As the Chase moves on, NASCAR's next stop is another cookie cutter one and a half mile track. The Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas will be dominated by speed and fuel mileage decisions much like Charlotte was.
Unlike Charlotte though, this track has recently been re-paved, and might have a different feel than it did back in April.
With Clint Bowyer winning the Charlotte race, the Chase scene went from a three-man race between Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson to a four-man race which now includes Bowyer.
The point standings changed slightly after Charlotte, with Johnson and Hamlin catching up to Keselowski. Bowyer and Biffle would also move up spots.
Kansas will more than likely end up being a fuel mileage race, but new pavement often means blazing speeds. Certain teams will have to settle for a top five instead of going for the win if it comes down to saving fuel at the end.
Who will end up winning the race on Sunday? Will the points change or will Keselowski maintain his current lead? We will have to wait until Sunday to find out, but here are 10 drivers you can expect to be in the running at Kansas.
Carl Edwards has had a pretty bad season. Missing the Chase, and not being able to win a race since March of last year, Edwards is clearly struggling.
Kansas though, could be the break Edwards needs. His worst finish of the last five races at this track was 10th place, back in 2009.
He has some momentum from Charlotte as well. Edwards would make it as high as second place during the race, and would end up finishing in 7th.
Edwards has nothing to lose on Sunday. He doesn't have to worry about the fuel mileage game, and can go out onto the track and simply try to race for the win.
He might be wishing he was in the Chase, but not having the pressure of making sure he at least finishes in a good position opens the option of Edwards putting it all on the line, and going for the win.
He managed to mix it up with the chase drivers at Charlotte. Expect Edwards to do it again this Sunday at Kansas.
Busch, like Edwards, would miss the Chase, but would also prove that didn't matter. Kyle would run up in the top five for a good part of the Charlotte race, and was clearly going for the win, regardless of if he was in the Chase or not.
Kansas hasn't always been good to Busch though. He's had a hard time at the track, with an average finish of 20.0 over his last 10 visits to Kansas.
Busch was quoted over at motorsport.com as saying:
It’s not that you might not like a track or might not like a race or something like that. It’s just a matter of trying to figure it out. Once you kind of get it figured out or get the right situations kind of lined up, you can have a shot.
With the new surface at Kansas, this race could be the chance Busch needs to erase his poor performances in the past, and make strides to dominating this track in the future.
After a solid performance at Charlotte, look for Busch to put it all on the line as he pushes towards the front of the pack at Kansas.
Martin Truex Jr. almost won the race at Kansas in April. He would lead 173 laps, but would lose the lead with 30 laps to go.
He would eventually catch up enough to take a shot at taking the lead from Denny Hamlin, but didn't have enough to pass Hamlin in the end.
Truex Jr. has been relatively quiet so far in the Chase. He ran up in the top 10 for the majority of the Charlotte race, and would finish in 10th place. Truex has not won a race in quite a while, and has to have winning in mind when he comes to Kansas.
With a re-paved track, which will also mean higher speeds, Truex has a chance to earn a win if he can manage another dominate performance here like he did in April.
He also has nothing to lose at this point. He is sitting 49 points behind the points leader Brad Keselowski, and might be too far down in the standings to make a comeback and make any noise in the Chase.
With a solid performance in April that almost got him the win, look for Martin Truex Jr. to be in the running when the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas gets underway on Sunday.
He managed to qualify in the 26th position for the Charlotte race, and although his night ended early in Charlotte when the engine of the 88 car blew, Smith was able to make it all the way up to the 10th position.
Now as he heads into Kansas, he has another opportunity to prove himself. Eventually Smith is going to have to head to Phoenix Racing, but a solid performance here could at least help him in the future.
He managed to get up to 10th place at Charlotte, so there's no reason not to expect Smith to be in the mix this weekend at Kansas. He has the power behind him with the 88 and the Hendrick team, and if he can avoid another blown engine, Smith has a good shot of being in the running at Kansas.
Performing well at Kansas may have a direct impact on Smith's 2013 season as well. Jr. Motorsports is looking to field two Chevys next year, and they are looking at Regan as the first choice to contend for the Nationwide Championship in 2013.
Regan has nothing to lose by pushing to the front at Kansas, which is why he will end up in the running by the time the race is over.
Clint Bowyer is definitely riding a wave of momentum after getting the win at Charlotte last week.
Not only did he manage to beat Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski, but he managed to beat them all using the fuel mileage game.
Bowyer took the Chase and made it a four-man race, and proved that it isn't over until the very last checkered flag is waved.
Bowyer's win at Charlotte was his first win on a 1.5-mile track, and while he hasn't had luck at Kansas, his best finish is second and his average finish is 15.0, Bowyer at this point needs to be in the mix if he wants to continue moving forward in the Chase.
Since Kansas has been repaved, this could be Bowyer's chance to improve on the track, and hopefully get the feel of it down.
Yes, Bowyer has done badly at Kansas in the past, but being able to win the fuel mileage game at Charlotte, and Kansas being repaved, opens a huge opportunity for Bowyer that he might just capitalize on.
If he hopes to prove that the chase is a four-man race instead of a three-man race, he needs to finish solid at Kansas, ahead of the three drivers who are currently leading the point standings.
Bowyer needs to be in the running at Kansas, because if he's not, then he's going to be knocked back down the standings.
Denny Hamlin should be expected to be in the running at Kansas.
Not only does he sit third in points, but he also won this race in April.
At this point in the Chase, it's almost a given to expect the top guys competing for the Sprint Cup championship to be in the mix at every track NASCAR goes to.
After his great performance at Charlotte, there is almost no reason why fans shouldn't expect Hamlin to be in the mix at Kansas, or even lead the race at some point. The biggest question will be to what extent will Hamlin push his 11 car?
Will they try to go for the win at the very end like they did at Charlotte?
Or will they hold back even more and settle for a second or third place position, as long as it's ahead of Johnson or Keselowski?
Both Johnson and Keselowski will more than likely be in the front at some point during the race, so if Hamlin hopes to close the gap on both competitors, he’s going to need to push to the front as well.
His average finish at Kansas is 14.1, and he will be going for the sweep, trying to win both the April race and this race. Hamlin might be able to pull it off, but regardless, his place in the points demands that he race to the front, which is all the more reason Hamlin will be in the running at Kansas.
Keselowski saw his lead in the Chase slowly slip as both Johnson and Hamlin managed to gain ground on him after the Charlotte race.
His fuel mileage strategy didn't pay off on the 1.5-mile track, and now that NASCAR is gearing up for another 1.5-mile track, what will Keselowski do this time? Finishing 11th cost him some of his lead, and now he needs to deliver at Kansas.
More than likely he will try to play it safe, and just make sure he finishes in front of Johnson and Hamlin, which will mean Keselowski will need to get to the front of the pack at some point during the race.
Charlotte ended up being costly for the two team, and hopefully they can turn their luck around at Kansas.
Keselowski was quoted over at Yahoo Sports as saying, "I know I speak for everyone ... when I say we can't wait to get to Kansas to prove that our finish at Charlotte was an anomaly, a blip on the radar."
Fuel mileage will again, play a big part in who wins this race. Keselowski has proven time and time again that he can get great mileage out of his miller lite dodge charger.
Besides for almost running out of gas at Charlotte, a move which would shift Keselowski back several spots in the race, the team behind the two car has been spot on with fuel management all year. It's why Keselowski is leading in points now.
The Blue Deuce should be one car expected to be in the running this Sunday.
With the way Tony has been running lately, it would be hard to believe he won't be in the mix at Kansas.
Kansas is a bit of a mix for the defending champ. While he has won here, he has also finished in 40th and 39th.
Still, Tony proved last week at Charlotte, that even with a beat up car and poor pit stops, Smoke can still race to the front of the pack. He would end up finishing in 13th place at Charlotte, but that was with a taped up car, and a long pit stop.
Stewart won the championship for a reason, and he seems to come alive in the Chase. From running in front at Talladega and eventually causing the huge wreck, to this newly repaved surface at Kansas, Smoke should never be counted out, regardless of how many points he is behind Keselowski.
If Kansas ends up being a fuel mileage race, than Smoke might go under the radar as a potential pick to win the race. However, in his 2006 victory at the track he made it across the finish line with nothing left in the tank. In 2009 he held off Jeff Gordon thanks to a fuel mileage strategy, and got the win.
With an average finish of 12.2, Smoke clearly does well at Kansas.
Expect Smoke to be in the running when the final laps countdown at the Hollywood Casino 400.
Greg Biffle has had a lot of success at Kansas. His average finish at the track is 8.0, and he has two wins here as well.
He grabbed the pole last week at Charlotte, and ended up finishing in fourth place. Clearly, Biffle has a lot of momentum going into Kansas, and after a great performance at last 1.5-mile track, expect it again this week at Kansas.
And then some.
Biffle jumped up three spots in the Chase, and now sits 43 points behind leader Brad Keselowski. Combining his great performance last week, with his history of success at Kansas, it only seems logical to believe Biffle will be in the running at Kansas.
Sure, Kansas might have a newly paved surface, which could change the track where Biffle has had success, but just like he led the competition on the old surface, Biffle will more than likely have the same success on the new surface as well.
Michigan Speedway would undergo re-pavement this year, and Biffle would win the race there in August.
While a newly repaved track can throw drivers and crews for a loop, it will more than likely not affect Biffle’s performance at Kansas this Sunday.
Now as NASCAR moves into a track where Biffle is one of the dominate drivers, expect him to be a guaranteed pick to be in the running for most of this race.
After a strong third place finish at Charlotte, it's hard to imagine NASCAR going to Kansas and Jimmie Johnson not being in the running.
While the track itself might have been re-paved, Johnson has been dominate at Kansas, with an average finish of 7.9 and also winning last year’s fall race. No one has led more laps over the last four races at this track than Jimmie Johnson.
1.5-mile tracks like Kansas are where Johnson seems to dominate. Johnson will more than likely be up in the front for the majority of the race, but will he go for the win?
After the Charlotte race, Johnson was quoted over at NASCAR.com as saying:
"Those last two runs, I ran half-throttle. I probably ran 80 laps saving fuel here at the end, just to put us in this position. And it's hard to start [saving] that early and watch the guys you're racing drive away. And then people come off pit road and are really fast and you're wondering if they're a concern or not. There are a lot of things to make you nervous out there."
Clearly going into Kansas, Johnson will be more concerned about fuel mileage and staying ahead of Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin. All three were racing up front at one point during the Charlotte race, so expect the same thing as we roll into Kansas.
Johnson is a guaranteed pick to be in the running, the question is though, will he go for the win, or settle for third again?