Last week at Talladega, Ryan Blaney rose above a rain delay and flying cars to claim victory. He’s on his way to the Round of 8 with that Win, and six more drivers have a chance to join he and Kyle Larson on their way to season’s end. Who is the next to have their number hit?
Here’s what to look for:
–Daniel Hemric gets his first career Pole this weekend, and he’ll be starting first on Sunday. He’s not in the Playoffs, but he could find his way there next year as so many other young drivers have lately. Hemric has just one start here in the Cup Series, an 18th back in May. We highlighted Chris Buescher here last year and it seemed out of place, but he turned in a 10th place finish. Matt Tifft also has one start here, and he brought it home 21st, much higher than how he does elsewhere. Does this track secretly favor newer drivers? We’ll watch those two, and see how Hemric launches from here as well.
–David Ragan managed to take the 2nd position, outpacing a lot of really good cars. He hasn’t been in the type of ride where you can expect Wins here and there, so just performing well and consistently has been the goal. Pretty decent numbers for Ragan recently; he finished 27th in the Spring, but before that a streak of four straight Top 20 runs, ranging from 13th to 19th. This is a huge start for Ragan, we’ll keep an eye on him. His teammates Michael McDowell (6th) and Matt Tifft (17th) have solid starting positions, too. Good luck!
–Brad Keselowski won the Digital Ally 400 back in the Spring, and carries a 13.6 average over the last ten Kansas races. He likes these sort of tracks, and it really shows; Keselowski was the man to beat early on when Kentucky hit the schedule (a similar layout), and he’s got a 4th place starting position in this one. 13.6 sounds a bit high for Brad, expect that average to be bettered this weekend.
–Chase Elliott was our big winner at last year’s Hollywood Casino 400, it was right around this time that he really started putting it down. He’s had some recent success this year, too. Chase has a 12.9 average across six attempts, and brought home 4th in the Spring. Elliott starts 14th on Sunday, but don’t expect him to finish there.
–Kevin Harvick has our best average here among active drivers, but some issues with inspection have relegated him to a 40th place starting position. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Harvick with his back against the wall; is the tail-end of this field asking too much though? 39 other drivers in a short race and a wealth of talent? 1st might be too far, but the #4 could make it interesting — especially so if you’re in a Fantasy League where passing cars is good for your score.
Coverage of the race starts on NBC at 2:30pm, green flag scheduled for 2:48pm.