As the green flag waves for the start of the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kentucky Speedway on Sunday, seven drivers will face what the Merriam-Webster dictionary describes as "the stress or urgency of matters demanding attention." In other words, pressure.
There is so much on the line as the Cup Series Playoffs wind down that even the smallest mistake could end someone's dream of taking home the Bill France Trophy next month.
One spot in the Championship Four is off the board, courtesy of NASCAR’s series-best ratings leader Kyle Larson. But the remainder of the Round of 8 hopefuls is one of the most balanced fields in recent memory, combining for 15 victories and a whopping 37 stage wins.
What to watch for at the Hollywood Casino 400
Entering the 2021 Hollywood Casino 400, Ryan Blaney (+17), Denny Hamlin (+9), and Kyle Busch (+8) are holding serve above the cut line, but their leads are precarious at best. Joey Logano is the furthest back in eighth down by 43, courtesy of a disastrous DNF a week ago.
A checkered flag would vault Logano into second place and erase any doubts about his qualifications as a title contender. But Vegas Insiders isn't as bullish on his chances as he is -1600, its ninth choice despite having the most Playoff wins of any driver at this track with three (2014, 2019, 2020).
Meanwhile, defending 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, eight points behind Kyle Busch and just below the final transfer spot, won’t go away quietly. Brad Keselowski (-15) and Martin Truex Jr. (-22) are both former titleholders, winning in 2012 and 2017 respectively, and are not going to roll over and play dead just because of where they are in the standings.
Statistically, the Super Seven have an aggregate of 10 victories at Kansas Speedway, with only Blaney failing to take a checkered flag, so they know their way around the mile-and-a-half asphalt track.
Can anyone stop Kyle Larson at the Hollywood Casino 400?
Kyle Larson has locked himself onto the Championship Four following his victory at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend. Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 and the Xfinity 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Halloween will serve as tune-ups. The 29-year old Hendrick Motorsports driver has more wins this year — eight in 33 starts — than in his previous 223 races combined. Larson is an overwhelming favorite to win the Cup Series title (+150), according to Vegas Insider, as well as the race (see below).
Hollywood Casino 400 – Where to watch and listen
• NBC Sports Network will carry the Hollywood Casino 400 race live at 3:00 p.m. ET, preceded by Countdown to Green at 2:00 p.m. ET. The race will also be streamed on the NBC Sports app.
• Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).
Sunday’s weather at Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400
Forty drivers will take the green flag fo just after 3:00 p.m. ET, and there is a possibility that the race could be interrupted by rain. Showers early, then scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day, high near 75F. SSW winds at 10 to 20 mph. The chance of precipitation is 60%.
Hollywood Casino 400 – By the numbers
Race: Number 2 in the Round of 8
What: Hollywood Casino 400
Where: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, KS
When: Sunday, October 24 at 3:00 p.m.
Defending race champion: Kyle Busch (2020)
Last winner from the pole: Kevin Harvick (2018)
Track size: 1.520-mile tri-oval
Frontstretch / Backstretch: 2,685 feet / 2,207 feet
Banking: 17-20° corners / 10° frontstretch / 5° backstretch
Race length: 400.5 miles (267 laps)
Stages: 80 / 160 / 267
Hollywood Casino 400 Odds (From Vegas Insider)
+240 Kyle Larson
+550 Denny Hamlin
+600 Kyle Busch
+800 Chase Elliott
+900 William Byron
Kansas Speedway track history
FIRST RACE: Sept. 30, 2001 – Protection One 400, won by Jeff Gordon
OWNER: International Speedway Corporation
Lineup for the Hollywood Casino 400
Note: There is no practice or qualifying. The starting lineup is set by qualifying metrics.
Row 1: Kyle Larson (pole), Ryan Blaney
Row 2: Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch
Row 3: Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin
Row 4: Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano
Row 5: William Byron, Christopher Bell
Row 6: Kevin Harvick, Tyler Reddick
Row 8: Matt DiBenedetto, Daniel Suarez
Row 9: Erik Jones, Michael McDowell
Row 10: Chase Briscoe, Aric Almirola
Row 11: Chris Buescher, Cole Custer
Row 12: Corey Lajoie, Ross Chastain
Row 13: Alex Bowman, BJ McLeod
Row 14: Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Row 15: Anthony Alfredo, Josh Bilicki
Row 16: Ryan Newman, Ryan Preece
Row 17: Justin Haley, Ryan Ellis
Row 18: Quin Houff, Cody Ware
Row 19: Chad Finchum, David Starr
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Row 20: Joey Gase, Parker Kligerman