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Kansas 101: Odds, track stats, Goodyear tire info and more

Kyle Larson became the first driver to lock himself into the Championship 4 by winning last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Round of 8 continues at Kansas Speedway with the Hollywood Casino 400 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) as Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and the rest of the playoff field fight for the victory that could send them to a championship battle in Phoenix.

TO THE STARTING LINE

Kyle Larson will lead the field to the green flag for the 10th time this season when the NASCAR Cup Series hits Kansas Speedway. Paired with him on the front row will be Ryan Blaney as they pace Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano. For the full starting lineup, click here.

RELATED: Kansas weekend schedule | Cup Series standings

THE PURSE

NASCAR released purse information for the upcoming national series races.

NASCAR Cup Series: $7,972,577

NASCAR Xfinity Series: $1,638,185

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (next race: Martinsville): $674,952

KANSAS HISTORY

— The process of exploring options of Midwest locations to build a new NASCAR speedway began in 1996, and Kansas City, Kansas, was selected as International Speedway Corporation’s choice in 1997.

— What started as a facility with a seating capacity of 75,000 quickly grew to 82,000 after initial ticket sales in 1999 quickly sold out.

— The $250 million project opened its doors to the NASCAR Cup Series on Sept. 30, 2001, for the Protection One 400. Rusty Wallace led a race-high 117 laps that day, but Jeff Gordon took home the track’s inaugural trophy for his sixth and final win of his fourth championship season.

— Kansas was repaved and reconfigured following the 2012 STP 400 as variable banking in the corners up to 20 degrees were introduced.

— The Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway overlooking Turn 2 opened in February 2012 with 2,000 slot machines, 52 gaming tables and 12 poker tables on a 100,000 square-foot gaming floor. The casino has served as the title sponsor of the track’s playoff date since 2012.

— Kansas has hosted NASCAR every year since 2001 and began contesting two races per season in 2001.

— Sunday’s race will be the 32nd held at Kansas and 19th Cup event on this pavement.

Source: Racing Insights

GOODYEAR TIRES

Kansas Speedway’s 2012 repave means the track has garnered some age and character. While that typically results in more tire wear, especially nine years later, the surface around the 1.5-mile track still remains non-abrasive. In response, Goodyear will return with the same tires utilized in last year’s playoff race as well as the spring race in May. Additionally, the left-side tire compound was used at the Charlotte Motor Speedway oval and Nashville Superspeedway while the right side has been used at Las Vegas, Michigan and Texas.

“Kansas poses an interesting challenge for teams in that it is still considered a relatively smooth track surface, yet it has begun to wear tires over the last several races at the track,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “We work hard to design our tread compounds to match up with a track surface and we definitely have a compound, specifically on the right-side, that will also introduce wear at Kansas. We just ran this right-side tire at Texas last week, and Cup teams ran this same set-up at Kansas earlier in the season, so they are very familiar with what to expect.”

Goodyear said teams can expect to see approximately a second-and-a-half of fall-off in lap times over the course of a fuel run, so tire management may be a factor.

RULES PACKAGE

NASCAR Cup Series cars will be outfitted with the 550-horsepower, high-downforce package this weekend, which features taller spoilers and longer front splitters in an effort to create closer side-by-side racing at ovals larger than 1.4 miles in length.

SUNFLOWER STATE STORY LINES

— Eight of the last nine Kansas races were won by drivers still in playoff contention in 2021.

— With two straight wins, Kyle Larson is looking to become just the third driver to win three consecutive playoff races (Joey Logano, 2015; Jimmie Johnson 4 straight, 2007).

— Ford remains winless in each of the last 10 playoff races.

— Kevin Harvick won at least one playoff race in each of the last nine seasons (2012-2020), the longest active streak, but has yet to do so this year. The longest streak all-time is 13 seasons by Jimmie Johnson.

— Texas marked Denny Hamlin’s first finish outside the top 10 in any of the seven playoff races this season, but the No. 11 team still rallied to earn an 11th-place result after late contact.

— Denny Hamlin holds the best average finish through the playoffs this year with a mark of 5.1. Kyle Larson is runner-up with an average finish of 8.3 ahead of Brad Keselowski’s 8.4.

— Kyle Larson has led the most laps of anyone throughout the playoffs with 701 circuits out front. Denny Hamlin’s 578 are the next best total, well ahead of Chase Elliott’s 190 laps led.

— Each of the past five Kansas races have been won by drivers from Team Penske or Joe Gibbs Racing.

— Chevrolet has only one win in the last nine Kansas races (Chase Elliott, October 2018).

— The final green-flag stretch was two laps or less in three of the last five Kansas races.

Source: Racing Insights

GAMBLING ON THE HOLLYWOOD CASINO 400

Off the heels of another dominant win in the 550-HP package one week ago at Texas, Kyle Larson is the odds-on favorite to claim the victory at Kansas Speedway with 9-4 (+225) odds, according to BetMGM.

Larson has never won at Kansas and finished 19th in this year’s spring race, but the wheelman of the No. 5 Chevrolet does have two top fives in his last five starts.

At 6-1 odds, Denny Hamlin has the next highest odds to win Sunday while Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch each carry 15-2 (+750) odds into the weekend.

Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. are both listed at 9-1 odds this weekend, but stats show they sit on opposite sides in a few different ways. Blaney sits second in points with a 17-point buffer above the elimination line, while Truex is seventh and 22 points beneath the elimination threshold. But at Kansas specifically, Truex has the edge with two wins at the 1.5-mile track and eight top 10s in his last nine starts. Blaney, meanwhile, has finished 20th or worse in four the past five Kansas races with just two top 10s in eight starts for Team Penske.

A potential sleeper who has already been eliminated from playoff contention is William Byron at 12-1 odds. The 2017 Xfinity Series champion has four straight top 10s at Kansas and six top 10s in the last eight mile-and-a-half races.

RELATED: BetMGM’s odds for Kansas Playoff race

FANTASY LIVE

Want to manage a team and race your way to the top of the leaderboards? Check out the playoff version of NASCAR Fantasy Live, which is open now and offers a fresh start for those of you who played the regular-season contest. The free-to-play game lets you choose your drivers each week and show off your crew-chief instincts, and there is a $10,000 prize for the winner.

The 2021 Fantasy Live points leaders are Denny Hamlin (1,322) Kyle Larson (1,312), and Chase Elliott (1,098).

This year, NASCAR.com also has the Playoffs Grid Challenge game, presented by Ruoff Mortgage, where you can pick the winners for each round of the playoffs right up through the Championship 4. First prize is $10,000.

How to play: Playoffs Grid Challenge | Playoff Fantasy Live

ALSO ON NASCAR.COM

Get additional camera views by logging on to NASCAR Drive, where each week a select number of in-car cameras will be available — as well as a battle cam and an overhead look.

New for this season, NASCAR has partnered with LiveLike to add fan engagement in the NASCAR Mobile App. Log in to the mobile app during the race for polls, quizzes, the cheer meter and more — and see instant results from NASCAR fans like you.

And finally, head over to the NASCAR Mobile App for AR Racing presented by Mobil 1, where you can design your own car and race the playoff drivers at the playoff tracks in augmented reality.