MENCS: Garage Talk Notes for Kansas

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The MENCS heads back to the Heartland this week for a “last chance” race at Kansas Speedway. This is the last race of the Round of 12 so we should expect the racing to heat up as the drivers compete for the eight spots in the next round of the MENCS playoffs. This track is always wild because of the high winds, huge bumps and tire wear. Add in the drama of the playoffs and we should have one of the more exciting races of the season.  The Hollywood Casino 400 can be seen Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

 

Track Notes

The cars will have the 550 HP engines with the 2” splitter, 8” spoiler and aero ducts this week. This is the same aero package they have raced at every 1.5-mile track this season. We can expect the speeds to be up in the corners and the draft to come into play on the front and backstretches. Passing has become difficult in the aero package and that should continue Sunday.

The track that is most similar to Kansas Speedway is Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We can use the South Point 400 Results to help predict the race Sunday.

 

Stats from 1.5-Mile Tracks in 2019

Diver Avg. Finish Laps Led

Driver Rating

1. Kyle Busch

12.2

218

106.9

2. Kevin Harvick

11.8

295

105.6

3. Kurt Busch

10.0

49

99.1

4. Martin Truex Jr.

10.3

130

97.5

5. Joey Logano

11.2

49

95.4

6. Chase Elliott

11.0

123

94.7

7. Alex Bowman

10.0

159

92.9

8. Brad Keselowski

13.7

124

91.5

9. Ryan Blaney

20.5

89

90.8

10. Denny Hamlin

10.8

76

90.3

11. Kyle Larson

16.3

149

89.9

12. Aric Almirola

11.3

39

88.9

13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

12.3

35

88.6

14. Clint Bowyer

13.2

55

88.2

15. William Byron

13.0

59

88.3

16. Jimmie Johnson

11.8

70

83.3

17. Erik Jones

10.7

32

82.5

18. Daniel Suarez

12.8

62

82.3

19. Austin Dillon

21.8

14

76.0

20. Chris Buescher

12.2

10

74.4

21. Ryan Newman

14.8

16

72.2

22. Paul Menard

17.2

0

70.9

23. Daniel Hemric

22.5

7

62.9

24. Michael McDowell

24.2

1

53.9

25. David Ragan

22.4

0

52.9

* 1.5-Mile tracks include: Atlanta, Las Vegas, Texas, Kansas, Charlotte, Kentucky and Chicago

 

Driver Notes

Chase Elliott: Elliott won the 2018 Playoff race at Kansas and he finished 4th at the track in May. Kansas ranks as his best 1.5-mile track. He also finished 4th at Las Vegas in September. Elliott is in a hole and will most likely need to win the race Sunday in order to advance to the Round of 8. Elliott made some long runs and said, “Can I get a print out of the Kentucky setup and compare it to what we have today. I feel the same feeling now that I felt at Kentucky and I think the adjustments we made in that race should help this weekend.” Elliott said he liked the driveability of the car, but he was only 18th fastest in his race-trim run. He usually races better then he practices.

Jimmie Johnson: Johnson has been decent on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 5 of the last 6 races on tracks of this size in the top 11. Johnson qualified 12th and finished 6th at Kansas in May and he finished 11th at Las Vegas last month. He said on Motor Mouths (NBC Sports) that for the first time in 3 years he can tell his crew chief what the car is doing and the adjustments have helped his speed in the race. Johnson said the car was good but it was “getting too much load on the right rear through the corner.” The team worked to raise it up. Johnson told his team, “Those changes worked well.”

Alex Bowman: Bowman has been at his best on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He finished 2nd at Kansas in May (He also led 68 laps in the race) and he won at Chicagoland Speedway. Bowman finished 6th at Las Vegas last month so the No. 88 team has not lost any of the speed they had in the first half of the season at the 1.5-mile tracks. Bowman was fighting a tight racecar in practice. He was 17th fastest after his first run. Bowman was complaining that the car was dragging the splitter.

William Byron: Byron has been really good at qualifying at the 1.5-mile tracks this season and he has been decent in the races. His average finishing position in the 8 races on the 1.5-mile tracks is 12.6 and he has led laps in 6 of the 8 races (mostly because of his starting position). Byron was complaining that his car was too close to the edge. He said, “I am really close to spinning out on each lap. I need more security in it even if it means dialing back some of the speed.”

Kyle Larson: Larson is already locked into the Round of 8 so I would be shocked if this team is not using this race as a test for Texas. That will make Larson a risky fantasy pick this week. Kansas has been a good track for Larson though. He qualified 35th and finished 8th at the track in May. Larson made some long runs and said, “The car is a lot better at the top then it is at the bottom. I get too tight trying to get back to the throttle.” Larson made a long run at the end of practice and crew chief Chad Johnston told him, “You look like the best car on the track.”

Kurt Busch: Will Kurt be using this race as a test to help his teammate (Kyle Larson) for the race at Texas or will he be out to win the race? I expect Busch to use some of the practice time to test setups for Texas but on Sunday the team will be running their own race. Busch made some long laps and said, “It is a cake walk through 1 and 2 and mechanical tight through 3 and 4.” The team told him that they have some adjustments.

Kevin Harvick: Kansas has been one of the best tracks for Harvick. He has a series-high 124.5 Driver Rating, led a series-high 306 and scored a series-best 69 Stage points in the last 5 races at Kansas. Harvick has finished the last 8 Stages at Kansas in either 1st or 2nd place. The No. 4 car is almost a lock to dominate the race Sunday. The No. 4 team was working on their long-run speed. Spotter Tim Fedewa told Harvick, “You look like the smoothest driver on the track. The others are bouncing all over the track.”

Clint Bowyer: Usually drivers are really good at their home tracks. That is not the case for Bowyer. Kansas ranks as his 14th best track. He did have his best ever race at the track in May. Bowyer qualified 2nd, scored 4 Stage points, led 12 laps and finished 5th. Bowyer is 24 points below the cut line so he needs as many Stage points as possible and probably a win Sunday in order to advance to the Round of 8. Bowyer made some short runs and said, “Damn boys…it just hops all over the track like a pogo stick.” The team told him, “Bring it in. Your teammates are posting the fastest laps in practice. We will try their setups.”

Daniel Suarez: Suarez has only been mediocre on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He has a 12.8 average starting position and a 14.2 average finishing position in the 8 races on the 1.5-mile tracks. He did lead 52 laps at Kentucky in July and 29 laps at Las Vegas in September so there is some hope for the team Sunday. The team told Suarez, “You are making laps like you have your game face on this week.” Suarez responded, “The car is fast. Not hard to be confident when you have speed.” He was P9 at the time.

Aric Almirola: Almirola finished the first 3 races on the 1.5-mile tracks in the top 10 and his has been all downhill since the race at Texas. His average starting position on the 1.5-mile tracks is 12.9 and his average finishing position is 11.2. Kansas is his best 1.5-mile track. Almirola really liked his car. He made some long runs and said, “The bumps are a lot better than it was in May. I can almost hold it wide open in 3 and 4 and that was not the case in the last race.” Almirola was P8 at the time.

Brad Keselowski: Keselowski won the race at Kansas in May. It was not a surprise since Kansas ranks as one of his best 1.5-mile tracks. He has 2 wins at Kansas and finished the last 2 races in the top 6. Keselowski also finished 3rd at Las Vegas in September so he could be a good pivot from Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. in DFS Fantasy NASCAR this week. Keselowski had a lot of speed in practice but his car almost spun out twice. Keselowski said, “This wind is killing us on the exit.” Paul Wolfe told him, “It will be calmer on Sunday so just work on the balance.”

Joey Logano: Logano has been at his best on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. In his last 4 races, Logano finished 2nd at Charlotte, 3rd at Chicago, 7th at Kentucky and 9th at Las Vegas. He led 100 laps in this race last year so he could be a sneaky dominator pick for the race Sunday. Logano made some long runs and said, “It is good all the way around until I come off of 3 and into 4. Then is goes straight up the track. Not sure if that is the wind or something in the setup, but that is the only part of the track where I need help.” Many of the crew chiefs were talking about how well the No. 22 car was at passing other cars in practice.

Ryan Blaney: Kansas has been one of the best tracks for Blaney but he has not been very good in the races where the 550 aero package has been used this season. Blaney has a 16.5 average starting position and an 18.8 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He may be using this race as a test for Texas since he is already locked into the Round of 8.  Blaney made some long runs and he was really happy with the car. He said, “This is as close as I have ever come to running wide open at this track.” Blaney was P3 at the time.

Paul Menard: Menard will be looking for his first top-10 finish on a 1.5-mile track this season. His average starting position is 16.1 and his average finishing position is 16.2 in the 8 races on the 1.5-mile tracks. That is nothing to get excited about. He did say that his neck should not be an issue Sunday. Menard made some long runs and said, “The car is too darty… especially through 3 and 4.”

Kyle Busch: It is surprising that Busch has not won a race on a 1.5-mile track this season. He did finish 3rd at Las Vegas in March, 3rd at Charlotte and 2nd at Kentucky. He was awful at his home track in Las Vegas in September. Busch qualified 20th and finished 19th. It is no secret that Busch hates this aero package. Busch had a whole list of complaints about his car. It was bouncing too much, it was horrible in traffic, it was loose on exit and I am almost crashing ever F****ing lap.”…. Adam Stevens told him, “We got it. We can fix it up.” The No. 18 team worked with the No. 78 team on a setup and Kyle said, “Better. The bumps are a lot better and just a little free on exit of 4.” He was P2 at the time and the No. 78 car was P3. Busch was fastest on all long-run speed charts.

Erik Jones: Jones has been really good at Kansas recently. He finished 4th and 7th in the 2 races at this track last year and 3rd in the May race in the Heartland this season. When Jones can avoid mechanical failure, he usually finishes in the top 8 on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Jones had the same setup at the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) and he posted some fast laps. Their only problems were the bumps in turn 4.

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin won at Texas earlier in the season but he has been better on the short tracks than he has on the large ovals. Hamlin has a 10.4 average starting position and an 11.2 finishing position in the 8 races on the 1.5-mile track races. Hamlin got off to a good start this weekend. He went straight to the top of the leaderboard after his first run. He said, “Wow, this car is a lot better then I expected.”

Martin Truex Jr.: Truex is one of the favorites to win Sunday and he should be. Truex won the last race on a 1.5-mile track at Las Vegas and he won at Charlotte in May. He did not have a good race at Kansas earlier in the season though. Truex stated 31st, did not score any Stage points and he finished 19th. Truex did have a 2.2 average finishing position in the previous 4 races at Kansas though. Truex was complaining the car was bouncing in the first practice. In final practice he said, “We fixed the bouncing; now it is tight into 3 and off of 4.” They made another quick adjustment and Truex went to P5 on the speed chart.

Matt DiBenedetto: DiBenedetto has been really good on the short tracks and really bad on the large tracks. DiBenedetto has a 24.5 average starting position and a 26.5 average finishing position in the 8 races on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. That is not very good. DiBenedetto said, “The bottom has not grip, the middle drags the nose and the top is too tight. The car is just all over the place.”

Daniel Hemric: Hemric has been the worst driver this season in games that award place differential points. Hemric has a 10.2 average starting position and a 21.9 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile track races this season. Do not get too excited about Hemric if he qualified well this week. Hemric started the first practice in qualifying trim and he went to P5 on the speed chart. Hemric said he was way too loose in 1 and 2.

Austin Dillon: If Hemric is not the worst driver in place differential games, it has to be his teammate, Dillon. Austin has a 6.9 average starting position and a 20.4 average finishing position on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Dillon qualified 15th and finished 17th in the May race at Kansas. Dillon started the first practice in qualifying trim and went to P3 on the speed chart. Dillon liked the balance of his car. Both ends of the track felt the same. The No. 3 car needs to qualify poorly to have any value in DFS this week.

Ty Dillon: Dillon has not been very good on the large ovals this season. He has a 22.6 average starting position and a 25.4 average finishing position in the 8 races on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Dillon started 36th and finished 28th in the first race at Kansas this season. He did show some improvement in the last race on a 1.5-mile track at Las Vegas so there is some hope for the No. 13 team this week. Dillon told his team, “Too loose right now.” They told him to bring it in. They were going to make some major adjustments. He was P18 at the time.

Chris Buescher: Buescher has been one of the biggest surprises this year on the 1.5-mile tracks. He usually qualifies outside the top 20 and finishes inside the top 15. Buescher qualified 18th and finished 10th at Kansas in May. Buescher has finished half of the races this season on the 1.5-mile tracks in the top 10. Buescher made some long runs and said, “It is free in 1 and 2 but I can manage it. 3 and 4 is really loose.” The team brought him in to tighten the car up.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Stenhouse has been decent on the large ovals this season. His average starting position is 12.9 and his average finishing position is 13.2 on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. He qualified 14th and finished 11th in the first race at Kansas. Stenhouse made some 5 lap runs and said, “I am bringing to you. If I don’t I will crash it. I cannot even hold onto it.” They made some major changes in the car and Stenhouse went to P12 on the speed chart. Stenhouse will be a good sleeper pick in DFS if he qualified outside the top 15.

Ryan Newman: Newman has been one of the best drivers for games that award place differential points. He has a 20.6 average starting position and a 15.4 average finishing position in the 8 races on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Newman went out in first practice to shake down the car and he said, “It is way too loose and the nose is bouncing all over the track.” They made some adjustments and Newman went to P11. He will be a good pick in DFS if he qualifies outside the top 15 too.

 

Favorites to win Sunday: Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski

 

Good Sleeper Picks: Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard

 

 

MENCS Final Practice Speeds

 

MENCS Final Practice 10-Lap Avg.Speeds

 

 

Click Here for Friday 1st Practice Speeds

 

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