The NASCAR Cup Series season will continue on Sunday with the Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway. Heading towards the fan-named event, there are expectations that Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin will win his first race of the season. He has considerable success at the 1.5-mile track and could repeat once again.
Hamlin met with members of the media on Friday morning to preview the upcoming trip to Kansas, as well as Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway. He explained that he first struggled at Kansas before achieving success. Hamlin also provided insight into his wins, saying that he and his team found a great setup for the No. 11 Toyota Camry.
“Well, it hasn’t always been like that, but it seems like me and [crew chief] Chris [Gabehart] have found the setup there that works well,” Hamlin told media members on Friday. “Once you have that good data point, it makes it a little easier to kind of replicate that.
“It’s a track that I feel comfortable at. You can move around several different lines there and be fast, so I like the ability as a race car driver to be able to move around and adjust my race car based off the line that I run.”
Hamlin has eight top-five finishes at Kansas Speedway in his Cup career
While the JGR driver did not crack the top-15 in his first three trips to Kansas, he quickly turned a corner and posted four-straight from 2008-11. This run included a fifth-place finish in 2009 and a third-place finish in 2011. Hamlin finally broke through in 2012, reaching Victory Lane after leading 32 laps.
Since this victory, Hamlin has continued to fight for wins at Kansas. He finished second to Joey Logano during a 2015 playoff race, keeping him in contention for a spot in the Round of eight. This finish helped Hamlin rebound from a crash at the track earlier in the season, as well as a 41st-place finish.
Recent history suggests that Hamlin will continue to find success during Sunday’s Buschy McBusch Race 400. He has won two of the last three races at Kansas, including a playoff race in 2019 and a July race in 2020. Though he will face stiff competition from another driver with three wins at Kansas.
Kevin Harvick and Hamlin could renew their 2020 rivalry on Sunday
While the 2021 season has featured nine winners in 10 weeks, the 2020 season played out very differently. Multiple drivers won races, but there were two that took the most checkered flags. Kevin Harvick won seven races in the regular season and another two in the playoffs. Hamlin, on the other hand, won six races in the regular season and one in the playoffs en route to a spot in the final four.
The two drivers continued their friendly rivalry all season, sparking debates about which would hold the Bill France Cup at the end of the year. The debates only intensified as Harvick took the regular-season championship. Though neither achieved their goal as Chase Elliott won the championship race and secured the first title of his career.
Next to Hamlin, Harvick is possibly the most consistent driver at Kansas. The Stewart-Haas man has competed at the track 30 times in his Cup career, posting 17 top-10s, 10 top-fives, and three trips to Victory Lane. This stat line includes fourth and second-place finishes in 2020.
Harvick has won two races at joining the SHR stable, with the most recent taking place in 2018. He also took the checkered flag in 2016. Harvick won his first race at Kansas in 2013 when he drove for Richard Childress Racing.
Like Hamlin, Harvick has yet to win a race in 2021 after taking nine trips to Victory Lane. He has come close several times, including a fourth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway and a fourth-place finish at Daytona International Speedway. Now he will have another opportunity to take the checkered flag while competing with Hamlin.