PREVIEW: Heart of America 200 at Kansas Speedway

By: Ashley McCubbin

Seven races are in the books, with six drivers finding their way to victory lane throughout. It’s a trend that could easily continue with the Heart of America 200 at Kansas Speedway, as evident by the last eight races having a different winner.

Ty Majeski enters the event with a 11 point advantage over the field in the standings despite not having scored a win yet. That can attributed to an impressive average finish of fifth across the first seven races with five top-five finishes. He has not found victory lane in four previous appearances at Kansas Speedway, scoring a top-10 in both appearances last year including a runner-up in the spring.

The runner-up came to Zane Smith, who currently sits second to Majeski in the standings and is the only driver to score more than one checkered flag in 2023. The defending series champion knows what it takes to get the job done, as evident by only one finish outside the top-10 (11th) in six appearances at Kansas Speedway.

Kyle Busch returns behind the wheel of the No. 51 in his fourth of five appearances for 2023. In his last three races at Kansas, he has scored a pair of wins and a runner-up – which would surprise nobody. It’s similar to what he’s done this season with the victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – another intermediate track – followed by runner-ups at Circuit of the Americas and Martinsville Speedway.

It was Corey Heim that got to the checkered flag ahead of Busch at Martinsville after making the swap from Kyle Busch Motorsports to TRICOR Garage in 2022. The Georgian has been a driver on several radars if you consider he now has three wins and 15 top-10’s in just 26 series starts. While he placed 33rd in the spring last season at Kansas, he was able to rebound with a seventh in the fall.

2021 Series Champion Ben Rhodes is still looking for victory lane with a new crew chief Jeroid Prince after Rich Lushes was partnered with Hailee Deegan. The speed has been there, as evident by entering the weekend ranked third in the standings with five top-10’s and an average result of 9.1. Unfortunately, the Sunflower State has not always been his friend with five top-10’s in his last 10 appearances, including finishes of 10th and 13th.

Christian Eckes has been luckier than him, having scored five straight top-10’s including a trio of top-five finishes. He hopes it can turn his luck around as after starting the year with three top-six finishes including the victory at Atlanta Speedway, his best result since is 15th on two occasions.

With the focus on his ThorSport Racing teammates, Matt Crafton has become the forgotten individual on the team this season – quietly ranked seventh in the standings. Perhaps because while Majeski and Rhodes have been full of flash, there’s been inconsistency for the No. 88 Menards Ford F150 with finishes flocculating inside and outside the top-10 weekly. He could use a good result after placing 26th at Martinsville, and perhaps Kansas is what the doctor ordered. Alongside his victory in 2020, he has scored six additional top-10 finishes and an average finish of ninth in his last 10 appearances.

Tanner Gray got what he needed at Martinsville, backing up his eighth at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race with a fifth at Martinsville Speedway. Combined with the runner-up at Daytona, and his fourth full-time campaign in the series currently has him ranked eighth in points – his best finish previous seasons being 14th. Unfortunately, he only has one top-15 finish in his six appearances at Kansas, placing fourth in 2020.

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