Hollywood Casino 400 Qualification Report

Dan Beaver

The front row for the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway is not going to look very familiar to fantasy players.

With a lap of 178.047 mph, Daniel Hemric earned his first career pole. To his outside, David Ragan lines up on the strength of 177.842 mph lap.

Hemric’s pole was a surprise, but not as much as it could have been. Hemric has seven previous top-10s starts; six of them have come on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks including a previous best of third at Chicagoland Speedway.

After starting on the inside of row two, Hemric fell a lap off the pace and finished 19th. In fact, he has not cracked the top 15 a single time on this track type after qualifying among the top 10. He has one lead lap finish of 17th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway from sixth on the grid.

Rookies are difficult to handicap because they are still developing, but players need to be aware that Hemric will probably struggle to finish in the mid-teens despite this solid qualification effort. In a game like the Draft Kings contest, that is going to cost a lot of place-differential points.

Ragan has a pair of poles and one other second-place start during his career. Two of these came on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track of Texas Motor Speedway and all three were behind the wheel of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford. This spring, Ragan posted another surprising lap at Las Vegas that lined his Ford sixth on the grid. He lost three laps in the race and finished 28th.

None of this is to disparage either driver, but rather put things in perspective.

The remainder of the top five this week is made up of playoff contenders. Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski line up on the second row. Kyle Larson qualified fifth.

Notably, Blaney and Larson are already locked into the Round of 8. They have little to lose in setting up their car on a razor’s edge and it paid off with this single lap speed. Both drivers will come out of the gates quickly and should remain in the top 10 for a considerable number of laps. If they over adjusted, however, it could result in a failure.

Keselowski needs to run well all race. If one of the drivers below the cutline wins, his 20-point advantage won’t mean much because he is only two points ahead of the third Penske driver, Joey Logano. He has to assume that could happen and as a result, we expect that he is trying to balance aggression with caution.

Keselowski should remain in the top 10 and earn stage points in the first half of the race. Based on his overall performance on 1.5-mile tracks this year, a top-10 finish should also be in the offing. This spring, Keselowski won the Digital Ally 400 after staring fourth.

Ragan’s Front Row teammate Michael McDowell qualified sixth. Like Ragan, he has posted some solid efforts on this track type with a seventh in the June race at Chicagoland and a 10th a few weeks ago in Las Vegas. He finished 20th and 24th respectively – one lap off the pace in both instances.

Non-playoff drivers fill the remainder of the top 10 with Ryan Newman in seventh, Daniel Suarez eighth, Austin Dillon ninth, and Bubba Wallace 10th. These drivers each have a lot to prove, but as with Hemric, Ragan, and McDowell it is more than likely they will lose place-differential points.

The operative consideration is going to be how many place-differential points they will lose compared to their value in salary cap games. Newman and Suarez both have solid recent records on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks and will probably finish best among this group.

One of the most expensive drivers in the field may now be worth his value. Kevin Harvick had problems in tech that required him to go through the line four times. He failed inspection twice and then the team found something wrong with the car that required them to roll through twice more. He did not get on track to make a qualification run, so he lines up last on the grid.

We remember how easily Logano rolled through the field at Vegas. Harvick should move up just as quickly and efficiently, and while he may not challenge for the Stage 1 win, he is liable to be inside the top 10 by the end of that segment. Once he’s established track position, he should hang onto it.

Logano is the second-worst qualified among the playoff contenders in 29th.

Top-10 starters, last two races at this track:

 

Fall 2018, Hollywood Casino 400

Driver

Finish

Start

Joey Logano

8

1

Kevin Harvick

12

2

Aric Almirola

10

3

Ryan Blaney

7

4

Brad Keselowski

6

5

Erik Jones

4

6

Kyle Busch

2

7

Daniel Suarez

24

8

Denny Hamlin

14

9

Alex Bowman

9

10

 

 

 

Chase Elliott

1

13

Kyle Larson

3

27

Martin Truex Jr.

5

12

 

Spring 2019, Digital Ally 400

Driver

Finish

Start

Kevin Harvick

13

1

Clint Bowyer

5

2

William Byron

20

3

Brad Keselowski

1

4

Alex Bowman

2

5

Erik Jones

3

6

Bubba Wallace

29

7

Kyle Busch

30

8

Kurt Busch

7

9

Paul Menard

24

10

 

 

 

Chase Elliott

4

32

Jimmie Johnson

6

12

Kyle Larson

8

35

Tyler Reddick

9

21

Chris Buescher

10

18