Wallace. Interestingly enough, Kevin Harvick is actually the driver with the best career average finish at Kansas. At 9.9, Harvick bests the likes of Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr., and even Denny Hamlin at this track. He’s got three wins, matching Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano, although Hamlin does have one more win for a total of 4. In the most recent races here (since the beginning of 2020), Hamlin has the best average finish at 5.7, with two wins and 5 top 5 finishes. Truex Jr. is next followed by Kyle Larson, William Byron, and Alex Bowman. It’s a little challenging to determine who’s going to be the winner here only because this season has been somewhat fluid with winners. Let’s take a look at the best options for the outright winner, though, as they head to Kansas this weekend with odds provided by Bovada Sportsbook.

  • Winner: Denny Hamlin +500
  • Mid-Range Pick: Alex Bowman +3300
  • Dark Horse: Erik Jones +25000

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Jones has stayed off the radar until recently. He did a great job at Darlington for a huge part of the race. This weekend, he’s looking to better his 23rd-place average finish. He’s got a top 5 finish here, and it seems this team is trying a little bit of a different strategy post-season. Let’s see if they can capitalize on it. Alex Bowman is always looking for a little redemption after the rough season he’s had. With the 5th best average finish (8.8) and a couple of top 10s to boot, look for Bowman to really be competitive and get in the mix on Sunday. He will have to chase down the JGR car of Denny Hamlin, though. I think that the Gibbs drivers are going to have a strong weekend overall. Truex Jr. will be wanting to gain some valuable points after a disappointing finish at Darlington, as will Hamlin. With only two races left in this round for the guys to lock themselves in, Kansas should hopefully be a little more exciting than usual. Let’s take a look at the points situation after the opening race of the playoffs at Darlington:

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. William Byron
  3. Tyler Reddick
  4. Chris Buescher
  5. Denny Hamlin
  6. Martin Truex Jr.
  7. Kyle Busch
  8. Brad Keselowski
  9. Ryan Blaney
  10. Ross Chastain
  11. Joey Logano
  12. Christopher Bell
  13. Bubba Wallace
  14. Kevin Harvick
  15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  16. Michael McDowell

Right now, Bell is above the cut line with Wallace, Harvick, Stenhouse Jr., and McDowell all below and looking for their piece of the pie to get into the next round. As I mentioned, there are two races remaining before we drop four drivers out of contention for the championship. While Kansas can sometimes be a snoozer, I have to say, much like Darlington, I think we’re going to see some good racing this weekend. I don’t think Kevin Harvick wants to close out his career without a fight. He’s going to have to drive hard this weekend, along with a lot of other drivers with a lot of other agendas. Stay tuned for a great afternoon of racing at Kansas Speedway!