Coming off last weekend’s race at Daytona, you may find yourself among the many Fantasy NASCAR owners who could use a bounceback performance in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. The good news is that if you used my damage-control strategy for Daytona, you should have avoided a complete disaster at Daytona. The better news is that Kentucky is a track where you should be able to post a big point total.
Saturday’s race will be the seventh of the year at a mile-and-a-half oval, and while we have seen the reduced-horsepower, high-downforce package spread out the lap leaders a bit, the new rules haven’t changed the fact that the same drivers seem to be running up front on a routine basis at these 1.5-mile ovals.
Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have been fast at the intermediate ovals all year, and Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing haven’t been far behind. Even if you are running low on starts from big names like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, you can still roster other drivers from these powerhouse organizations and pile up plenty of points.
There is a big difference between using a sleeper from mid-pack team and using the No. 2 or No. 3 driver from an elite organization. If you have the starts to give, then by all means, load up your Fantasy Live and Driver Group Game lineups with the best of the best. If you are down to your last couple of starts from the elite fantasy options, then mix in some of their teammates.
For Slingshot Fantasy Auto, I also like to stick drivers from the top teams as much as possible, giving preferential treatment to any of those drivers who have decent place differential potential. Of course, we could have a lot more place differential points become available depending on how Saturday’s inspection plays out, and I will certainly overhaul my lineup if some of the top guys end up getting sent to the rear.
Make sure to check back tomorrow for any updated picks following post-qualifying inspection, but until then, take a closer look at my preliminary Fantasy NASCAR lineups for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
He’s had nothing but success at Kentucky, posting a 5.0 average finish, six Top 5s and two wins in eight starts. He has also led the most laps of any driver here, leading 100-plus laps four times. Busch has remained a force at the track since the repave, finishing in the Top 3 in all four stages over the past two seasons. Starting in the Top 10, I am expecting a big point total from him Saturday night.
Martin Truex Jr.
Kentucky has been his personal playground the two seasons. Not only has he won back-to-back races here, but he has also led the most laps and swept all the stages in both of those wins. Truex doesn’t seem to be in his own zip code this weekend, but he’s starting eighth and should at least hang near the front all night. Even if he doesn’t run away from the field, he should be one of the top scorers.
He leads all drivers with three career wins at Kentucky, and Keselowski has been flexing his muscles at the 1.5-mile tracks all year. In the six races so far, he has logged a series-best four Top 5s and is the only driver with multiple wins. He showed plenty of speed in practice before qualifying third, and I love his chances of contending for both the stage wins and the race win.
He has found his mojo at the 1.5-mile tracks, and he seems to be getting better. He has finished eighth or better in each of the last four races, and in the most recent trip to a mile-and-a-half oval, Johnson cracked the Top 5 in both stages and finished fourth at Chicagoland. After qualifying 13th, he won’t have far to go to start earning more stage points Saturday night.
Almirola has been a steady performer at the mile-and-a-half tracks in 2019, posting a 10.2 average finish through the first six races. Starting on the front row, I think he also offers some upside. At worst, I should be able to count on him for a Top 10 finish, and I think there is a good chance he earns a decent amount of stage points in this one.
Garage Driver – William Byron
Byron has been part of the recent Hendrick Motorsports surge at the mile-and-a-half tracks, cracking the Top 10 in three of the last four races and finishing eighth or better in each of the last four stages. For the year, he owns a 12.7 average finish in the six races at 1.5-mile ovals, leading laps in five of those starts. I don’t have as much trust in Byron yet as some other drivers, but he starts 12th, and I want him available in case his hot streak continues.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Martin Truex Jr. (A)
He has clobbered the competition at Kentucky in each of the last two seasons, sweeping both stages and picking up wins in both 2017 and 2018. Quite frankly, nobody else seemed to have a shot at beating Truex in either race. From a Top 10 starting spot, I’m backing Truex as he tries for the Kentucky three-peat.
Aric Almirola (B)
I had my eye on Alex Bowman prior to qualifying, but while he starts outside the Top 20, Almirola will start from the front row. He has a 10.2 average finish at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, so there’s no question he offers a safe floor. Meanwhile, I am hoping the excellent track position leads to a chunk of stage points.
Jimmie Johnson (B)
He and the rest of Hendrick Motorsports have figured something out with this rules package at the 1.5-mile ovals, and Johnson has reeled off four straight finishes of eighth or better, logging Top 5s at Texas and Chicagoland. I’m looking to strike while Johnson and company have the hot hand to maximize his value.
Chris Buescher (C)
Buescher has been the best Group C option at the mile-and-a-half tracks this year, and he really hasn’t been close. He has cracked the Top 20 in all six races, posting a 13.5 average finish and logging three Top 10s. Perhaps more telling, Buescher has scored 152 points in those races, 64 more than the second-best driver (Daniel Hemric) in this tier.
Fantasy Racing Online Slingshot Fantasy Auto
Brad Keselowski ($12,000)
I thought about using Chase Elliott from the 20th spot, but I think Keselowski has a great chance to win this race and pile up a lot of stage points in the process. He leads all drivers with two wins and four Top 5s in the six races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, and he also leads all drivers with three wins at Kentucky. Starting third, he could be at the front in short order.
Kyle Larson ($10,900)
He hasn’t had a great year at the mile-and-a-half tracks, but Larson nearly won at Chicagoland last time out, and he has finished second and ninth in the last two races at Kentucky. Slated to start 19th, Larson is positioned to exploit the place differential category.
Alex Bowman ($10,800)
Bowman didn’t seem to have his car locked in yet during practice, but I am going to count on him and his team dialing things in Saturday night. He has a 3.3 average finish in the last three races at 1.5-mile tracks, winning at Chicagoland a couple of weeks ago. Starting 22nd, he has too much differential upside to pass up.
Denny Hamlin ($10,700)
I always hold me breath when I use Hamlin because he’s a habitual pit road speeder, but his 18th-place starting spot gives him significant place differential upside. Plus, he ranks fifth in points scored at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, and Hamlin showed some great long-run speed in practice.
Matt Tifft ($5,600)
Tifft is a salary cap saver first and foremost, but he has shown Top 25 upside at the 1.5-mile ovals and starts in 31st. He should come out of Kentucky with a positive score, albeit a modest one.