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What to Watch: Full guide for the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway

Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway
(⏰ 3 p.m. ET | 📺 NBCSN, TSN | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)

Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Round of 8 middle race and 34th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series event of the 2021 season. 

Where: Kansas Speedway, located in Kansas City, Kansas
Green flag: 3:18 p.m. ET
Grand Marshal: Eric Stonestreet, Emmy Award-winning actor
Flyover: B-2 Bomber from Whiteman Airforce Base
TV/Radio: NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Forecast: Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. High near 76 degrees and the chance of precipitation is 80%. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible, according to NOAA.gov
Race Distance: 267 laps, 400.5 miles
Stages: 80 | 160 | 267
Pit-road speed: 45 mph
Caution car speed: 55 mph
Race purse: $7,972,577
Kansas 101: Get the full lowdown
Starting lineup: See the full lineup

Pit-stall assignments: See who is pitting where | Expert breaks down pit selections

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Five to watch

Here are five big story lines we’ll be following at Kansas Speedway.

1. Who’s next to lock in? Kyle Larson punched his ticket to the Championship 4 finale at Phoenix Raceway with a dominant win at Texas Motor Speedway. That leaves three spots remaining for the seven other championship hopefuls to wrestle over. Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. find themselves in the most precarious points situations after unfortunate incidents in the Lone Star State. But as we know, winning in this format can cure everything. Of the seven still fighting for a title berth, Ryan Blaney is the only one without a win at Kansas. Denny Hamlin and Logano each have three. Truex, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch have two apiece. And reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott has one. A win by a driver below the elimination line could very well create mayhem at Martinsville Speedway. See where everyone stands.

2. Another mile-and-a-half and another week as the favorite to win for Kyle Larson. Larson is having a historic season overall, but specifically at the 1.5-milers. He’s led the most laps in a single season at this track type in Cup Series history. And with more than 2,000 laps led this season, he’s landed among the all-time great single seasons. You race every week to win, obviously. But you’re a playoff driver in good points standing, at some point you may be thinking of an alternate strategy. If Larson wins again, that is one less guaranteed position taken off the table for the final race before Phoenix. Larson might once again steal the show, but it may be very beneficial for others — especially those in solid points standing — seeking a coveted birth in the finale.

3. Can Brad Keselowski continue his charge up the standings? Keselowski entered the Round of 8 squarely at the bottom of the standings with a lot of work to do. And then came Texas. The No. 2 team flashed incredible speed, running in the top five most of the day and vaulting themselves to sixth place in the standings. It wasn’t a win, but it was a very promising start heading to another 1.5-mile track. He’s finished outside the top six just once at Kansas in the last six races here, including a fourth-place finish in this race last season and a top-three result in the spring. Could the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford Mustang prove to be the biggest Championship 4 dark horse?

4. If there is any current non-playoff driver to watch, there is a strong case it should be Tyler Reddick. He’s on pace to double his top 10s from a season ago and, if you discount the uncontrollable accident at Talladega Superspeedway, he has a 5.7 average finish over a span of Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval and Texas. Still in search of his first Cup Series victory, he’s certainly shown no signs of backing down — even after his Round of 16 exit. He sits right at 10th in average finishes at 1.5-mile tracks this season and another strong showing at Kansas could have him land just inside. Reddick has had a mix of top 10s and sub-par finishes in four career starts in Kansas City. Based on more recent results, expect him to be competitive throughout the afternoon.

5. There hasn’t been a repeat Cup Series champion since Jimmie Johnson’s run of five straight from 2006-10. Chase Elliott is trying to change that. Elliott has a pair of wins this season, but none at 1.5-mile tracks. He enters Sunday’s race eight points below the elimination line and the first out of the Championship 4. With Hendrick Motorsports’ speed at intermediates (and nearly everywhere else) this season, eight points should be easy ground to make up. That is if the No. 9 team can avoid pre-race mistakes. Having to start at the rear may have cost him valuable stage points, though he rallied back to gain three in Stage 1 at Texas. With time winding down and just two races remaining before the finale, look for Elliott and company to clean up the technical errors. He finished fifth at Kansas in the spring and sixth in this race last season.

Race-day staplesAds Fantasyfastlane Hero

Our biggest pieces of the week — get covered for race day from all angles.

• Power Rankings: Elliott’s title defense about to go full throttle? | Latest rankings
• Paint Scheme Preview:
Kansas City colors | See them all
• Playoff Pulse: Analyzing the field after Texas | Full breakdown
• Debate:
Should Truex Jr. and Logano hit the panic button? | Watch the debate
• Bubble Watch:
Will Keselowski be the next driver to join Larson in the Championship 4? | See the bubble breakdown
• Fantasy Fastlane:
Make Larson’s final use count at Kansas | Top plays, sleepers

Get in on the action

Think you know NASCAR? Put your mettle to the test with gaming, fantasy.

• What are the odds?: Betting odds for Kansas | See them here
• Featured matchup:
Breaking down betting Kyle Busch vs. Chase Elliott | The Action Network’s pick | See the analysis 
• Roll with Reddick:
RCR driver has been surging on 1.5-mile tracks of late | Read more
• Bullish on Byron:
Should the Hendrick be the pick in Group 2 of Jackpot Races? | Watch for more
• Wait on Larson?
Timing not right for Cup championship futures bet | Read more
• Talking playoffs: How Fantasy Live game works for the postseason | Read more
• On the grid:
How the Cup Series Playoffs Grid Challenge works | Read more
• No risk, big reward: Take a shot at winning cash prizes with the free-to-play Jackpot Races app | Hit the jackpot
• Play it LIVE:
Full guide to 2021 NASCAR Fantasy Live game | Get the FAQ

Memories from KansasTbt 2004 Kansas 922 Crop

NASCAR heads to the final 1.5-mile oval for the 2021 season and second race at Kansas, so let’s take a look back at some track history.

• All-time wins: Kansas Speedway | See the list
• Top 10:
Laps led at Kansas | Who has led the most?
• A race to remember:
Joe Nemechek vs. Ricky Rudd | Watch the 2004 Banquet 400
• One year later:
Joey Logano rolls on into the Championship 4 | Full race recap
• Memory lane:
Most memorable moments at Kansas | Relive the moments

Fast facts

Hard-hitting, race-relevant statistics, brought to you by the experts at Racing Insights.

Sunday marks the 32nd Cup Series race at Kansas and the latest a race has ever been held in a season. 
• 
The last five races at Kansas have been won by either Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske.
• Five of the last six Kansas winners have led 57 laps or fewer.
• Denny Hamlin is the only driver to win at Kansas after leading the most laps and he has done it twice.
• Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott have run the most laps in the top five in the playoffs.

Catch the pack

2021 Oct19 Nick Sanchez Main Image
Allison Farrand | ARCA Racing

Read up on all the headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• Transformation: Corey LaJoie channels ‘Stroker Ace’ at Kansas | Watch the video
• Rare air:
Kyle Larson joins historic list of drivers with eight wins in a season | Check out the list
Penalty report: Five teams docked for lug-nut violations at Texas Motor Speedway | More details
War of words: Chase Briscoe, Denny Hamlin exchange words on Instagram | Take a look
Sorry, not sorry? Daniel Suarez conflicted after run-in with Martin Truex Jr. at Texas | Full story
Indefinite suspension: Part-time Xfinity driver Carson Ware suspended by NASCAR | Read more
Next Gen discussion: Bob Pockrass joins Backseat Drivers to share his take | See what he said
Where are they now? Catching up with Brian Scott | Read more
Fitting debut: BJ McLeod Motorsports taps Nick Sanchez for part-time Xfinity duty in 2022 | Read more

Say what?

Notable quotes from the stars of the sport heading into Sunday’s race.

“It’s obviously not the position you want to be in, but we’re not out of it. We have two shots to win at tracks we’ve had success in the past. There’s an outside chance of making it on points, but you can’t count on that with how strong the teams we are racing are. At the end of the day, I’m not going to give up and our team isn’t going to give up, so we’re going to do all that we can these next two weeks and see what happens.” — Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Martin Truex Jr.
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images

“We found a set-up that really works well there for me. I’m not really sure what has clicked, but the last four races have been really good for us. I really like that race track. It’s smooth, it’s wide, you can really work the lanes when you need to. It’s a fun race track and one that we’ve got circled that we could possibly win and punch our ticket.” — Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

“My last Cup race was Texas 2019 with Marty and we’ve always been friendly and kept in touch. I’ve obviously been racing in the Truck Series the last two years, but when this opportunity came about with Fast, it made total sense to come back together and go racing. Marty and I always talked about doing more racing together – when we got done in 2019, he told me, ‘This isn’t goodbye, it’s ‘I’ll see you later.’ Looking forward to it. We’ve always had a lot of fun racing together. I’ve always enjoyed everybody at Gaunt Brothers Racing, I’m still friends with everyone there, I keep in touch all the time. Although it’s been since 2019, it doesn’t feel that way at all. It kind of feels like we’re picking up right where we left off.” — Parker Kligerman, driver of the No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota