A busy stretch for the Cup Series continues with a trip to Kansas Speedway for Thursday night’s Super Start Batteries 400. It will be the fourth race in less than two weeks and the third race at a mile-and-a-half oval during that span.
Big names from the top teams usually flex their muscles at 1.5-mile tracks like Kansas, and while Quin Huoff’s bizarre attempt to pit from the middle of the track ultimately jumbled up the finishing order at Texas this past Sunday, the trend has held true in 2020. In fact, the Top 5 drivers in the current point standings all happen to rank sixth or better in points scored in the seven races at these mile-and-a-half ovals.
Loading up your lineups with the top drivers should lead to big point totals Thursday night, but if you are running low on starts from some of the elite options in Fantasy Live or the Driver Group Game, you don’t need to hit the panic button. Fortunately, we now have a big enough sample size to know which mid-tier drivers have an edge on the competition at the 1.5-mile tracks. You can take advantage and still post solid scores while saving starts.
Ideally, you will be able to use a blend of top-tier plays and midrange drivers who have been showing Top 10 potential at tracks like Kansas.
1. Kevin Harvick
Over the last 10 races at Kansas, Harvick has two wins, seven Top 10s and a series-best 6.7 average finish. He has led double-digit laps in eight of those starts, and he has led more than 70 laps in three of the last four races here, leading 104 laps in the spring race last season. This season, no driver has led more laps in the seven races at 1.5-mile ovals.
2. Chase Elliott
Elliott has had one of the fastest cars at the 1.5-mile tracks all season, and he already has an impressive resume at Kansas. He has four Top 5s in his last five starts here, including three straight, and he led 44 laps in a win here in the fall of 2018 and led 45 laps in the spring race last season. Elliott should be able to anchor season-long and DFS lineups Thursday night.
3. Ryan Blaney
He has actually had some bad luck at Kansas, but Blaney has shown plenty of speed at the track, leading laps in four of the last six races and leading 50-plus laps twice. Perhaps more importantly, nobody has been more reliable at the mile-and-a-half ovals in 2020, and after sweeping both stages at Texas last weekend, he has scored 56 more points than any other driver in the seven races at 1.5-mile tracks.
4. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has been running well at Kansas, finishing sixth or better in five of his last starts at the track. He has two wins in that span, and he has led double-digit laps four times, leading 33 laps here last fall. Truex has been a consistent presence at the front of the field at the 1.5-mile ovals all year, leading the third most laps in the seven races, and I don’t see that changing at Kansas.
5. Denny Hamlin
Kansas hasn’t always been his best track, but Hamlin has three Top 5s in the last five races, and he clobbered the field here last fall, leading 153 laps on his way to the win. Throw in the fact that he has been one of the best in the series all year, and a strong run seems inevitable.
6. Brad Keselowski
He won the spring race at Kansas last year, and Keselowski ranks fifth in points scored over the last 10 races at the track, finishing outside the Top 15 just twice. He has also led laps in three straight starts here, leading double-digit laps in three of the last five Kansas races. Not to mention the face that Keselowski is the only driver who has finished in the Top 10 in all seven races at 1.5-mile ovals in 2020.
7. Kyle Busch
There is no denying Busch’s success at Kansas, and over the last 10 races he leads all drivers with six Top 5s and eight Top 10s. He’s been lacking high-end speed for most of 2020, but he is coming off a strong fourth-place effort at Texas. Whether or not he has turned a corner remains to be seen, and while he should at least battle for a Top 10, I will probably continue to save my starts from Busch in case he catches fire in the coming weeks.
8. Joey Logano
He has had some strong runs at Kansas, including a win back in 2015, but he failed to crack the Top 10 in either race here last year. Logano has also finished outside the Top 15 in four of the last eight Kansas races. His ability to gobble up stage has been propping up his scores all year, but I’m still not planning on using him in Fantasy Live or the DGG Thursday night.
9. Alex Bowman
Kansas has been one of Bowman’s better tracks, and he has finished 11th or better in the last three races here. He led laps in both races here a year ago, leading 63 laps in a runner-up effort in the spring. Bowman has had a bad habit of turning fast cars into mediocre finishes this year, but he should have Top 5 upside Thursday.
10. Kurt Busch
Busch has been the model of consistency at Kansas, posting an 8.8 average finish and seven Top 10s in the last 10 races. He has four Top 10s in the last five races alone, including finishes of seventh and fourth last year. This could be a good spot to use him in both Fantasy Live and the Driver Group Game.
11. Aric Almirola
He has four finishes of 12th or better in the last five races at Kansas, and he brings a ton of momentum into Thursday’s race. Almirola has cracked the Top 10 in the last seven races, and he has led 128 laps at Kentucky and 35 laps at Texas in the last two weeks. You may want to keep riding Almirola’s hot hand in both Fantasy Live and the DGG.
12. Erik Jones
His results at the 1.5-mile tracks this year haven’t been great. On the flip side, he has been strong at Kansas, reeling off four straight finishes of seventh or better and notching a pair of Top 5s. He’ll be a high-risk, high-reward option in all formats Thursday.
13. Austin Dillon
Fresh off of stealing a win at Texas, Dillon will look to continue his run of success at the 1.5-mile ovals this season. He has cracked the Top 15 in all seven races, posting an 8.3 average finish and scoring the seventh most points. Dillon a legitimate Group B play in the Driver Group Game.
14. Tyler Reddick
Reddick notched a second-place finish at Texas last weekend, improving his average finish at 1.5-mile tracks this year to 10.3. The rookie has finished 18th or better in all seven of the races at mile-and-a-half ovals, logging four Top 10s. Reddick ranks eighth in the series in points scored in those races, piling up 75 more points than any other Group C option in the Driver Group Game.
15. Clint Bowyer
He has had issues with consistency at the mile-and-a-half ovals this year, but Bowyer does have three straight Top 15s at these tracks, and he has been solid at Kansas with Stewart-Haas Racing. He has cracked the Top 15 in five of his six starts here in the No. 14, and he finished fifth and eighth in the two races a year ago. Bowyer could be a Top 10 sleeper Thursday night.
16. Matt DiBenedetto
DiBenedetto has been solid at the 1.5-mile tracks in his first season with the Wood Brothers, posting a 13.3 average finish and finishing 17th or better in six of the seven races. He should be able to run in or around the Top 15 again Thursday at Kansas, making him a decent alternative in the DGG if you are looking to save starts from the elite Group B options.
17. Jimmie Johnson
After posting pedestrian results at Kansas in 2017 and 2018, Johnson notched a pair of Top 10s here a year ago, including a sixth-place run in the spring. On the flip side, he has been trending in the wrong direction at the 1.5-mile tracks since a strong start to the year, so I wouldn’t count on more than a Top 20 out of Johnson.
18. William Byron
Byron just hasn’t been a consistent performer at the 1.5-mile tracks this year. He has finished 20th or worse in four of the seven races, and while he does have three Top 12 efforts, his best finish is ninth. I’d only take a chance on Byron in GPP contests this weekend.
19. Christopher Bell
He was taken out at Texas last weekend by Quin Houff’s inexplicable dive to pit road, but Bell has still finished 21st or better in the last six races at 1.5-mile ovals, notching three Top 10s. If you need to save a start from Tyler Reddick Thursday, Bell is my top Group C alternative in the Driver Group Game.
20. Cole Custer
After his surprise win at Kentucky, Custer’s afternoon at Texas ended early when he was involved in a wreck. Even with that 39th-place result, he still owns an 18.6 average finish in the seven races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2020, cracking the Top 20 five times. Custer is one of the more dependable Group C options in the DGG.
21. Ryan Newman
Newman is known for salvaging solid finishes, but Kansas has been a trouble spot for him. He has just one Top 15 in the last six races here, finishing outside the Top 20 five times and 30th or worse four times. Newman already offers limited upside, so he is a tough sell in most formats at a track where he has struggled.
22. Chris Buescher
Buescher has slipped a bit at the 1.5-mile ovals compared to last season, but Kansas has typically been a track for him. He has finished 18th or better in five of his last six starts here, finishing 10th and 13th in the two races last year. A Top 20 finish could be on tap, so keep an eye on his starting spot. Buescher could have some decent DFS value.
23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
His numbers at Kansas aren’t terrible, and over the last 10 races, Stenhouse has compiled a 16.7 average finish and has cracked the Top 20 eight times. He finished 11th and 16th in two starts here a year ago, but he has struggled in the last few races at 1.5-mile ovals this season. Stenhouse has more upside than a lot of the other drivers in this range, but he is a shot-in-the-dark fantasy play.
24. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth’s last two trips to Kansas ended with wrecks, and more importantly, he is still trying to figure out how to get around the mile-and-a-half ovals with this rules package. His 18th-place run at Texas last weekend was just his second Top 20 in six starts, and he has a 22.0 average finish at the 1.5-mile tracks overall this year. Kenseth could get the job done as a Group C play in the Driver Group Game, but he’s not an ideal option.
25. John Hunter Nemechek
After a crash at Kentucky, Nemechek got back on track with a 22nd-place finish at Texas. The rookie has now cracked the Top 25 in six of the seven races at 1.5-mile tracks this year, compiling a 21.9 average finish. If Nemechek starts deeper in the field, dial him up as a source of cap relief at the DFS sites.
26. Bubba Wallace
He remains inconsistent at the 1.5-mile ovals, but he does have Top 15s at Homestead and Texas in recent weeks. Of course, Wallace has been horrible at Kansas in the past, and while I think he will improve on his 28.2 average finish at the track, I’d be hesitant to trust him as a fantasy sleeper Thursday night.
27. Ty Dillon
Dillon has a 24.1 average finish in seven Cup starts at Kansas, and he has a 24.3 average finish in the seven races at mile-and-a-half ovals in 2020. In other words, don’t expect more than a Top 25 finish out of him Thursday night.
28. Michael McDowell
Since NASCAR returned to action, McDowell has amassed a serviceable 20.2 average finish in races at 1.5-mile tracks, cracking the Top 25 in all six of those starts. He is a qualifying-dependent fantasy play, but he will have some DFS appeal if he starts around 30th Thursday.
29. Ryan Preece
Preece had one of his best runs at a mile-and-a-half oval at Kansas last fall when he finished 12th, but he finished 25th in the spring race and has struggled at the 1.5-mile tracks in general since joining the Cup Series. This year, Preece has a brutal 30.1 average finish in seven starts at mile-and-a-half ovals, and he has been outscored by Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman, both of whom have missed a race.
30. Corey LaJoie
He might not have a ton of raw speed, but LaJoie’s 16th-place run at Texas was a reminder that he is one of the best drivers among the smaller teams when it comes to taking advantage of attrition and ill-timed cautions. I like to use him as a punt play in at least a couple of DFS lineups each week.