After an interesting stretch of racing that included short tracks, flat tracks, a dirt track, and a superspeedway, the NASCAR Cup Series gets back to its bread and butter this weekend with a trip to Kansas Speedway. Sunday’s Buschy McBusch Race 400 (not a joke) will be the 11th race of the 2021 season and the fourth race of the year at a mile-and-a-half oval.
The value of the 1.5-mile ovals has been slightly reduced this year thanks to the addition of road courses to the schedule, but I still expect them to be solid predictors of which drivers and teams have the best speed this year. After all, there are still three races at mile-and-a-half tracks in the playoffs, including two in the Round of 8.
More importantly, from a fantasy standpoint, history says to expect a strong correlation between how drivers perform across all the 1.5-mile tracks throughout the year. Yes, I looked at past results from Kansas when building my rankings this week, but I did a deep dive into how drivers performed in the first three races at 1.5-mile tracks this year. I gave a little extra addition to the Las Vegas race because it is an even closer comp to Kansas than Homestead or Atlanta.
The good news for fantasy owners is that the performance trends at the 1.5-mile ovals make it a little easier to build lineups that have both high floors and high ceilings. The bad news is that it will require you to use some starts from the stronger fantasy options in the series. Hopefully, you took advantage of the last few weeks to utilize some alternative options and save some starts from the top drivers. You are going to want to use the heavy hitters Sunday at Kansas.
- Denny Hamlin: Hamlin has been locked in at Kansas. He won the spring race here last year and the fall race in 2019, and he had a shot at a three-peat before getting into the wall late last fall after finishing third and first in the two stages. Hamlin has led 50+ laps in the last three Kansas races, and he has finished in the top 5 in two of three races at 1.5-mile ovals this year.
- Martin Truex Jr.: He has been the model of consistency at Kansas, logging seven top-10s in his last eight starts. He has six finishes of sixth or better in that stretch, including a pair of wins. This season, Truex has finished in the top 10 in all three races at mile-and-a-half ovals, posting a 6.0 average finish.
- Kyle Larson: Nobody has been better at the 1.5-mile ovals to open 2021 than Larson. He is the only driver with top-5 finishes in all three races, and his 377 laps led and 2.3 average finish both lead the series. Thanks to last week’s engine failure, Larson will start deep in the field Sunday, making him a must-own option for Slingshot and cash lineups at the DFS sites.
- Ryan Blaney: Blaney picked up a win at Atlanta earlier this year and has cracked the top 5 in two of the three races at 1.5-mile tracks. He also had several strong runs at Kansas, including a top-10 effort last fall when he also picked up 15 stage points. Blaney should be a top-5 contender Sunday.
- William Byron: His performance at 1.5-mile tracks has taken a significant jump in 2021. Byron picked up the win at Homestead earlier in the year, and he led laps and finished in the top 10 in all three races, compiling a 5.7 average finish. He has also cracked the top 10 in his last three starts at Kansas. I love him as a Group B option in the Driver Group Game and as a starter in Fantasy Live.
- Kyle Busch: Busch continues to search for his championship form, but he has been solid at the mile-and-a-half ovals this season. He has posted a 6.0 average finish in the three races, finishing in the top 10 in all three events and logging back-to-back top-5s. Busch finished fifth at Kansas last fall, and his six top-5s and eight top-10s in the last 10 races here are tied for the series lead. This could be a great spot to use him for Fantasy Live and the DGG.
- Chase Elliott: He is off to a slow start at the 1.5-mile ovals in 2021, but Elliott has enjoyed a lot of success at Kansas. He has four finishes of sixth or better in his last five starts here, including a win, and he led 48 laps and won Stage 1 in the fall race last year. Starting towards the middle of the pack, he is at least worth a look for DFS contests.
- Alex Bowman: Bowman has flexed some muscle at the intermediate ovals the last couple of years, and he has two top-10s in the first three races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2021. He also has an 8.3 average finish in seven starts at Kansas, finishing third here last and 11th or better six times. Starting deep in the field, Bowman should be on your radar in all fantasy formats this weekend.
- Brad Keselowski: His results at the 1.5-mile tracks have been hit and miss this season, but Keselowski has led 20+ laps in two of the three races, finishing second at Las Vegas. He also finished sixth or better in four of the last five Kansas races, winning the spring race in 2019 and finishing second and fourth in the two races last year. Keselowski offers top-5 upside this weekend.
- Kevin Harvick: The No. 4 bunch has been searching for elite speed in 2021, but Harvick has still managed top-10s in two of the three races at mile-and-a-half tracks. He has also been excellent at Kansas historically. Harvick led 85 laps in a runner-up effort here last year, and he leads all drivers in just about every category over the last 10 races at the track. He should at least be a top-10 threat Sunday.
- Joey Logano: The season isn’t over, but Logano has struggled to find the speed at the 550-horsepower tracks, especially the 1.5-mile ovals. On the flip side, he led 20+ laps in both Kansas races last year, leading 47 laps in a win in the fall event. Starting outside the top 25 after last weekend’s flip at Talladega, Logano is at least worth a long look for DFS contests.
- Austin Dillon: Dillon is off to a solid start at the mile-and-a-half tracks in 2021, finishing 12th, 12th and sixth in the three races. He has been up and down at Kansas in his career, but he did finish 11th in the fall race last year. Dillon should be a solid bet to deliver a top-15 Sunday and sleeper potential for the DGG and Fantasy Live.
- Christopher Bell: Bell isn’t a 1.5-mile ace yet by any means, but he cracked the top 10 at Kansas last fall, and his seventh-place effort at Las Vegas earlier in the year shows the type of upside he offers this weekend. He could be worth a flier in both season-long and DFS contests.
- Matt DiBenedetto: Here nearly picked up the win at Talladega last weekend, continuing to recover from a terrible start to the year. DiBenedetto has finished 16th or better in seven straight races heading into Kansas, and he finished 12th at the track last fall. He should end up somewhere in the top 15 Sunday.
- Kurt Busch: He had an engine issue at Kansas last fall, but Busch still has five top-10s in his last seven starts here. I’m more concerned about his mediocre speed in 2021, and he heads into Sunday’s race with seven straight finishes outside the top 10. Busch starts deep enough in the field to warrant consideration for DFS contests, but a top-15 maybe his ceiling.
- Aric Almirola: His results at the 1.5-mile tracks this year have been horrible, but bad luck has played a big part in his struggles. Almirola has been solid at Kansas, finishing 13th or better in five of his six starts here in the No. 10 Ford. He should be able to contend for a top-15 Sunday.
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: I typically only target Stenhouse at a few specific tracks, but he has been solid at the 1.5-mile ovals to open 2021, cracking the top 15 in all three races while posting a 12.0 average finish. Set to start outside the top 20, Stenhouse could be a steal at the DFS sites this weekend.
- Chris Buescher: Buescher has been surprisingly solid at the 1.5-mile ovals in 2021, posting a 13.3 average finish in the three races. He led 57 laps and won Stage 1 at Homestead, and he notched a seventh-place finish at Atlanta a few weeks ago. Buescher has been hit-and-miss at Kansas, but I wouldn’t rule out a top-15 based on what we’ve seen out of JTG Daugherty Racing at this type of track this year.
- Tyler Reddick: He has been a boom-or-bust fantasy option all year, logging four top-10s and six finishes of 20th or worse in the 10 races. The trend has been similar at Kansas, and Reddick has a couple of top-15s to go along with a 25th-place effort last fall in three starts. It is tough to trust him in season-long formats or cash contests, but he still has potential as a GPP sleeper because of his top-10 upside.
- Ryan Newman: Newman has been struggling at Kansas the last couple of years, but he has been delivering decent results at the mile-and-a-half tracks in 2021. He has finished 18th or better in all three starts, posting a 12.7 average finish. Don’t rule out a top-15 effort out of Newman.
- Ross Chastain: He hasn’t shown much upside in his first season with Chip Ganassi Racing, but Chastain has been piling up top-20s. He has finished 17th or better in four of the last five races, and he has an 18.0 average finish in the three races at mile-and-a-half ovals. Chastain could be a useful source of cap relief for cash contests at the DFS sites with a steady floor, depending on how he is priced this weekend.
- Erik Jones: His Kansas numbers were excellent while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, but Jones has found life with Richard Petty Motorsports a little more challenging. That being said, Jones is a solid driver and an excellent passer, and he did manage a top-10 effort at Las Vegas earlier in the year. Starting way back in the pack, I like his potential in DFS contests and the Slingshot game.
- Bubba Wallace: Wallace has been searching for some speed at the 1.5-mile ovals thus far, posting a 22.0 average finish and landing outside the top 15 in all three races. The alliance between 23XI Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing gives Wallace some upside, but until we see more on the track, I view him as a top-20 contender, at best.
- Cole Custer: It has been a slow start to the year for Custer, and his best finish in the first three races at mile-and-a-half ovals is 18th. He did finish seventh and 14th in two starts at Kansas as a rookie, but between a solid starting spot and his mediocre results in 2021, he is tough to trust in any fantasy format this weekend. He is no more than a DFS lottery ticket.
- Austin Cindric: He has made one Cup start at a 1.5-mile oval, logging a 22nd-place finish at Atlanta earlier this year. More importantly, he has gained an average of 17.0 spots per race in his three Cup starts, and he will start at the back of the pack again Sunday in a Team Penske entry. Cindric will probably only land in the top 25, but he should again thrive in formats that award place differential.
- Daniel Suarez: Trackhouse Racing has been exceeding expectations in its inaugural season, and Suarez has finished 17th or better in two of the three races at 1.5-mile ovals. He has shown top-20 potential at almost every track, and he should be on your shortlist of low-priced options to target for DFS contests.
- Chase Briscoe: Briscoe has been the definition of mediocrity at the mile-and-a-half tracks this year, posting a 20.7 average finish thanks to finishes 18th, 21st, and 23rd. Sure, he could land in the top 20, but Briscoe has shown no signs of being a difference-maker for fantasy owners, and I don’t see that changing this weekend.
- Michael McDowell: McDowell nearly pulled off another superspeedway win this past Sunday at Talladega, but he has been regressing overall since his hot start to 2021. He has cracked the top 20 in all three races at 1.5-mile ovals, but since he will start near the front of the field, a mid-pack finish won’t amount to much fantasy-wise.
- Ryan Preece: His 15th-place effort at Las Vegas earlier in the year is encouraging, but Preece has finished 25th or worse in three of his four starts at Kansas, and he has struggled to run in the middle of the pack at 1.5-mile ovals throughout his Cup career. S solid run at Talladega has Preece starting near the front Sunday, making him unplayable in just about every fantasy format.
- Anthony Alfredo: There isn’t a lot of upside with the rookie, but Alfredo has managed to finish 24th, 24th, and 27th in his three starts at 1.5-mile ovals. He has typically been a serviceable DFS punt play, but a top-15 at Talladega last weekend has him starting towards the middle of the pack and crushes his fantasy value.
NASCAR guru Brian Polking has been committed to producing Fantasy NASCAR coverage for nearly a decade and written countless articles for his devoted audience who swear by his advice year after year.
This article is free, but Brian also provides a premium service which is an integral part of SI Fantasy Pro. Hit the button below to learn more about the advantage you'll gain across from our DFS & gambling experts.