Kansas Speedway used to be a jinx track for Kyle Busch.
That was before the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota got a handle on the 1.5-mile intermediate speedway, a trend he hopes will continue in Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
In his first 14 of 28 starts at Kansas, Busch recorded two top 10s and no top fives. Then he flipped the script. His last 14 races there include 11 top 10s, nine top fives and two victories — a complete turnaround.
And on Sunday, Busch will be defending his win from last spring’s race at the Wyandotte County track. He is the second betting favorite at +800 at BetMGM along with Chase Elliott, behind only reigning series champion Kyle Larson at +600.
“It’s a place where we’ve really picked it up, and now we have two wins there,” said Busch, who comes to Kansas sixth in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, with a victory on the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.
“We seemed to have gotten a setup or ahold of that place, and I feel like our cars keep getting better over the last few races. I’m hoping we can continue our strong runs and have a shot to win there again with our M&M’S Crunchy Cookie Toyota.”
The way Busch sees it, the exposed, wind-swept nature of the track also presents complications.
“I think the wind is usually a factor there,” Busch said. “Sometimes it comes from the south, sometimes from the west — it’s like being in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ Kind of crazy to get there each year and try to figure out what’s best.
“But the wind also plays into our setups. We talk about how you have to set up the race car according to which way the wind is blowing and what we have to do from that aspect. It definitely adds a different challenge to what we all do.”
While Busch has been backed by 6.7 percent of the handle, Elliott has been a far more popular pick with 10.3 percent and 8.4 percent of the total tickets.
The path to Victory Lane won’t be easy. Joey Logano is tied with Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick for most wins at Kansas with three, and Logano found speed in his win last week at 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway.
Logano is being offered at +1200, longer odds than Hamilin (+900) but shorter than Harvick (+1600).
Then there’s the Hendrick Motorsports contingent. With Alex Bowman winning at Las Vegas and William Byron taking the checkered flag at Atlanta, Hendrick drivers will be looking to extend their perfect record on 1.5-mile speedways.
Byron is among the pre-race favorites at +900 while Bowman is being offered at +1400.
Larson won the most recent race at Kansas last fall. With 7.9 percent of the total bets backing him along with 12.4 percent of the handle, Larson is BetMGM’s third-biggest liability.
“While most of these tracks this year we’ve had to relearn because of the Next Gen car, I think I’m a bit more confident heading to Kansas this weekend,” said Byron, who was leading last Sunday at Darlington before Logano knocked him out of the way on the white-flag lap. “Not all mile-and-a-half tracks are the same, but I feel like Kansas and Las Vegas are the most similar to each other.
“We raced at Vegas earlier this year and ran really well. The only real difference is I feel like Kansas is a more temperature-sensitive racetrack and has less grip. We’ve run well at Kansas over the last couple years, so I think with the notebook we’ve built so far and our past experiences there, we should have a good shot at the win this weekend.”
BetMGM’s biggest liability is Ross Chastain, who leads the sportsbook with 12.8 percent of the total bets and 26.0 percent of the handle at +1000.
NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: AdventHealth 400
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Sunday, May 15
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,117,591
TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 165), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)
–Field Level Media (NASCAR Wire contributed to this story)