Just one week after Jimmie Johnson scored a dominating victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott combined to lead 258 of 334 laps in their Chevrolets, the Toyota armada is back in full force.
Toyotas swept the front two rows in qualifying for today’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Two-time Kansas winner Matt Kenseth will start from the pole in his Joe Gibbs Racing Camry, with teammates Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards second and third, respectively. Rolling off fourth will be the Furniture Row Racing Toyota of Martin Truex Jr.
So far, the four races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup have been split evenly, with Chevy and Toyota having two victories each.
The one constant in those four races is Kenseth’s performance: After a ninth-place finish in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, Kenseth finished second, fifth and second in the subsequent three races. And not only did he take the pole here, he was fastest in the final Happy Hour practice as well.
Thus, Kenseth comes into the Hollywood Casino 400 as the favorite, although his teammate Busch isn’t far behind him. Busch has finished eighth or better in all four Chase races so far and he won here in the spring, so he will be a force to contend with.
Today’s race is the second of three in the Chase Round of 12.
After next week’s race at Talladega, the field of championship hopefuls will be cut from 12 to eight. Winning any of the races in this round automatically advances a driver to the next round, so Johnson’s Charlotte victory moves him on to the Round of 8 no matter what happens today or next Sunday.
Last weekend at Charlotte, an unusually high number of drivers had major issues, which means they’ll need strong runs today at Talladega to advance.
Drivers currently outside the top eight include Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. Denny Hamlin is eighth, but his margin over Dillon is a mere 3 points.