The middle race of the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup takes the series to Kansas Speedway for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400.
Kansas held its first of 19 Cup races in 2001. The 1.5-mile track added a second annual race in 2011. The following year, the race surface was repaved between its spring and fall dates. It’s the newest surface that the series races.
Sunday’s race at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC will be the seventh Cup event at Kansas since that repave. How have the 12 remaining Chase drivers fared in the first six races?
Aside from this year’s spring race, won by Jimmie Johnson, the first five races since the repave were won by drivers who are still in pursuit of the championship: Matt Kenseth (twice), Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon, who also won the track’s first two races in 2001 and 2002.
A new surface typically means there’s only one racing lane, which makes it difficult to pass. As a result, pit strategy or a gamble made from the pit box has factored heavily into the past six races at Kansas.
Kenseth actually won the first two races following the repave but hasn’t finished better than sixth in the four races since. His wins came after he last pitted on Lap 218 and 220 of 267 for two tires.
“Kansas has changed a lot over the last couple of years,” Kenseth said in a release. “It’s finally widening out since the repave. Kansas is a really fast mile-and-a-half track that’s actually very aero-sensitive as well. Track position is important at Kansas, but you need a car that obviously handles well but also has a lot of speed.”
The strategy that worked for Kenseth also worked for Harvick in the Oct. 6, 2013 race. He took two tires on Lap 229 and won.
In the Oct. 5, 2014 race, Logano restarted fourth as the first car with four fresh tires after pitting on Lap 135 and won. In May, Johnson led only the final 10 laps after staying out when the leaders pitted.
Jeff Gordon’s most recent of three wins at Kansas occurred May 10, 2014 after the team elected not to pit and cycled to the lead for the final nine laps.
One of Earnhardt’s best chances to win at Kansas came last October. The No. 88 had led 45 laps when Earnhardt slapped the wall out of Turn 4 on Lap 122 because of a right-front tire problem. Earnhardt ended the day in 39th and 11th in the Chase standings.
Here’s a detailed look at each Chase driver’s record at Kansas since the 2012 repave.
Kurt Busch: Six starts, zero wins, one top five, two top 10s and an average finish of 20.2 (finished second, Oct. 6 2013).
Kyle Busch: Five starts (missed May 9, 2015 race because of injury), zero wins, one top five (Oct. 5, 2014), one top 10 and an average finish of 24.2.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Five starts (missed October 2012 because of a concussion), zero wins, two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 14.2.
Carl Edwards: Six starts, two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 11.1.
Jeff Gordon: Six starts, one win, three top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 7.5.
Denny Hamlin: Five starts (missed April 21, 2013 because of injury), zero wins, one top 10 and an average finish of 20.4.
Kevin Harvick: Six starts, one win, three poles, three top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of seventh.
Matt Kenseth: Six starts, two wins (October 2012, April 2013), two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of seventh.
Brad Keselowski: Six starts, zero wins, three top 10s and an average finish of 14.5.
Joey Logano: Six starts, one win (October 2014), one pole, five top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 12th.
Ryan Newman: Six starts, zero wins, one top 10 and an average finish of 18th.
Martin Truex Jr.: Six starts, zero wins, three top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 10th.