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Whether on the Missouri side or the Kansas side of the state line, there's no doubt that Kansas City is enjoying a golden age as a sports town. Not far removed from the MLB's Royals winning a World Series in 2015, the Kansas City Chiefs have become the NFL's newest dynasty, claiming that right with a victory in Super Bowl LVIII this past February and becoming the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls in 20 years. It is, indeed, a great time to be in this town -- and the rise of the area's racetrack certainly sweetens the deal.

The NASCAR Cup Series makes its first trip of the season to Kansas Speedway for the AdventHealth 400, going to what has become one of its most popular stops in the midwest since its opening in 2001. With multiple grooves and a worn surface to go with its high speeds, Kansas puts a premium on driver skill and adaptability right along with horsepower and aerodynamics, making for action-packed races that have provided great highlight reel fodder and some of the most exciting 1.5-mile racing in NASCAR.

How to Watch the NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas

Date: Sun., May 5
Location: Kansas Speedway -- Kansas City, Kan.
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Stream: fubo (try for free)

What to Watch

Coming out of the final laps at Dover, the hot topic in NASCAR this week has been the practice of "air blocking", which Kyle Larson cited as the reason he was unable to pass Denny Hamlin for the win despite running him down for the lead. Hamlin changed his line to match Larson's to protect the top spot, disturbing the flow of clean air to Larson's car and creating turbulence that made it difficult to pass.

Air blocking is hardly anything new: The dreaded "aero push" has caused chagrin throughout NASCAR for at least over 20 years, with advances in engineering and aerodynamics causing "dirty air" to be a great impediment and NASCAR to try and create ways for drivers to overcome the effects of aerodynamics. Aerodynamic complications are now viewed, though, through the prism of the Next Gen car: Throughout the weekend at Dover, Kyle Busch had said that the Next Gen car was better as a defensive tool than it was an offensive tool capable of running cars down.

"The aero blocking is just so bad. It's so bad," Busch told reporters post-race. "And everybody knows it and uses it as a defense item."

While changing the Next Gen car dramatically may not be a practical solution, some have suggested ways to make air blocking harder, specifically citing the rearview in-car cameras that give drivers greater rear peripheral vision and make "mirror driving" easier than in the past. Denny Hamlin, however, stumped for greater discrepancies in speed as the solution to such issues.

"The only way you can get rid of this is to make it to where there's lap time variance. That second car is just so much faster than the first car that he's gonna get around no matter how much you choose to aero block," Hamlin said on Actions Detrimental. "You shouldn't be able to swerve in the middle of the corner and hold somebody off. I think that you've got to have a bigger variance in speed of cars. That's the only way we're gonna get rid of this in the long run."

Aero blocking will likely be a major topic of discussion leading up to Sunday's race, but Kansas has proven to be a track where the effects of that practice can be muted thanks to the track's multiple grooves and worn-out surface putting a greater emphasis on tire management and fresh rubber than a track like Dover. It certainly wasn't an impediment to a great finish between Hamlin and Larson last year, which saw Hamlin make a last lap pass (complete with contact that sent Larson for a half-spin) for the win.

News of the Week

  • Legacy Motor Club announced Thursday that Erik Jones has been cleared to race by doctors as well as by NASCAR after his back injury suffered at Talladega. However, the team will opt to keep Jones out of the driver's seat for the second week in a row out of "an abundance of caution", meaning that Corey Heim will again drive the No. 43 Toyota this weekend at Kansas. Jones will return to competition next week at Darlington.
  • JTG Daugherty Racing announced Thursday that 2023 Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has signed a multi-year contract extension to continue driving the team's No. 47 Chevrolet. The extension comes despite rumors surrounding the team's future, specifically the idea that team co-owner Tad Geschickter could move to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2025 and take sponsor Kroger with him. Interestingly, a press release for Stenhouse's extension references team co-owners Brad Daugherty and Gordon Smith, but neither Tad Geschicker nor his wife Jodi.
  • 23XI Racing co-owner Michael Jordan has sounded off on the state of NASCAR charter renewal and revenue-sharing negotiations, urging the sport to improve its business model and make charters a permanent asset for the sake of its long-term survival. In a story by the New York Times, Jordan said that without permanent charters to create a revenue stream, NASCAR "is going to die" because investment in the sport will not make economic sense for businesspeople.
  • During a media call with reporters, Stewart-Haas Racing's Drew Blickensderfer shared that the door foam fire that took Ryan Preece out of the race at Dover was a self-inflicted error, as the bolts between the headers and the collectors were not installed properly, causing the collectors to detach from the headers, fall onto the rocker box and ignite. Blickensderfer said that SHR's other three cars were close to having the same issue, but that the oversight would be corrected.

Pick to Win

Denny Hamlin (+400) -- No driver has been better at this track over the last three years than Denny Hamlin, who has five top five finishes in a row at this racetrack, including two runner-up finishes – where he was running down the leader in the final laps – to go with his win in this race last year.

Hamlin's win at Kansas last spring gave him four Kansas wins total, making him the winningest driver in track history. And with three of those wins coming under the watch of crew chief Chris Gabehart, there's no reason to believe Hamlin shouldn't be the outright favorite this weekend.