Posted by: Dave Thompson, follow @phillyfan17
October 21, 2017
The NASCAR playoffs head to Kansas Speedway for the third and final race of Round 2 in the playoffs. Each week, Motor Racing Digest writers will follow their remaining drivers in their playoff pursuit of a NASCAR championship. Here is a weekend preview for Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray.
Keselowski will make his 16th MENCS career start at Kansas Speedway with no pressure after he clinched a spot in Round 3 of the playoffs with a win at Talladega last weekend.
In his 15 previous starts, he has one win and eight top-10 finishes with an average finish of 13.1. He has four top-10 finishes in his last five starts at the 1.5-mile track while leading 75 laps in those starts.
Keselowski finished runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. back in the May at Kansas and will start from the 10th position on Sunday.
Prediction: With nothing to lose for him and the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford team on Sunday, he will cruise to a top-10 finish.
Hamlin currently sits fifth in the Playoff points standings, and will be looking to get a win at Kansas to secure his spot in the Round of 8. He last won at the 1.5-mile track in 2012, and has captured four top-five and five top-10 finishes in 18 career starts there. Hamlin was caught up in an incident in the closing laps of the race earlier this year at Kansas, resulting in a 23rd-place finish.
Hamlin was disappointed with his finish last weekend at Talladega, but knows if he avoid trouble at Kansas the final three races are at tracks he can win at.
“You always want to win, so I was obviously disappointed after our finish last weekend (at Talladega), but all in all it was still a good day for our FedEx team,” said Hamlin. “If we can stay consistent and out of trouble this weekend in Kansas, we definitely have a shot of advancing to the next (Playoffs) Round that includes tracks I really enjoy racing at.”
Prediction: Hamlin starts fourth on Sunday and will finish with a top-five and advance to Round 3 of the playoffs.
McMurray will make his 22nd MENCS career start at Kansas Speedway this weekend. In 21 previous starts he has four top-10 finishes with an average start of 19.3 and average finish of 20.4. He has led 53 laps and completed 5,252 of 5,557 laps (94.5%) at what might be considered a “home track” for the native of Joplin, Missouri.
He has an average starting position of 10.2 on 1.5-mile tracks this season and will start 8th on Sunday for the Hollywood Casino 400.
McMurray has his work cut out for him on Sunday to overcome his current 12th-place in the playoffs and to move on to the next round of the playoffs.
Prediction: McMurray will need to win on Sunday to advance to Round 3 of the playoffs, but I just don’t see that happening. However, he will run well and finish top-10.