October 2, 2013

FANTASY: Yellow Brick Road to the Cup

Hollywood Casino 400 Race Preview


Matt Kenseth's win in the STP 400 this past April
was his second consecutive win at Kansas. (Getty)
It seems like every time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Kansas Speedway, I make some sort of timely reference to The Wizard of Oz in my title.  Perhaps one of these days, a popular movie about Kansas will overtake the 1939 classic, but in the meantime, I'm making references that date back to the days when stock car racing was still closely affiliated with moonshiners.  Oh, well.

Fun, irrelevant fact for the day: there are only two people still living that played Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.

Now, on to NASCAR.

The Chase for the Sprint Cup really heated up last weekend with five-time champion Jimmie Johnson winning the race.  It assured points leader Matt Kenseth that it would indeed be a battle to the season's final checkered flag, and Kyle Busch scored his third top-five in as many Chase races to remain in contention as well.

It's odd that of the three front runners, Busch is getting talked about the least.  When was the last time that Busch was considered the boring, consistent guy!?

That said, Kansas has not been kind to Busch over the years, so he might struggle this weekend.  Here's who should start and who should get parked when it comes to setting up the Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing roster:

The Track


Kansas Speedway is a 1.5-mile, "cookie cutter," tri-oval.  It's banked 17-20 degrees in the corners, 9-11 on the frontstretch and five on the backstretch, meaning that it's a little flatter (although not by much) than some of the other cookie cutters.  Drivers that are good in general at the 1.5-milers tend to be good at Kansas.

X-Factor


This has been pointed out in many recent fantasy previews, but the Chase drivers are really the dominant ones this time of year.  All 10 top-10 spots went to a Chaser at Dover, and 25 of 30 possible top-10s have been earned by Chase drivers, including 14 of 15 top-fives, in the postseason.  It makes sense that the best drivers would be earning these, but it also has something to do with the fact that those 13 teams are still pushing for a title.  The teams not in contention will be experimenting more in hopes of finding something for 2014, as they have nothing to lose.

Fantasy Strategy


Most drivers with good equipment under them are capable of turning out a good day on a cookie cutter.  A good strategy would be to mix and match the top name drivers on the list with drivers capable of turning out a good finish.  This should save some allocations on the highly-used drivers.

A-List


Start


  • #20 Matt Kenseth - He's won the last two races at Kansas and has been red hot this season.  He's a great choice.
  • #24 Jeff Gordon - If the four-time champion is going to contend, he needs to win at Kansas.  He has 10 top-10s in 15 starts at the track, but has missed that mark in three of the last four.  That said, he has two top-10s in three Chase races and a poor pit stop cost him the third.  In regards the Fantasy Strategy, Gordon's the risk/reward option on the A-list.
  • #48 Jimmie Johnson - Why not?  With 12 top-10s in 14 Kansas races and a 7.6 average finish, it's unlikely that Five-Time is anything less than solid.


Park


  • #2 Brad Keselowski - The defending champ has a 9.3 average finish at Kansas, but he's no longer actively defending the title because he's struggled so much this season.  Stay away from Bad Brad for the time being.


B-List


Start


  • #1 Jamie McMurray - Chances are that most teams have plenty of starts left on McMurray.  He's finished 11th or better in four of the last five races this season and scored a seventh at Kansas in April.  He's the B-list's risk/reward option.
  • #16 Greg Biffle - He's sitting sixth in the standings, which means he still has a realistic shot at winning the title.  With two wins and seven top-fives in 14 races, this could be a good week for him to make up some ground.
  • #18 Kyle Busch - He makes this list not as a demand to be started, but because most will overlook him with just two top-10s in 12 Kansas starts.  He's started in the top-five in four of the last five races at Kansas and was unlucky in crashing his way to back-to-back DNFs in his last two starts at the track.  With his string of three consecutive top-fives, expect him to have another good week.
  • #99 Carl Edwards - The season took a bad turn toward Negative Town late in the Dover race, but Edwards had been consistent for a month before the late-race car issue.  Looking at Kansas, specifically, he has eight top-10s in 12 starts.


Park


  • #14 Mark Martin - He gets picked on each week in the preview, but he just doesn't have the performance to support starting, even if he does score the third-highest average number of fantasy points at Kansas.
  • #78 Kurt Busch - It's almost midnight for the Cinderella team.  The No. 78 seems to be getting beat on pit road, and it's the time of year when the multi-car teams are really collaborating info to get one of their cars the Sprint Cup Trophy.  Furniture Row Racing doesn't have that benefit.


C-List


Start


  • #17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - He started third, led 26 laps and finished 11th at Kansas in his only career start at the track this past spring.
  • #47 AJ Allmendinger - With two top-10s and a pole at Kansas in seven starts, he's a pretty solid option on the C-list.


Park


  • #51 Justin Allgaier - It's always intriguing when a young driver makes a Sprint Cup Series start and presents an option on the C-list, but Allgaier isn't exactly a top prospect from a NASCAR standpoint.  He only has four top-fives and no wins in 28 Nationwide starts this year, so he's not exactly tearing it up.


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Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily in rank order.

Join the "Fans of NHMS" Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing group.

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