This weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series returns to Kansas Speedway.
After a long stretch of unique tracks, highlighted by the tight confines of Martinsville, dirt at Bristol, Talladega Superspeedway, Dover’s concrete and the abrasive Darlington asphalt, teams will face a more traditional track at Kansas, the first non-superspeedway 1.5-mile oval NASCAR has visited since Las Vegas in March.
The Xfinity Series is off, but the ARCA Menards Series races Saturday (2 p.m. ET, FS1) ahead of the Camping World Truck Series (8 p.m. ET, FS1), while the Cup Series headlines the weekend on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, FS1).
Get ready for the weekend with this week’s viewer’s guide:
Hendrick holding serve
All four of Hendrick’s drivers have won this season, the first time a team has accomplished the feat within the first 11 races. William Byron is tied for the most wins of the year with two triumphs (Atlanta, Martinsville). Larson won at Auto Club, Alex Bowman at Las Vegas and Chase Elliott at Dover. Since the start of 2021, HMS has won 22 races – twice as many as any other organization in that time.
Larson proved impressive at Kansas a year ago, leading a combined 262 laps. All others combined to lead 272 laps last year. Elliott, meanwhile, continues to lead the points. Byron nearly earned his third win of the season at Darlington before late contact from Joey Logano thwarted that.
There may be a new car in play, but Hendrick Motorsports seems sure to be in contention for Sunday’s win.
RCR on the rise
Neither of Richard Childress Racing’s Chevrolets has visited victory lane in 2022, but anyone watching knows they’ve been close.
Reddick’s runner-up finish at Darlington was his second of the year and the company’s fourth. Austin Dillon finished second at both Auto Club and Talladega.
In 12 races, the pair of drivers have combined to lead 208 laps, already their most laps led in a season since 2013, which was Kevin Harvick’s final year before switching to Stewart-Haas Racing.
Reddick and Dillon finished seventh and 11th, respectively, at Las Vegas earlier this year and both crashed at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. At Kansas last year, they scored three top 10s in four combined starts (two each).
Setting the stage to avoid
The beauty of winning a stage is earning 10 points and one playoff point, all of which have proven key in lookaheads to the postseason.
But this year, winning Stage 2 has come with a price — win the stage, lose the race.
No stage winner from the middle segment has gone on to win the event this season. If that wasn’t bad enough, consider that the Stage 2 victor has finished outside the top 10 in eight of the 12 races this season – 15th or worse in each of the past four.
Crew chiefs may not strategize against getting the stage win on a traditional oval like Kansas, but stats like this might not make them eager to win the stage either.
Playoff watch heats up
This weekend marks the halfway point of the regular season – the 13th of 26 races to set the playoff grid.
Ten drivers have won through the opening 12 contests, marking just the seventh time at least 10 drivers went to victory lane in that span. That means a spirited battle for points near the bottom of the playoff bracket.
The battle for the 16th and final playoff position on points is heating up quickly. Austin Dillon is currently 16th but only has a one-point advantage over RCR teammate Reddick. Erik Jones is five back in 18th and Daniel Suarez is 18 points below the cutline in 19th place.
Plenty will change between now and Daytona in August, but that battle will only intensify as the races click by.
Thirty-six cars make up this week’s Cup Series entry list, meaning none will fail to qualify for Sunday’s race.
Josh Bilicki gets back into the No. 77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports, while Xfinity Series regular Noah Gragson will pilot the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. Gragson will make his fifth start of the year, his third with Kaulig.
Thirty-five trucks are listed for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race, the series’ second race in the midst of eight straight weeks of racing.
Riley Herbst, who competes in the Xfinity Series full-time for Stewart-Haas Racing, will pilot the No. 17 Ford for David Gilliland Racing. Jesse Iwuji will drive the No. 43 Chevrolet for Reaume Brothers Racing.
This weekend’s schedule and forecast
(All times Eastern)
Saturday, May 14
Forecast: Partly cloudy, high of 84 degrees with a stray shower or thunderstorm possible
10:45 – 11:30 a.m. — ARCA practice and qualifying
11 – 11:30 a.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (single vehicle, one lap, FS1)
2 p.m. — ARCA race (100 laps/150 miles; FS1)
5 – 5:35 p.m — Cup practice (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
5:35 – 7 p.m. — Cup qualifying (single vehicle, one lap, two rounds, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
8 p.m. — Truck race (134 laps/201 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, May 15
Forecast: Partly cloudy, high 77 degrees, winds northeast at 5-10 mph
3 p.m. — Cup race (267 laps/400.5 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)