It has been four weeks since NASCAR last visited a 1.5-mile track, but with four races on them in the next eight points races and another on the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway, it’s back to basics for the team.
The 2018 season has been about domination for Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. But Martin Truex Jr. was the driver to beat last year at Kansas Speedway with a sweep of victory lane. Those three are going to be on virtually everyone’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster this week, so difference will come down to the other two active drivers on the roster.
1. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 5.20 in five starts)
In the garage last week, Busch said he knew what went wrong with the drive train on the No. 18. Kansas is a good place for him to rebound because he has five top fives in the last six races there that includes one win.
2. Kevin Harvick (9.50)
If not for a penalty in the 2015 Hollywood Casino 400 that cost him a lap, Harvick would probably have a six-race streak of top 10s at Kansas. What he has instead is a victory, two runner-up finishes and a third since the start of the 2015 season.
3. Ryan Blaney (14.60 in five starts)
Blaney has been close to perfect at Kansas. Ignoring a 27th-place finish in his spring 2017 debut, Blaney has never finished outside the top 15. Three of his last four efforts were fifth or better and he was the only driver except Martin Truex Jr. last year to sweep the top five.
4. Kurt Busch (8.50)
Busch’s three-year average is great, but his consistency leaves a little to be desired. In the last six races at Kansas, he has earned two top fives, another pair of top 10s and two results in the teens. Since the last two races of this season ended in a second at Talladega Superspeedway and a fifth at Dover International Speedway, he should land on the high side of that range.
4. Martin Truex Jr. (8.50)
Nobody really cares about Truex’s three-year average finish this week. The only thing fantasy NASCAR players will focus on is that he won both races last year and showed so much mastery on the 1.5-mile tracks in the past two seasons.
6. Jimmie Johnson (10.00)
One has to look closely at statistics before drawing conclusions. Johnson has been great on the similarly configured, 1.5-mile tracks in the past and with three victories, Kansas is no exception. Unfortunately, Kansas has not been immune to his recent struggles with three results outside the top 10 in his last four attempts.
7. Kasey Kahne (12.83)
Since Kahne’s most recent track records came in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5, they can be easy to discount. But last year Michael McDowell, the former driver of the No. 95, swept the top 20 and that suggests Kahne is going to be able to battle for a comparable finish.
8. Brad Keselowski (13.17)
Keselowski’s numbers would be much better if not for an accident in fall 2016. Otherwise, he has swept the top 15 in the last three years with a runner-up finish in last year’s spring event. Equally important, with the exception of his accident, he has finished all but one lap in the other 15 races.
9. Matt Kenseth (13.67)
It is only fitting that Kenseth makes the top-10 list in his first race back in a Cup car. Entering last fall’s Hollywood Casino 400, he had a 14-race, top-15 streak that included back-to-back wins in fall 2012 and spring 2013. Even with the struggles at the No. 6 that occasioned his being named as the temporary driver, Kenseth should be able to finish in the teens.
10. Chris Buescher (17.25 in four starts)
Buescher makes the top-10 list this week based on consistency. In four career starts, he has improved in each outing and never finished worse than 24th. His upward trajectory probably ended with a sixth-place finish last fall, but he will be a driver worth watching in the KC Masterpiece 400.
Pole Winner: Truex won two of the last four poles at Kansas and started on the second row in the other two races.
Segment Winners: Harvick swept Las Vegas Motor Speedway with both segment wins and the race victory. He also has segment wins at Texas Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Truex swept Auto Club Speedway, so both should be on the radar this week.