Who is hot and cold going into the Hollywood Casino 400

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Kyle Busch is starting to figure out Kansas Speedway.

After earning two top-10 finishes in his first 14 starts at the speedway, Busch has grabbed three top fives in his last three starts. That includes earning his first Kansas win in May after leading 69 laps.

Prior to that, Busch struggled at Kansas and never hid his frustration. There were crashes in practice, three consecutive DNFs, and eight finishes of 20th or worse. But the No. 18 has been relying on teammate Matt Kenseth recently and it’s paid off.

In the last seven Kansas races, six different drivers have gone to victory lane. Joey Logano has been the only repeat winner in the last seven races.

Here’s a look at who is Hot and Cold in the Sprint Cup Series before this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400.

Who’s hot

Brad Keselowski: Earned his seventh straight top-10 finish at Charlotte. Has led laps in the last six Kansas races with top-10 finishes in the last three races. Also has one Kansas win (June 2011). Finished in the top 10 in 20 of the last 21 races on 1.5-mile tracks.

Kyle Busch: Has a top-10 finish in the last five races. Earned a top-five finish in each of the last three Kansas races. Picked up his first win at Kansas in the May race. Also has three Xfinity wins and one Truck win at Kansas.

Matt Kenseth: Top-10 finishes in the last four races, including two runner-ups. Has two wins at Kansas. Led 153 laps in 2015 fall Kansas race and spun from the race lead by Joey Logano. Worst finish in last 12 Kansas races was 14th in the fall race last year.

Jimmie Johnson: Has led 363 laps in the Chase. Broke a 24-race winless streak at Charlotte. Finished in the top 10 in 13 of last 15 Kansas races. Has three Kansas wins, most recent in the spring of 2015, which ties him for the most with Jeff Gordon. Is the winningest driver on 1.5-mile tracks with 26 wins.

Martin Truex Jr.: Won three of the last six races. Has top-10 finishes in five of the last six races, which is his best streak this season. Two second-place finishes at Kansas. Won the pole and led 172 laps in the May Kansas race.

Who’s Cold

Kevin Harvick: Finished 20th or worse in three of the first four Chase races. Average finish in the first round was 19.3. Has one Kansas win. Finished second at Kansas in May.

Carl Edwards: Only one top-10 finish in last six races. Finished 11th at Kansas in May. Last top-five finish was at Kentucky Speedway in July with the lower downforce package.

Kurt Busch: Only three top-10 finishes in the last nine races. Best finish at Kansas was second in the fall of 2013 when he was driving the No. 78. Finished third in May.

More notes of interest ahead of the Hollywood Casino 400

  • Three of the last five Kansas winners started outside the top 10
  • Three different manufacturers won the last three Kansas races
  • There has never been a last-lap pass for the win at Kansas but the final lead change came inside the final 10 laps in the last three races

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Kyle Busch wins Stage 2 of Brickyard 400; Dale Earnhardt Jr. out after accident on restart

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Kyle Busch continued his domination of the Brickyard 400 by winning Stage 2 of the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Busch, who has led 85 of the race’s 160 laps, led the final 13 laps of the stage. Busch also won Stage 1.

Busch restarted ninth on Lap 75 after eight cars stayed out of the pits during the preceding caution. He passed Ryan Blaney to return to the lead on Lap 87.

The top 10 after 100 laps were Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Blaney, Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s final Brickyard 400 ended early when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne on the Lap 75 restart. The collision smashed in the front of his No. 88 Chevrolet and damaged the radiator, which began trailing smoke and brought the caution back out. Earnhardt went to the garage with his sixth DNF through the first 20 races of the year.

“We had a great car, I was having a lot of fun, the car was fast, we had a top-10 car for sure,” Earnhardt told NBCSN. “It’s frustrating because I really enjoyed being out there.

“Hopefully, our luck’s going to turn around. It’s been pretty tough and this is a difficult one to put up with.”

The race’s second caution for an accident occurred on Lap 57 when David Ragan spun in Turn 1 and collected Jeffrey Earnhardt and JJ Yeley. Earnhardt and Yeley were able to continue, but the severe damage to Ragan’s No. 38 Ford ended his day.

Yeley’s day ended when he brought out another caution on Lap 70 when his No. 7 Chevrolet lost his right-front tire and hit the outside wall.

The Brickyard 400 is scheduled to end on Lap 160.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last Brickyard 400 ends early after making contact

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s hopes of finally winning a Brickyard 400 in his final career appearance in the mid-summer classic ended abruptly on Lap 77 of Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt made contact with the rear of the No. 6 of Trevor Bayne, causing significant damage to the front end and radiator of Earnhardt’s No. 88.

Shortly after that, smoke began to billow from the rear of Earnhardt’s car. He didn’t take the car to pit road, going straight to the garage instead, his day officially over.

“There were just a bunch of cars slowing down and stopping and caused a chain reaction,” Earnhardt told NBC. “I got into the back of the 6 car (Trevor Bayne), they were all getting into each other, and just knocked the radiator out of it.

“We had a great car, I was having a lot of fun, the car was fast, we had a top-10 car for sure. It’s frustrating because I really enjoyed being out there.”

Earnhardt now has just six races to qualify for the NASCAR playoffs. He’s pretty much in a must-win situation if he hopes to make the 10-race playoffs.

“Hopefully, our luck’s going to turn around,” Earnhardt said. “It’s been pretty tough and this is a difficult one to put up with.”

Earnhardt is the second Hendrick Motorsports driver to see his day come to an early end. Chase Elliott suffered engine failure on Lap 45.

 

Engine issue ends Chase Elliott’s Brickyard 400 hopes early

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Chase Elliott‘s hope of winning the Brickyard 400 went up in smoke about one-quarter of the way through Sunday’s 24th edition of the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Elliott had some issues with his engine that brought him to pit road. After his team looked over the car, it sent him back out on the racetrack and shortly after, smoke began coming out of the rear of his Chevrolet on Lap 44. Elliott took his car to the garage, his day officially over.

“We don’t know, it was some type of motor issue,” Elliott told NBC of the apparent cause of the engine failure. “We went down a cylinder and then started blowing smoke out of the pipes. I’ve been racing Hendrick engines since 2013 and this is the first engine problem I’ve ever had. … We’ll move on to next week and see what we have there.”

Elliott came into the race hoping to repeat what his father did in the latter’s win in the 2002 Brickyard 400.

 

Kyle Busch leads Brickyard 400 at end of Stage 1; Chase Elliott out due to engine problems

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Pole-sitter Kyle Busch led all 50 laps to win the first stage of the Brickyard 400.

Busch is seeking to win his first Cup race in his last 36 starts since capturing last year’s Brickyard 400.

The top 10 after 50 laps were Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Denny Hamlin finished the stage in 24th after he pitted twice under the competition caution to fix damage from contact with Ryan Newman on his first trip down pit road.

Chase Elliott is out of the race after his No. 24 Chevrolet blew an engine on Lap 45. Elliott had begun dropping off the pace around Lap 20 and he was a lap down after an extended stop during the competition caution.

It is the first time Elliott has lost an engine in his Cup career.

The first caution of the race occurred on Lap 9 when Corey LaJoie hit the wall in Turn 3. During the caution the field was brought to pit road on Lap 12 ahead of severe weather.

The race was red flagged for lightning before it began raining. The red flag lasted one hour, 47 minutes and three seconds and was lifted at 4:47 p.m.

The race went back to green on Lap 18.

The competition caution originally scheduled for Lap 20 was pushed back to Lap 30.

Stage 2 will end on Lap 100 with the race scheduled to go 160 laps.