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NASCAR: Hollywood Casino 400 preview, predictions

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The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Kansas Motor Speedway this week for race two of the Round of 8. After Kyle Larson earned a championship birth at Texas, the rest of the field is as tight as it gets. Currently, the championship four as of now would be Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, and Kyle Busch. This week, we can expect to see a heavy focus on the top eight coming this week. Kansas has provided some great finishes over the year, including a battle between Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano which saw Logano take the checkered flag and advance to the championship race. Aerodynamics will play the biggest role in this race as it's a mile and a half track and while it might be tough to pass, the drivers will all be closer together. It will be all about timing, and the driver who makes the right move at the right time will more than likely win.

Last week, Kyle Larson went on to claim his 8th win of the season at Texas Motor Speedway. There was plenty of drama for the playoff contenders as Martin Truex Jr and Joey Logano both had issues that ended their race. While Texas has been known as sort of cookie-cutter mile and a half track over the years, this week there was plenty of drama and things to talk about.

Another playoff driver who garnered some controversy this week was Denny Hamlin. After getting involved in a run-in with Chase Briscoe, Hamlin channeled his inner Connor McGregor on the radio after the move, "Like who the [Expletive] are you?" when talking about Briscoe on the radio. While overall, this didn't affect his overall race, it was strange to see him get so triggered about a driver that was only racing him hard. This could be a problem here in the next few races if he gets too invested in other drivers. This has been an issue for a while with Denny Hamlin, he always drives like he is the only driver out there and nothing is ever his fault. It's caused a lot of problems for him in the past, like 2010 when he seemed to have the championship locked up but got nabbed speeding on pit lane at Phoenix and could never recover. Regardless, he is still the driver that poses the biggest threat to Kyle Larson in these next few races.

The driver who isn't in the Round of 8 but has been the most impressive is William Byron. These last two weeks he has been so fast and probably should have won both races at the Roval and at Texas, but an untimely caution or unfortunate circumstances have cost him a shot at victory. He will for certain be a championship contender in 2022 if he continues to run like this. He will also be one to watch this weekend at Kansas, as he has finished in the top ten in his last two consecutive starts. He starts ninth come Sunday.

The driver I have winning this weekend is Chase Elliott. As everyone knows Elliott is on the outside looking in, he is currently eight points out. The biggest reason as to why he isn't in the top four right now is not because he had a bad result, but because he only scored three stage points as opposed to Busch who scored 11. That has made all the difference. This week I see him changing all that and coming out and having a big weekend where he at least wins a stage along with the race. Here at Kansas no active driver has a higher average finish in the past five than Elliott. Plus, he has a victory here back in 2018. Look for Chase to join his teammate Kyle Larson in the championship race with a win. He rolls off fifth this weekend.

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