The Cup Series visits the best intermediate track for the second race of the 2023 playoffs.
Calling Kansas Speedway the best 1.5-mile track in the Cup Series isn’t a controversial statement. It may not be a statement that’s unanimously agreed upon, but the recent races at the track have been entertaining and unpredictable as the track’s pavement has aged perfectly.
Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin enter as the co-favorites to win Sunday’s race (3 p.m. ET, USA) after they raced for the win in the spring. Hamlin chased down Larson for 20 laps before making a move on the final lap as Larson hit the backstretch wall because of contact between the two cars.
A season ago, Bubba Wallace got the second win of his career in this race. Wallace became the second consecutive driver outside the playoffs to win a playoff race in 2022 when he led the final 43 laps after passing Daniel Suarez for the lead.
Larson is the only driver guaranteed a spot in the second round of the playoffs after he won the playoff opener at Darlington on Sept. 3. Larson got the first win of his Darlington career over Labor Day weekend as he took the lead for the first time with 55 laps to go and led the rest of the way.
Can Larson make it two in a row and get his second Kansas win? Will Hamlin get his fifth win at the track? Or will someone else get a victory? Here’s what you need to know to bet the race. All odds are from BetMGM.
Kyle Larson (+500)
Denny Hamlin (+500)
Martin Truex Jr. (+600)
William Byron (+700)
Tyler Reddick (+1000)
Christopher Bell (+1000)
Larson has six top-five finishes in 17 starts. His win at Kansas came in 2021. Hamlin has 12 top-five finishes and 13 top 10s in 30 starts. If he’s finishing in the top 10, he’s probably finishing in the top five. Martin Truex Jr. has an average finish of 12.1 and has finished in the top 10 in 17 of his 30 starts at the track. Byron has seven top 10s in 11 starts. Reddick has three top 10s in eight starts but has finished no better than seventh. Bell was last in the spring because of a crash; that broke a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes at the track.
Good mid-tier value
Kyle Busch (+1400)
Kevin Harvick (+2200)
Busch is a roller coaster at Kansas and has been struggling recently. But he had speed at Darlington. Busch is either going to have a great finish or a bad one. There’s little in between at Kansas. His last eight starts include a win and four other finishes inside the top 11 and three finishes outside the top 25.
Harvick has the best average finish of any driver at Kansas and might have won at Darlington if it wasn’t for a caution that came out as he was feet from the pit entry line under green. Harvick has 19 top 10s in 35 starts at Kansas.
Don’t bet this driver
Ross Chastain (+1400)
Chastain’s three top 10s at Kansas have all come in his three starts for Trackhouse Racing. And he finished fifth at Darlington. But we’re staying away from Chastain at these odds because Darlington was just his second top-10 finish since he won at Nashville.
Looking for a long shot?
Ty Gibbs (+3500)
Gibbs has shown flashes of speed lately even though he’s led just 10 laps all season long. Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing have been very fast at Kansas recently; why not go with one of the six Toyota drivers in the field at these odds?