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If last week's visit to Darlington Raceway represented NASCAR's heritage, perhaps Kansas Speedway represents the sport's contemporary ambitions. The 1.5-mile speedway in Kansas City, Kansas was part of NASCAR's track-building boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s, first opening in 2001 as stock car racing tried to expand all across the United States.

Many of the tracks built during that time were criticized as being "cookie-cutter" speedways, with each being virtually identical to one another and lacking their own distinct characteristics. But while some such tracks have now been removed from the annual Cup Series loop, Kansas has outgrown its cookie-cutter mold and begun to write its own history. Its narrow, progressive-banked corners offer both close-quarters racing and the ability to choose different racing lines, offering drivers the options they desire and fans compelling on-track action.

This weekend, Kansas Speedway's history will continue to be written with the AdventHealth 400, the 13th race of the NASCAR Cup Series season -- a race that presents a major checkpoint in the regular season and the pursuit of a spot in the playoffs this fall.

How to watch the NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas

Date: Sunday, May 15
Location: Kansas Speedway -- Kansas City, Kansas
Time: 3 p.m. ET
Stream: fuboTV (try for free)

What to watch

  • The fallout from last week in Darlington centered almost entirely around Joey Logano's race-winning move, in which he laid the bumper to William Byron and shoved him out of the way in retaliation for squeezing him into the wall earlier in the final run. Logano's move for the win left Byron fuming, and rekindled old arguments about everything from Logano's driving style to the exact line between the bump-and-run and the bump 'em-and-dump 'em.

    Coincidentally, Logano's run-in with Byron came just before this week's trip to Kansas, the site of a similar incident with dire consequences for the driver of the No. 22. While racing for the win the fall of 2015, Logano responded to a block by Matt Kenseth by spinning him out in Turn 1 with five laps to go. Two weeks later, Kenseth got his payback by intentionally wrecking Logano out of the lead at Martinsville, costing him the win and likely a shot at that year's championship.

    Granted, immediate payback from Byron shouldn't be expected this week -- It's generally understood that mile-and-a-half speedways and other tracks with high, sustained speeds aren't the place for settling scores. However, what Byron can do is make his car wide and Logano's life very difficult should the two find each other on-track.
  • As the 13th race of the season, Kansas presents the halfway mark of the regular season and a major benchmark in the formation of the NASCAR playoff grid -- which has developed in a way that gives off a wide-open feel.

    With 10 different winners in 12 races, 10 drivers currently have a playoff berth through winning a race. And so far, no driver in the Cup Series has demonstrated themselves as being clearly dominant over the rest of the field. William Byron and Ross Chastain are tied for the series lead in wins, but that lead is just two wins apiece. By comparison, Martin Truex Jr. had three wins at this time last year.

    The variance in winners -- and three first-time winners in Chastain, Chase Briscoe, and Austin Cindric -- also means that a number of expected playoff contenders have yet to win this year. Seven drivers who made the playoffs by winning a race in 2021 -- Truex, Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, and Christopher Bell -- have yet to win a race this season. And with the emergence of each unlikely winner -- including drivers who have come close to victories this year like Tyler Reddick, Bubba Wallace, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez -- the number of drivers eligible to make the playoffs on points gets smaller by the week.

  • One driver looking to put himself on the playoff board is Kevin Harvick, and Kansas may very well present an ideal place for him to finally end his 55-race winless streak. Not only has Harvick won at Kansas three times, but he also has four-straight top five finishes at this track including two runner-up finishes in the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021.

    With a win this weekend, Harvick would become the all-time winningest driver in Kansas Speedway history. He is currently tied for that mark with four others: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Joey Logano.

Pick to win

(Odds via Caesars Sportsbook)

Tyler Reddick (+1600): Last week at Darlington, Tyler Reddick came agonizingly close to his first Cup win again, finishing second for the fifth time in his career. And coming off of that run, Kansas may very well be the spot for Reddick to finally break through. With the fast line being right up against the wall, this is a track that's very suited to Reddick's driving style, and he led six laps and contended with Kyle Larson mid-race.

Reddick was demonstrably strong on speedways earlier this season, dominating at Fontana and finishing seventh at Las Vegas. If that holds and Reddick can avoid trouble, he may very well end up getting over the hump and leaving bridesmaid territory for good.