3 Candidates to Squeeze Into the NASCAR All-Star Race by Winning at Kansas

The AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway on Sunday represents more than just the Cup Series reaching the midpoint of its regular season. It also serves as the last opportunity for drivers to win their way into the annual NASCAR All-Star Race a week later at Texas Motor Speedway.

With a $1 million prize to the winner of the All-Star Race on the line, making the most of the final opportunity is no small matter. While the top 10 at Kansas is likely to be top-heavy with drivers who’ve already qualified, we can think of three with a reasonable shot at cashing in at the final points race.

The rules for reaching the NASCAR All-Star Race are straightforward

NASCAR Cup Series drivers Tyler Reddick and Erik Jones. | Getty Images
NASCAR Cup Series drivers Tyler Reddick and Erik Jones. | Getty Images

Unlike Major League Baseball or the NBA, All-Star weekend is not a vacation for 95% of the league. All 36 Cup Series teams will be racing on May 22 in Fort Worth, Texas.

The evening starts with the Open Race, consisting of 50 laps (broken into three stages) on the 1.5-mile track for the drivers who haven’t already qualified for the 100-lap All-Star Race. Assuming their cars survive the race (not a given in the new rough-and-tumble NASCAR), the winners of the three stages earn berths into the All-Star Race.

The final available berth goes to the winner of the fan vote.

Everyone already locked into the All-Star Race lineup has arrived there in one of the ways:

  • Scoring a points race victory in 2021 or ‘22.
  • Winning a past All-Star Race and competing full-time this season.
  • Winning a previous Cup Series championship and competing full-time this season.

That list consists of AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Ross Chastain, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Martin Truex Jr., and Bubba Wallace.

Kansas Speedway should give Erik Jones a shot at winning

Even coming off a late-race crash at Darlington, Alex Bowman is one of the threats to win the weekend at Kansas Speedway by virtue of seven top-10 finishes in the first 12 races this season.

More significantly, the Kansas track behaves comparably to Las Vegas, which is to say it doesn’t lend itself to drafting. Bowman and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson scored a one-two finish at Vegas in the first week in March. Those two and the next four finishers from that day are in the All-Star Race.

In fact, 12 of the 14 finishers at Las Vegas and all 13 drivers at the front of the current points list have already qualified.

Once you rule out the usual suspects, there’s a case to be made for Erik Jones as the driver who could leverage Kansas into an All-Star Race berth by winning on Sunday. Jones was running seventh at Las Vegas with just over two laps to go when he got into the wall, ending his day in a misleading 31st place.

He has four top-10 results this year and is 16th in points, so Jones scoring a victory wouldn’t be a fluke.

Two others who might win their way into the NASCAR All-Star Race

The Tyler Reddick Victory Lane watch continues. Winless in 86 career starts, the driver of the No. 8 Chevy seems on the cusp of breaking through. He has finished second at Bristol and Darlington in the past month, and seventh place a Las Vegas was one of his five top-10 finishes in 2022.

That puts Reddick in the conversation for earning his way into the NASCAR All-Star Race.

Finally, there’s Austin Dillon to consider. The 13 drivers ahead of Dillon on the points list have clinched their berths, and Dillion has a puncher’s shot at joining them. He placed 11th at Las Vegas, but Dillon is sneakily consistent with six top-10 finishes in the nine races he’s completed.

All stats courtesy of Racing Reference.

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