Last weekâs perfect roster consisted of Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, and Ryan Newman. If you didnât have those drivers, donât worry no one else did either â although in the NASCAR Fantasy Live NBC league, a couple of the top earners had three of the four. William Byron and Clint Bowyer won the stages and as with the top-five finishers of the race, it was anyoneâs guess who they would be right up until the green/white checkered flag waved.
Three 10-car accidents shuffled the order of the 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Even without those incidents, it is incredibly difficult to determine who will manage the draft optimally and establish their car at the head of the pack. In short, aero-restricted superspeedways are a crapshoot.
The 1.5-mile tracks are more predictable especially on the heels of a race like we saw last week. But the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks come with their own set of challenges. Since this track type continues to dominate the schedule, it is where teams put the lionâs share of resources and there are some notable dark horses as a result.
Last year six drivers swept the top 10 at Kansas Speedway. Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson earned a pair of top-fives with Kyle Busch, Logano, Erik Jones, and Aric Almirola joining them with a pair of top-10s. Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, and Denny Hamlin earned one top-10 and a top-15 in the two events. Â
Playoff: Kyle Busch
Itâs only a matter of time before Busch breaks out of his slump. He and the team have made a lot of mistakes this season and this Mayâs Digital Ally 400 was no exception. Penalized for driving through too many pits, Busch pressed too hard to overcome his mistake and sustained damage in an ill-advised three-wide battle with Jones and Bowyer. One should not overlook the fact that he entered that race with an eight-race streak of top-10s of which six were top-fives. If he can keep his composure this week, he should challenge for the victory.
Playoff: Chase Elliott
Elliott is practically in a must-win scenario. On points, he has to overtake either Logano or Keselowski by more than 20 and that probably means those drivers will have to have trouble early in the race and not place in the top 10 in the stages. If Elliott rolls off the hauler fast, it is conceivable that he could challenge for the win. He enters the week with three top-fives in his last four Kansas races. Elliott won this event last year, but that was partially attributable to Harvick having problems at the end of the event. Still, he does not need to win outright to be one of the best values in the game. Â
Non-Playoff: Erik Jones
Since all of the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks are slightly different, the tie breaker each week should go to a driverâs record on a given track. Jones has been strong on this track type more often than not in 2019 with five top-10s and a 13th in eight races, but his recent record at Kansas is even stronger. He finished seventh there in spring 2018 and posted top-fives in his last two starts. The playoffs have not been kind to him and he still has something to prove after getting eliminated in Round 1. That should make him a highly motivated driver this week.
Non-Playoff: Jimmie Johnson
Johnson sustained crash damage at Kentucky Speedway this July and finished 30th. That snapped a four-race streak of top-10s on 1.5-mile tracks that was highlighted by a fourth at Chicagoland Speedway and a fifth at Texas in the spring. He rebounded at Las Vegas in the playoff-opening South Point 400 but barely missed the top 10 with an 11th. That still made him one of the top non-playoff picks. The odds are in his favor that he will score a single-digit result again this week and he should be one of the top two at his level once more.
Playoff: Kevin Harvick
Harvick has been one of the most dominant drivers at Kansas in the past four seasons. He won in 2016 and 2018 and entered last yearâs edition of the Hollywood Casino 400 with five consecutive top-10sâfour of which were third or better. He has the most stage points by a wide margin of 78 to Blaneyâs 63 and has earned the most or second-most stage points eight times in the last four races. He hasnât finished particularly well in recent events, however. His last two races ended outside the top 10 and that may mean he has lost some momentum.
Non-Playoff: Ryan Newman
Newman came so close to winning last week that he is going to be hungrier than ever. If the field thought he was hard to pass in the past, itâs going to intensify exponentially after Newman came up seven-thousandths of a second short at Talladega. Desire is a big part of the equation, but not the only part. On the 1.5-milers, Newman has earned two top-10s, two more top-15s and another pair of results just outside that mark this year. He has not finished better than ninth, however.
Almirola is one of the more popular picks this week among non-playoff drivers. As of Wednesday, noon he was second-highest on the list on 35 percent of rosters. Some of that might be a carryover from Talladega, but there is an equal likelihood that many of your competitors believe he will be one of the top-two picks at Kansas. Based on his recent performance on 1.5-mile tracks, that seems unlikely. He got off to a strong start with three consecutive top-10s on this course type, but hasnât cracked the top 10 since. Jones, Johnson, Newman â even Chris Buescher have outperformed him consistently in recent events and that trend is liable to continue.
Stage Wins This Year
Kyle Busch (11), Joey Logano (9), Martin Truex Jr. (6), Kevin Harvick (5), Chase Elliott (5), Kyle Larson (5), Brad Keselowski (4), Denny Hamlin (4), Kurt Busch (3), Ryan Blaney (2), Austin Dillon (2), Ty Dillon (2), William Byron (2), Aric Almirola (1), Jimmie Johnson (1), and Clint Bowyer (1).