With Tyler Reddick’s win Sunday, Toyota has won the last four races at Kansas Speedway. What is Toyota’s key to success at this racetrack?
Starting with Kurt Busch in the spring of 2022, a Toyota Camry Cup car has entered victory lane in the last four races at Kansas. He was followed by Bubba Wallace, Denny Hamlin, and now Tyler Reddick has made it four in a row for the manufacturer. What is it about Toyota that makes them the favorite at Kansas Speedway? Let’s analyze the track, the car, and the drivers to see if we can find the advantage they have.
— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) September 10, 2023
The 1.5 mile speedway: Kansas Speedway
Built in 2001, Kansas Speedway is a 1.5 mile race track built near Kansas City. The 1.5 mile track was designed during the beginning of NASCAR’s boom in the late 1990’s, when these type of racetracks where being built across the United States. Kansas makes itself unique from the other 1.5 racetracks because of its old surface. The track has not been repaved since 2012. It’s pavement is matured and has large amounts of grip across its wide racing surface.
It is not uncommon to see drivers run right against the wall, as the grip levels allow for drivers to get massive runs coming off the corner. This allows for the driver in second place to run the top, get a massive gain in speed and get side by side with the leader going into turns three and four.
Imagine having to be this precise for 267 laps. pic.twitter.com/UuW91irCNu
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 11, 2023
The racing at Kansas has been great since the inception of the Next Gen era, but what is it about the car that is allowing for such great racing, and Toyota’s dominance as well?
The Next Gen Car:
The Next Gen car, and specifically the Toyota Camry, have been fast at Kansas since 2022. Four wins and two pole positions, both from Christopher Bell. What about the Camry and the teams preparing them is allowing for their success?
All Toyota Cup Series cars run a Toyota Racing Development 725 horsepower, 358 cubic inch V8 engine. For the races on intermediate tracks, like Kansas, the horsepower is capped at 670 horsepower. In addition to the lower horsepower, a four inch spoiler is used. Team are not allowed to modify many of the parts on the Next Gen car and doing so will lead to massive penalties and fines. The dampers are the only part of the car that teams can make adjustments without penalty. During a race, crew chiefs can adjust tire pressures depending on what feedback the driver is giving them.
While I cannot specifically find any specific advantage the Camry has at Kansas, the speed out of the two Toyota teams has been incredible in 2023. I believe the small amount of Camry’s in the Cup Series field might allow for notes to be shared with ease across the Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing teams. I do believe the racing experience and driver crew chief pairings can also be credited.
The Toyota driver roster is stacked with drivers and success at Kansas Speedway. But what is the relationship between this track and Toyota’s last four winners there? Is there anything in their past that makes Kansas a favorite track for them? Let’s start with the Spring 2022 race winner first.
Kurt Busch, 2004 Cup Series champion, raced at Kansas thirty-three times during his career. Out of those starts, he earned one pole position (2011), fourteen top-tens, and the one race win in 2022. The most veteran of the four drivers, Busch has eight other wins on 1.5 mile tracks throughout his twenty-three year career.
Calling the race for Kurt in 2022 was crew chief Billy Scott. Busch and Scott had worked together when he was at Stewart-Haas Racing. This pairing of driver-crew chief and experience winning on 1.5 race tracks came together at Kansas in 2022. Busch assumed the lead on lap 138 and dueled with Kyle Larson until the #5 nearly spun out. Busch led 116 laps that race.
Bubba Wallace has raced twelve times at Kansas since he began his full-time career began in 2018. After Daytona, Kansas Speedway is home to the most top tens of his career, three. He finished tenth in 2022 when Busch won and fourth in this years spring race. Most important top-ten though is his second career win, the fall 2022 race he won.
Wallace was paired with crew chief Bootie Barker midseason in 2021. This pair seemed to mesh incredibly well. When Barker became Wallace’s crew chief in September 2021, the #23 team saw immediate results. 20-25th place finishes became 15-20th place finishes. This team went on to win the 2021 fall Talladega race, Wallace’s first career win.
While the pair had not worked together before, they immediately started running better in 2021, and that carried on into 2022. At Kansas in the fall of 2022, the #23 team qualified sixth, led 58 laps, and got Bubba’s second career win, and kept the winning streak for the #45 car at Kansas going.
Hamlin, the 2nd place finisher, winning car owner, and the winner of the Spring 2023 race at Kansas, is the most successful of the four at Kansas. He has four race wins; 2012, 2019, 2020, and 2023, along with thirteen top fives. Hamlin has many wins on 1.5 mile tracks, his most recent before his win in the Spring, was a win at Charlotte in the Coke 600 in May 2022.
Hamlin’s success can also be attributed to his pairing with Chris Gabehart. Hamlin and Gabehart began working together for the 2019 race season. Since then, the two have won nineteen races. This is one of the best driver and crew chief pairings in the garage.
In the Spring, Hamlin lead 34 laps and had quite the finish. On the last lap, Hamlin and Kyle Larson battling for the win. Hamlin using the lane right below Larson, almost had the lead coming onto the back straight. Larson, using the high line, ran into the wall but maintained the lead. Larson was about a bumper ahead, when Hamlin misjudged the gap between them, turning Larson into the wall. Hamlin took the lead and won the race.
In his first year with 23XI, Tyler Reddick has become the first driver for the team to have a multi-win season. Reddick replaced Kurt Busch, who was sidelined with a concussion and relinquished his spot in the #45 car. Along with the car, he also picked up his crew chief, Billy Scott.
Scott and Reddick won early in their first season, grabbing the win at Circuit of the Americas. Winning helps improve all relationships, but the team’s weak link was their pit-crew. The #45 team should’ve had the win at Michigan but a loose wheel took them out of contention. But they bounced back, finished runner up at Darlington.
Reddick qualified fifth last weekend at Kansas. The #45 car finished sixth in the first stage and fifth in the second. When the caution came out, sending the race into an overtime finish, Reddick started fifth. Using the momentum and grip gained by using the high lines of the race track, took the lead and won the race. He continued the streak of 23XI winning at Kansas.
Reddick won the pole for this race last year, while driving for Richard Childress Racing and finished eighth.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 10, 2023
So what is Toyota’s key to success at Kansas. There is not one specific thing contributing to their success, but all of the previously mentioned parts coming together. The Camry’s are well prepared, with all these wins coming from drivers qualifying inside the top ten. Well prepared cars come from veteran crew chiefs, who work well with their drivers. These drivers know how to use the track, which lanes to pick and how to get the best run possible in route to victory. The #11 team from Joe Gibbs Racing and the whole 23XI Racing team have all those parts running at 100 percent, that’s their key to success.
Can Toyota make it two in a row. Find out when the Cup Series hits the track at Bristol for the Bass Pro Shops Bristol Night Race on Saturday at 7:30 PM ET.