Kansas Speedway put on a thrilling Cup Series race in May. Based on practice, many drivers believe that will be the case again on Sunday.
One thing is for certain, though, Tyler Reddick was quick on Saturday. And Kansas, a place where the preferred groove is running against the wall, suits a driver like Reddick, who maximizes his performance in the top lane.
Dustin Albino’s race-day lineup:
Starter 1: Tyler Reddick
Starter 2: Christopher Bell
Starter 3: Kyle Larson
Starter 4: Martin Truex Jr.
Starter 5: Kyle Busch
Garage pick: Bubba Wallace
NEXT IN LINE: Alex Bowman, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin
RISING: As noted earlier this week, Logano hasn’t had much recent success at Kansas, aside from holding off Kevin Harvick in 2020 for the win. The No. 22 Ford was mediocre in practice on Saturday, too, posting the 13th best single-lap speed and 18th best 10-lap average. But Logano laid down a heater in qualifying and will start from the front row.
Bowman has had a summer to forget. Fortunately for the No. 48 team, fall is approaching. Bowman had a solid Darlington, now 10 points above the cutline. And he wasn’t too shabby in practice and qualifying at Kansas, posting his best qualifying effort since the Daytona 500. Bowman ranked third on long-run speed.
FALLING: With the rumor mill heating up on Kyle Busch’s future, some would argue it’s hurt his on-track performance. Expectations were high entering this weekend because of his recent performance at Kansas, including a third-place run in the spring. While some of the Toyotas had good Saturdays, Busch (and Denny Hamlin) lacked single-lap speed in qualifying and will start from the mid-20s. Still, I’m leaning on a good run from Busch on Sunday.
Over the course of his 13 Cup starts at Kansas, Chase Elliott has mixed results. But whatever was amiss on the No. 9 car at Darlington could be transferred over to Kansas. The No. 9 Chevrolet was the lone Hendrick Motorsports team to miss the final round of qualifying and was 17th in practice.
Erik Jones vs. Daniel Suárez
Though his numbers don’t favor him at Kansas, Suárez acknowledged his speed on intermediates tracks this season when asked about his struggles at the 1.5-mile track. Jones was 26th in practice and qualified 24th while the No. 99 Chevrolet qualified 15th, so the choice this weekend is Suárez.
Kyle Busch vs. Denny Hamlin
These two drivers might have had the most surprising Saturday in Kansas. They were on top of each other in practice and qualifying, but 20th or worse in both sessions. Those numbers might be deceiving, as Toyota dominated the spring race. Leaning with Busch, solely off his recent consistency at Kansas.
Kyle Larson vs. Chase Elliott
The top two drivers at Hendrick Motorsports were on the opposite ends of the spectrum on Saturday. Per usual at Kansas, the No. 5 car was near the top of the scoring pylon and will start seventh. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Larson were in contention for the win. On the other hand, Elliott was a disappointing 17th in practice and 22nd in qualifying. Larson is the clear-cut favorite this weekend compared to Elliott.
Ryan Blaney vs. Joey Logano
Blaney showed more speed in practice, but Logano jumped to second in qualifying. Both drivers have been inconsistent at Kansas over the last few years, but Logano’s three wins trumps Blaney’s 16.9 average finish in 15 starts.