The Chase for the Sprint Cup Series championship moves to Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400. The Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing dominated qualifying, and Matt Kenseth ($8,700) will be on the pole. With rather soft pricing at DraftKings, he was already a must-have coming into the race before solidifying the top spot. Now that he has the first pit stall and should lead plenty of laps from the get-go, Kenseth is a slam-dunk DFS play.
Kenseth won back-to-back races at Kansas in Oct. 2012 and April 2013, and he has seven Top 5s, 12 Top 10s and a circuit-best 658 laps led at the track, good for a 13.3 Average-Finish Position (AFP) in 21 career starts. He’ll be joined on Row 1 by Kyle Busch ($10,000), the winner of the Go Bowling 400 at Kansas in May. Over his past five starts Rowdy has a 104.2 Driver Rating with a 6.0 AFP, best among all drivers during the span. He has turned 81.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 over the past five starts. He has Pit Stall No. 8, the first stall with an opening in front of it. That’s favorable when trying to maneuver on a crowded Pit Road, as there is more room to operate and you cannot get blocked in.
Furniture Row Racing Martin Truex Jr. ($11,100) will go off from the fourth spot, as he looks to stay hot. He cooled slightly at Charlotte last week, finishing 13th, but he has won three of the past six races with four Top 5s and five Top 10s during the span. In his past five starts at the track MTJ has managed to lead 267 laps, most on the circuit, while running 73.1 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. He will start behind another JGR driver, Carl Edwards ($8,900), who is another great value. The Missouri-born Edwards has never won at his de facto home track, but he has six Top 5s and 12 Top 10s in 18 career starts with a strong 10.6 AFP, second-best among all active drivers with at least two starts.
JGR’s Denny Hamlin ($9,000) starts from the seventh spot Sunday looking to get untracked at Kansas. He hasn’t won at the track since taking checkers at the STP 400 in April 2012, and he doesn’t rank inside the Top 10 in Driver Rating over the past five starts in Kansas. He has just five Top 10s in 16 career starts at the speedway, so despite the solid starting spot it might be best to go another way for DFS purposes.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson ($10,600) is coming off a feel-good win last week at Charlotte, as he and crew chief Chad Knaus served notice to the rest of the field that the six-time champ is back and still a force to be reckoned with. J.J. won at Kansas back in May 2015, and he has three wins to lead all active drivers while his 9.2 AFP is best among all drivers with at least two starts at the track. Just because Johnson pushed through the third round of the Chase doesn’t mean he’ll take his foot off the gas this weekend. This is a track he has traditionally been a force.
Johnson’s rookie teammate Chase Elliott ($9,500) got his first taste of the Sunflower State back in May, and he liked the track. He brought his No. 24 Chevy home in the ninth spot after starting 13th. He will go off in the 13th spot again, and is a decent No. 2 or 3 DFS option as he has been running hot. Last week he crashed out in Charlotte, but had a strong car all day and the wreck wasn’t his fault. Alex Bowman ($7,700) had a strong qualifying effort for the second straight week, as he fills in again for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. (concussion).
Bowman has the highest starting spot among non-Chase drivers, going off in the fifth position. In four previous starts at the track he has been a disaster in Kansas, posting a 35.3 AFP with his best finish of 31st. He has never operated superior Hendrick machinery in those previous outings, though, so he will have a career-best finish in this one. As a mid-tier DFS option you can certainly do worse.
In the closing seconds of the third and final practice session, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kurt Busch ($8,800) had a right front tire blow, sending him into a spin in the grass infield. His car was ripped up, and he will now go to his backup car. He had qualified 15th, but now will start at the back of the pack. Over the past five races the elder Busch was not in the Top 10 in Driver Rating, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data, and he had managed just seven Top 10s in 21 career starts at the track. Avoid.
SHR’s Kevin Harvick ($10,900) has a heavy price tag, but he is worth every penny. Harvick starts 11th and is sure to pick up a handful of Place Differential Points, as he has a win, five Top 5s and 10 Top 10s in 21 career starts at Kansas. He leads all drivers with a 121.6 Driver Rating over the past five starts at the track, leading 254 laps while running 88.6 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. His boss Tony Stewart ($7,600) is no longer in the Chase, but he could still be a factor. He starts in the 14th position, as he looks to improve on his 15.4 AFP in 20 career starts. He has won twice, posting six Top 5s and nine Top 10s.
Penske Racing’s Brad Keselowski ($9,700) and Joey Logano ($9,200) has each enjoyed success at Kansas, especially in recent races. Keselowski checks in seventh in Driver Rating (95.6), while Logano (119.1) is second over the past five starts, according to NASCAR’s Loop Data. Logano leads all drivers by running 94.8 percent of his laps inside the Top 15 during the five-race span while leading 259 laps. Keselowski has a win in 13 starts with just two finishes outside the Top 20, while Logano has a pair of victories in just 14 starts. Logano starts sixth, while Keselowski starts eighth.
ON THE DOWN LOW
As far as the lower-priced options are concerned, there is plenty of good picks for a high-low DFS lineup strategy.
In addition to Bowman (above), Richard Childress Racing’s Ryan Newman ($8,000) is a non-Chase driver who might make some noise this weekend. He will go off ninth in Sunday’s race looking for his second-career win at the Kansas track. In 21 previous starts he has a win, three Top 5s, seven Top 10s and 14 Top 20s with a respectable 16.8 AFP. As a No. 4 or 5 DFS option the ‘Rocket Man’ is a strong DFS option due to his favorable starting position. Newman’s teammate, Paul Menard ($6,400), is an attractive play in Sunday’s race. He starts from the 16th spot looking for another solid finish at Kansas. He has 11 Top 20s in 15 career starts with a 17.6 AFP.
JTG Dougherty Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger ($7,000) had a strong qualifying effort in the No. 47 machine, and he’ll go off in the 10th position. He ran into some issues in Charlotte a week ago, tumbling to 37th on the leaderboard, but he had seven Top 20 finishes over his previous nine races. He has three Top 10s and seven Top 20s in 13 career starts at Kansas, so if he is able to manage a 15th place finish or higher, he would be a steal at this price level.
Kansas native Clint Bowyer ($7,300) has never won a Cup race in his home state, but he has a solid 16.6 AFP in 16 career starts with two Top 5s, five Top 10s and 11 finishes inside the Top 20. As a No. 5 or 6 DFS option he is a sharp play. Bowyer will start from the 31st position.
Richard Petty Motorsports driver Brian Scott ($5,200) is an outstanding low-cost driver, as his two career appearances at Kansas have resulted in finishes of 12th and 22nd. Scott will start from the 32nd spot, so even if he can post a Top 25 finish he will more than pay for himself.