The NASCAR Cup Series is heading to Kansas Speedway, and for fantasy owners who had a rough afternoon at Talladega this past weekend, Sunday's Buschy McBush Race 400 should provide an opportunity to make up some lost ground.
Like many of the 1.5-mile ovals, Kansas has typically been kind to the big names and dominant teams, and the drivers who you expect to perform well usually deliver solid results. The predictability factor is a good thing when posting big fantasy scores, although it does mean that you will need to lean on some of the stronger options when assembling your lineups.
As we head to the regular season's halfway point, driver allocations become critical in Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game. The top drivers are the safest picks almost every week, but the gap between the top tier and the rest of the series tends to be wider at 1.5-mile tracks like Kansas.
I won't hesitate to load up my lineups for Sunday's race. Ideally, you used the recent stretch of short track races and last weekend's trip to Talladega to utilize some alternative options and save some starts, but even if you haven't been budgeting, I still recommend an aggressive approach. We still have several road courses and a few short tracks still to come where you can get a little creative with your lineup combos.
For Slingshot Fantasy Auto, I will try to take full advantage of the carnage at Talladega. Several big names start deep in the field, giving them plenty of upside in the place differential category. At +2 points per spot gained in this format, I see several drivers available who could cruise past 100 fantasy points. You absolutely need to come away with a huge point total in this contest on Sunday.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Keselowski hasn't been at his best at the 550-horsepower tracks this year, but he did have an excellent run at Las Vegas, one of the closest comps to Kansas. He earned 19 stage points in a runner-up effort at Vegas, and last year at Kansas, he finished second and fourth in the two races, earning 16 and 15 stage points, respectively. Starting on the pole, double-digit stage points and a top-5 finish are both well within reach.
He has been locked in at the mile-and-a-half ovals, logging a 5.7 average finish in the three races, scoring the second-most points of any driver, and earning points in all six stages. Byron will start on the front row Sunday, and he is going for his fourth straight top-10 at Kansas. I think he extends that streak in a big way.
It hasn't been a banner year for Harvick, but he has managed top-10s in two of the three races at 1.5-mile tracks. He also leads all drivers with a 5.5 average finish in the last 10 Kansas races, notching finishes of fourth and second here a year ago. Harvick will start in the top 5 after a strong run at Talladega, and I think he can parlay the track position into one of his better runs. This is a good spot to use Harvick, who has been underachieving up to this point.
Busch has finished 10th, third, and fifth in the three races at 1.5-mile ovals in 2021, and he has six straight top-10s at mile-and-a-half tracks dating back to last season. He also finished fifth at Kansas last fall, and he led 52 laps and earned 16 stage points in the spring race last year. Busch will start ninth Sunday, and I expect him to hang in the top 10 all afternoon.
He continues to be one of the best in the business at mile-and-a-half tracks, and Blaney has opened 2021 with two top-5s, including a win at Atlanta, in the first three races. He has cracked the top 5 in four of the six stages in those starts, finishing third or better in three of them. Last fall at Kansas, Blaney earned 15 stage points on his way to a top-10. He will start seventh Sunday, and I have him pegged for 10+ stage points and 40+ points overall.
Garage Driver – Kyle Larson
Larson will have to start deep in the field, but judging from the speed he has shown at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, I don't think that will matter much. He is the only driver to crack the top 5 in all three races, winning at Las Vegas and posting a series-best 2.3 average finish. Larson has also led the most laps of any driver at the mile-and-a-half ovals, and he has won three of the six stages. In case he storms to the front, I want him available.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Denny Hamlin (A)
Had he not brushed the wall late in the fall race last year, Hamlin may be going for a Kansas four-peat this weekend. He has still won two of the last three races here, leading 50+ laps and earning at least 12 stage points in all of those starts. Throw in his eight top-5s through 10 races in 2021, and you will have a tough time finding a safer pick.
William Byron (B)
His 133 points scored in the three races at mile-and-a-half ovals this year are the second-most in the series, and Byron has cracked the top 10 in all three events, winning at Homestead and posting a 5.7 average finish. Set to start on the front row, he is positioned to pile up stage points and contend for a top-5. Kyle Larson is another high-upside play, but he carries some added risk thanks to a starting spot outside the top 30.
Austin Dillon (B)
Dillon has been delivering solid results at the 1.5-mile tracks since the start of last season, cracking the top 15 in 12 of the 14 races in that span. He has finished 12th, 12th, and sixth in the three races this year, and he will have great track position on Sunday when he rolls off sixth. I think Dillon can challenge for a top-10 and even chip in a few stage points. If you prefer to go with a bigger name, this is a good spot to use Kyle Busch.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (C)
It is weird to describe Stenhouse as dependable, but that is exactly what he has been at the 1.5-mile ovals in 2021. He has finished 13th or better in all three races, and his 75 points scored are the most among Group C options. This could also be a good week to try to steal a start from Cole Custer. He starts 10th and finished seventh and 14th in two starts at Kansas as a rookie.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Denny Hamlin ($12,800)
I had to decide between Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. to headline my lineup, and I opted for Hamlin. Starting 20th, five spots deeper than Truex, gives him added place differential upside, and Hamlin has won two of the last three Kansas races, averaging 15.3 stage points per race in that stretch. If you are looking for a contrarian play, Chase Elliott has been strong at Kansas recently and starts 17th.
Kyle Larson ($12,200)
As soon as I saw his motor expire early at Talladega, I knew Larson was going to be in my lineup this weekend. He has to start 32nd Sunday, but nobody has been better at the mile-and-a-half tracks this season. His 149 points scored are the three races are the most in the series, and Larson leads all drivers with a 2.3 average finish and 377 laps led in those events. I think he is going to end up as the top scorer this weekend.
Alex Bowman ($10,800)
Bowman has made seven starts at Kansas, posting an 8.3 average finish and finishing 11th or better six times. He earned 12 stage points and finished third in the fall race here last year, and he has cracked the top 10 in two of the three races at 1.5-mile tracks this season. Starting 25th, I think he is a bargain at this price. Joey Logano and Kurt Busch are two other solid options that start deep in the field, but Bowman has outperformed both at mile-and-a-half tracks in 2021.
Austin Cindric ($8,400)
He will be making his fourth Cup start this weekend, and Cindric owns an average place differential of +17.0 in his first three. He will start back in 38th at Kansas, and in his only other start at a 1.5-mile oval, he gained 17 spots and finished 22nd at Atlanta. I think he cracks the top 25 and adds around 30 differential points to his score Sunday. Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are two other options in this price range with more upside, but Cindric's floor is significantly higher.
Garrett Smithley ($5,600)
I'm looking for a punt play here, and Smithley's salary gets me where I need to go. He also starts 36th but has a 31.6 average finish in five starts this year, finishing 31st in both of his starts at 1.5-mile tracks. I think he can at least avoid posting a negative point total.
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.
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