NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Kansas in last three seasons

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The Big 3 have not been as dominant during the playoffs as they were during the regular season. Then again, they haven’t needed to be with a massive bonus point advantage to ease their way through the first five races.

A quick glance at this week’s top 10 in terms of three-year averages reveals they are all once more at the top of the list. A case could be made for each of them to win this week’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. Since only two playoff drivers can be active on a NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster plus one in the garage, this may be a good week to play it safe. After all, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have won all of the Kansas races in the past three seasons.

The competition has won four of the first five playoff races, however, and that opens up some great opportunities to differentiate one’s lineup from the others in the league. Joey Logano won back-to-back fall races in 2014/2015. His Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney have also been successful on this track in particular and 1.5-milers in general recently.

1. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 3.00) Playoff
The Big 3 may have lost some of their cache in recent weeks, but Harvick regained much of his at Talladega. Being able to separate from the field as they did, the Stewart-Haas crew served notice they would be a force with which to reckon and fantasy players cannot take that for granted. That dominant posture comes as NASCAR heads to a track where Harvick has two wins, a second and a third in his last five attempts.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 5.80) Playoff
No one has been better at Kansas in the past two seasons than Truex. He won both races last year and finished second this spring. The playoffs have not gone according to plan for the No. 78 who still have the specter of Furniture Row Racing closing hanging over their head. Truex spent most of last week’s Talladega race in jeopardy of failing to advance to Round 3, but he was strong the last time the series visited a 1.5-miler at Vegas. Truex finished fifth in that race.

3. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 6.20) Playoff
In eight races on 1.5-mile tracks this year, Busch has been perfect in regard to top-10 finishes. He has a seven-race streak of top 10s at Kansas – so what could go wrong? Unfortunately, Busch’s last two Kansas races barely qualified as a top 10 with back-to-back 10th-place results. His last attempt on a 1.5-miler was a seventh at Las Vegas, so the likelihood is that he will miss the top five this week.

4. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 9.20) Playoff
If Busch is having any lingering issues with his teammates after being raced hard earlier this season, they seem to have dissipated at Talladega. On most track types in 2018 he has been the king of consistency, but the 1.5-milers have been a little less so. In eight races on them, he has finished outside the top 10 three times and has not yet cracked the top five with a best of sixth at Kentucky. 

5. Austin Dillon (three-year average: 11.80) Non-Playoff
What Dillon has lacked in flat out speed has been made up for in consistency at Kansas. In the past three seasons, he has a worst finish of 17th and best of sixth. That suggests that a finish this week in the low teens is the most likely result. It can make him a solid contender in some games, but in the NASCAR Fantasy Live contest one hopes for a top 10 from their selection. Dillon has only three in 11 Kansas starts.

6. Alex Bowman (three-year average: 12.50 in two starts) Playoff
In order to advance to Round 3, Bowman needs to win. He’s not alone, Keselowski, Blaney and Kyle Larson are basically in the same situation, but they have the advantage over Bowman of at least scoring top-two finishes on 1.5-mile tracks this year. Bowman has a few top-10s on this track type and that simply will not get the job done. 

7. Ryan Blaney (three-year average: 12.60) Playoff
The good news is this is one of Blaney’s best tracks – but is it good enough to give him an opportunity to win? He’s come close three times in the last two years and has more experience with each passing week. Blaney finished fifth in spring 2016 and swept the top five last year with a fourth and a third. He ran into trouble this spring when he crashed 20 laps short of the finish line.

8. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 15.00) Non-Playoff
No one knows when Jimmie Johnson will break his winless streak. It is going to be unexpected whenever it happens, but fantasy players who guess correctly are going to be able to make up significant ground on the competition. Johnson has won at Kansas recently. His spring 2015 win was part of a sweep of the top five that year. He finished fourth in 2016. Those numbers mean this might be a good week to gamble. 

9. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 15.40) Playoff
One reason the Vegas race was so chaotic was because the playoff contenders were nervous about the upcoming Charlotte Roval. They pressed the envelope and came up empty on a several occasions. The four drivers below the cutoff line are in a similarly desperate situation, so this is likely to be a race marked by strategy gambles and bold moves on the race track. One would do well to remember that it was Keselowski who visited Victory Lane in Las Vegas – another 1.5-mile track.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (three-year average: 16.60) Non-Playoff
Stenhouse makes the list his week with a modest three-year average. He has never scored a top 10 at Kansas in 12 starts, but he’s come close with 11th-place finishes in his first attempt in 2013 and again in the last two spring races. If he practices and qualifies well, Stenhouse could be one of this week’s best sleepers who is likely to escape the attention of the competition. 

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: The Big 3 have been almost as dominant in qualifying as in race trim at Kansas. Harvick and Truex each won from the pole in the last two races on this track, so even if a player fails to make the right selection in time trials, the pole winner should be on one’s roster for the race. Blaney won the pole in this race last spring and finished fourth. That should put the Penske racers on the radar screen as well.

Segment Winners: Wait until Friday to make this selection. On the 1.5-mile tracks in particular, momentum is built in practice and carried through to qualification and the race. The dominant driver is most likely to come from the front row and if past races on this track are an indication, Harvick or Truex could sweep both stages and the overall victory.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

Texas Xfinity results: Noah Gragson wins playoff opener

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Noah Gragson is rolling through the NASCAR Xfinity Series like a bowling ball headed toward a strike.

Gragson won for the fourth consecutive race Saturday, taking the lead with 11 laps left and winning the 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway. The victory put Gragson in the second round of the playoffs.

Finishing behind him in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

Texas Xfinity results

The race was pockmarked by wrecks, scrambling the 12-driver playoff field.

POINTS REPORT

Noah Gragson remains the points leader after his win. He has 2,107 points. AJ Allmendinger is next, 26 points behind.

Sam Mayer and Ryan Sieg hold the final two transfer spots. They are one point ahead of Riley Herbst, eight points ahead of Daniel Hemric, 13 points ahead of Brandon Jones and 29 points ahead of Jeremy Clements.

Texas Xfinity driver points

The Xfinity playoffs will continue Oct. 1 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, USA Network).

Noah Gragson wins Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway

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Noah Gragson opened the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs the same way he has run much of the season.

Gragson sidestepped a web of issues plaguing playoff drivers and won Saturday’s 300-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway, tying a decades-old Xfinity record by winning for the fourth consecutive race. Sam Ard, formerly a series mainstay, won four in a row in 1983.

Gragson, continuing to establish himself as the championship favorite, took the lead with 11 laps to go from Jeb Burton as most of the day’s leaders were running different tire and fuel strategies over the closing laps.

Gragson, 24 and set to jump to the Cup Series next season, led 85 laps. He won by 1.23 seconds.

“This number 9 team, man, they’re on fire,” Gragson told NBC Sports. “Luke Lambert (crew chief) and the boys executed a great race.”

MORE: Texas Xfinity results

The win was Gragson’s seventh of the year. Following in the top five were Austin Hill, Ty Gibbs, AJ Allmendinger and Riley Herbst.

The victory pushed Gragson into the second round of the playoffs.

A big crash at the front of the field on lap 117 changed the face of the race. John Hunter Nemechek lost control of his car on the outside and was clipped by Justin Allgaier, starting a wreck that scrambled most of the field. Damages forced playoff drivers Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones and Allgaier from the race.

“The 7 (Allgaier) chose the top behind me, and I haven’t seen the replay of it, but the 7 chose the top behind me and started pushing,” Nemechek said. “The 21 (Hill) made it three-wide on the 9 (Gragson), and I was three-wide at the top, and I think we ended up four-wide at one point, which doesn’t really work aero-wide in the pack.”

Pole winner Jones, a playoff driver taken out in the crash, said Nemechek “was pushing a little too hard. Nothing to fault him there for, but probably a little early to be going that far. It is what it is.”

Six laps earlier, another multi-car crash scattered the field and damaged the car of playoff contender and regular season champion Allmendinger.

The wreck started when Brandon Brown slipped in front of Allmendinger and went into a slide, forcing Allmendinger to the inside apron. Several cars scattered behind them trying to avoid the accident.

Allmendinger’s crew repaired his car and he later had the race lead.

Playoff driver Jeremy Clements had a tough day. He parked with what he called mysterious mechanical issues about halfway through the race.

Below the cutline after the first race are Herbst, Hemric, Jones and Clements.

Stage 1 winner: Daniel Hemric

Stage 2 winner: AJ Allmendinger

Who had a good race: Noah Gragson is threatening to turn the final weeks of the Xfinity season into a cakewalk. He clearly had the day’s dominant car Saturday in winning for the fourth race in a row. … AJ Allmendinger’s car was damaged in a wreck in heavy traffic, but his crew taped parts of the car and gave him an opening to finish fourth.

Who had a bad race: Jeremy Clements, in the playoff field, finished 36th after parking with mechanical trouble near the race’s halfway point. … Jeffrey Earnhardt crashed only 17 laps into the race and finished last.

Next: The second race in the first round of the Xfinity playoffs is scheduled Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. ET (USA Network) at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Cup drivers are for changing Texas but leery about making it another Atlanta

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Some Cup drivers are concerned that a reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway could create racing similar to Atlanta, adding another type of superspeedway race to the NASCAR calendar.

While Texas officials have not stated publicly any plans to make changes, some competitors feel Sunday’s playoff race (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network) could be the final event on this track’s current layout. 

With the All-Star Race moving from Texas to North Wilkesboro next year, Texas Motor Speedway’s lone Cup race will take place Sept. 24, 2023. That could provide time for any alterations. Work on changing Atlanta began in July 2021 and was completed by December 2021. 

Reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson said work needs to be done to Texas Motor Speedway.

“I would like them to demolish this place first and then start over from scratch,” Larson said Saturday. “For one, they did a very poor job with the reconfiguration, initial reconfiguration. 

“I would like to see them change it from a mile-and-a-half to something shorter. I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever. 

“If I could build a track, it’d be probably a three-quarter mile Bristol basically, pavement and progressive banking. But I don’t know if that’s even possible here. I’m not sure what they have in mind, but anything would be better than what they did.”

Former Cup champion Joey Logano worries about another superspeedway race with such events at Daytona, Talladega and now Atlanta. 

“Do we need more superspeedways?” Logano asked Saturday. “Is that the type of racing fans want to see? Because when you look at the way that people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, (they) are the ones that are riding around in the back. 

“Do you believe that you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back not working, not going up there to put a good race on. They’re riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front trying to win. I don’t think it’s right. That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that.”

Logano said he wants to have more control in how he finishes, particularly in a playoff race. 

“I want to be at tracks where I can make a difference, where my team can make a difference, and we’re not at the mercy of a wreck that happened in front of us that we couldn’t do anything about,” he said.

Discussions of changing the track follow complaints about how tough it is to pass at this 1.5-mile speedway.

“Once you get to the top, it’s almost like the bottom (lane) is very, very weak,” Daniel Suarez said.

Suarez has mixed feelings about the idea of turning Texas into another Atlanta-style race.

“Atlanta was a very good racetrack, and then they turned it into a superspeedway and it’s a lot of fun,” Suarez said. “I see it as a hybrid. I don’t think we need another racetrack like that, but it’s not my decision to make. Whatever they throw out at us, I’m going to try to be the best I can be.”

Suarez hopes that Texas can be like what it once was.

“Maybe with some work, we can get this race track to what it used to be, a very wide race track, running the bottom, running the middle, running the top,” he said.  

“As a race car driver, that’s what you want. You want that ability to run around and to show your skills. In superspeedways … everyone is bumping, everyone is pushing, and you can not show your skills as much.”

Chase Briscoe would be OK with a change to Texas, but he wants it to be more like a track other than Atlanta.

“If we’re really going to change and completely start from scratch, I would love another Homestead-type racetrack,” Briscoe said. “The problem is any time you build a new race track, it’s not going to be slick and worn out for a while. It’s trying to figure out what’s best to maximize those first couple of years to get it good by the end. 

“I think Homestead is a great model, if we’re going to build another mile and a half. I think we’re going to have to look at what they have, the progressive banking, the shape of the race track is different. I just think it’s a really good race track, and I think it always puts on really good racing. Anything we could do to try to match that, that would be my vote.”

Denny Hamlin just hopes some sort of change is made to Texas.

“I’d rather have another Atlanta than this, honestly,” Hamlin said. “Anything will be better than kind of what we have here.”

NASCAR shares prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer

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FORT WORTH, Texas — The NASCAR garage is sharing its prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer DJ VanderLey, who was injured Thursday night in a crash during a micro sprint Outlaw race at the Texas Motor Speedway dirt track.

He suffered several fractured vertebrae and has a spinal cord injury, according to a post from his wife Jordan on her Facebook page. 

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up to help the family with medical costs. 

VanderLey was Chase Briscoe’s engineer for four years, and they are good friends.

“I hate that it happened to anybody,” Briscoe said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, “but for it to hit close to home has definitely been tough for me.”

Briscoe said he planned to visit VanderLey in the hospital on Saturday and that “I just hope that everybody continues to pray. That’s really all we can do at this point, trying to hope he gets better.”

Christopher Bell calls VanderLey among his best friends. VanderLey was Bell’s engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016. 

Bell spent the night at the hospital and also picked up Jordan VanderLey at the airport when she arrived. 

Stewart-Haas Racing had a decal for VanderLey on Riley Herbst‘s No. 98 Xfinity car for Saturday’s race.