Fantasy NASCAR Preview: Kansas – STP 400
by Jordan McAbee, Special To NASCAR news, fantasy racing advice and statistics On Pit Row
I am a fantasy NASCAR junkie. In addition to my preview articles on OnPitRow, I also post weekly practice breakdown and race prediction articles at www.ifantasyrace.com . Follow me on Twitter: @FanNASCARPredicApril 18, 2012 7:00 am UTC No Comments
Only 400 miles are set to be ran at Kansas Speedway on Sunday afternoon, meaning there will be 267 laps ran before the checkered flag falls on this season’s STP 400. This 1.5-mile track is most similar to Chicagoland Speedway as well as the newly added (to the Sprint Cup schedule) Kentucky Speedway. Kansas is a fairly new track as well, opening in 2001.
Fact of the track: in the 12 total Sprint Cup races ran here, the pole winner averages a finish of 12.1 and 42.5% of the top 10 qualifiers in those races also finished there.
During The Last Race At Kansas…The race here last October was the fourth race in the Chase and Jimmie Johnson pretty much dominated the whole thing. Of the 272 laps, Five Time led 197 en route to his second victory at the track. He had a near-perfect driver rating of 149.2. Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, despite each never leading a lap, while Roush-Fenway Racing team mates Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards rounded out the top 5.
Practice Schedule…There are two practice sessions scheduled for Friday (at 1:30 pm and 4:30 pm ET) followed by qualifying on Saturday, which is set to start around noon. There will be no practice once the starting lineup is set. For those that play Yahoo! Auto Racing: rosters don’t lock until Saturday morning, so we get to see the cars on the track before deciding our drivers.
Top Fifteen Ranking Entering The STP 400:
1. Jimmie Johnson – With Five Time and Jeff Gordon dominating but not winning the last two Sprint Cup races, it’s time to ask: what’s wrong with Hendrick Motorsports? This makes just two wins in the last 29 points-paying races for the organization. Let me know what you think by voting on my poll about this issue (click here). With that being said, I personally think it will only be a matter of time before we see a Hendrick driver back in victory lane, and–right now–I think Johnson will be the guy to do it, and it will happen on Sunday in Kansas. The #48 Chevrolet has been great at the intermediate tracks thus far in 2012 (chart here), and Johnson’s record at Kansas is bested only by Greg Biffle. Along with three pole wins, Jimmie has recorded two wins and nine top 10s in eleven career starts with an average finish of 8.4.
2. Greg Biffle – No surprise here. Over the last two years, the Roush-Fenway Fords own the best average finish at Kansas of any organization, and all three should be a force this Sunday (yes, I’m including Carl Edwards for the first time this year). As I said before, The Biff has the best average finish at Kansas, although it’s not by much of a margin over Five Time. In eleven starts here, Biffle has collected two victories and recorded eight top 10s. His average finish is 8.3. When you take out Greg’s first start here, though–which came back in 2002 where he finished 36th due to an accident–his average finish jumps up to 5.5. It’s hard to go against a team this hot, and I consider The Biff a near lock for a top 5 this weekend.
3. Jeff Gordon – Gordon got his first top 5 of the season last Saturday in Texas and I fully expect this team to go on a little run here and put together a string of great finishes. At Kansas, Gordon generally finishes in the top 5 unless he has a problem or something. Last fall, the #24 looked like a top 5 car for most of the race (check out the Yahoo! chart here) but the engine blew and Gordon finished 34th. Before that, Jeff had a string of five-straight top 5 finishes at this track, and he won the first two races ever ran at this track (in 2001 and 2002). I’m assuming–as it has been like this all year on the intermediates–that Gordon won’t qualify very well on Saturday, but I think we’ll find him up front by the end of the STP 400.
4. Matt Kenseth – As I said before, it’s a intermediate track so of course you should load up on the Roushkateers. What you may not know, though, is that Kansas hasn’t been too kind to Kenseth, and this is actually his fourth-worst track on the circuit. Through twelve career starts here, Matt has recorded six top 10s but has also ended up 30th or worse in five events. His average finish here is 18th. With that being said, however, Kenseth has finished 7th or better in four of the last five Kansas races and has the sixth-best average driver rating on the intermediate tracks this season (chart here).
5. Carl Edwards – Although Cousin Carl hasn’t been running well at all on the intermediate tracks this year, he’s still getting the finishes. He finished 5th at Las Vegas and Fontana and ended up 8th last weekend after starting 20th. It’ll only be a matter of time before we, once again, see the #99 up front week in and week out once again, though, and I’m guessing that will be sooner rather than later. In nine career starts at Kansas, Edwards has an average finish of 10.7 while compiling six finishes of 6th or better. Three of them have came in the last three events.
6. Tony Stewart – I still don’t understand how in the world the #14 Chevy was so bad last week in Texas, but that is in the past and it’s time to focus on Kansas. Smoke has two victories here in twelve career starts–in 2006 and 2009–and has recorded the best average driver rating in the series over the last three events here (117.4). Stewart ended up in 15th here last fall, but that doesn’t really show how good he really was. When you look at his Yahoo! chart from that race (click here) you will find that Tony was running in the top 5 for about half of the race. They may have struggled last weekend, but I fully expect Stewart-Haas Racing to rebound in Kansas.
7. Kevin Harvick – Kevin Harvick has been a solid pick on the intermediates this season–with an average finish of 8th–and he’s one of only three drivers to have a driver rating of at least 100 in all three races (chart here). Here at Kansas, “Happy” owns an average finish of 13.6 in twelve career starts and has finished 11th or better in seven of those races. Kevin finished 6th here last fall and he has ended up in that position on four separate occasions at Kansas Speedway. Harvick owns the seventh-best average driver rating in the last three races at this track (104.7).
8. Mark Martin – I’m not expecting a repeat performance of last weekend in Texas out of the #55 Toyota, but I think Martin will still be good for a top 10, or at least a top 15. He has the seventh-best average finish here (13.1) of anyone in the series with at least seven starts at this track. Martin finished 10th here last fall while driving for Hendrick Motorsports and has finished on the lead lap in 75% of his starts at this track. Consistency is key with Martin and his worst finish here is 25th.
9. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – He hasn’t been extremely flashy on the intermediate tracks this year like his team mates, but Junior still owns the fourth-best average finish (7.7) on them this year (chart here) and the fifth-best average driver rating (103.7) over those three races (chart here). His record here at Kansas causes a bit of a worry, but it’s hard to go against the #88 right now. In twelve starts here, Earnhardt owns an average finish of 17.3 and has recorded five top 10s. He finished 2nd in this event last year but his Yahoo! driver chart (click here) shows that the #88 wasn’t that great. Remember, that was a fuel mileage race. Junior should be top 15 with a good chance at a top 10 on Sunday.
10. Martin Truex, Jr. – I’m starting to consider Truex like Brad Keselowski last year when he went on his hot streak: throw away the past history. In seven career Kansas races, Martin’s best finish has been 11th, and that came back in his first start. Since then, he hasn’t finished better than 16th and has three finishes of 36th or worse in those six starts. However, Truex started 8th in both Kansas races last season and he didn’t look too terrible in the fall event (Yahoo! chart here). The #56 has been the 7th-best car on the intermediates this season in terms of both average finish (chart here) and average driver rating (chart here). I wouldn’t advise going against him, as I haven’t for most of this season thus far.
11. Clint Bowyer – This is the sixth-best track on the circuit for Bowyer and also his home track. It’s a bit concerning for me, though, that’s he’s getting worse on the intermediate tracks as the season goes on (driver rating chart here). He should be a good pick this weekend, though, although don’t hold me to that unless I say that after practice is over. In seven starts at Kansas, Clint owns an average finish of 12th and has recorded five finishes in the top 15. Bowyer has completed all but two laps in his career at Kansas Speedway.
12. Kasey Kahne – I’m starting to get some confidence back in Kahne, finally. He has qualified in the top 5 in all of the intermediate races this season and has gotten progressively better in the finish category as they go, with a 19th at Las Vegas followed by a 14th in Fontana. As you probably remember, Kahne ended up in 7th last Saturday in Texas. At Kansas–as you probably would have expected–he has had his ups and downs. In nine starts, Kahne owns an average finish of 17th with just three top 10s. He was good here last season, though, finishing 14th in this event and ending up runner-up to Jimmie Johnson in the fall after starting 5th.
13. Kyle Busch – One top 10 in nine starts is a good reason to stay away from Rowdy Busch this weekend, but I don’t think he’ll be that terrible on Sunday. I still don’t think he will be great by any means, but the #18 Toyota should still end up in the top 15. In the last four Kansas races, Kyle has three finishes of 12th or better, and he owns the ninth-best average driver rating (95.6) over the last two years here. Busch also started 3rd in both events here last season. Busch has an average finish of 12th on the intermediate tracks thus far in 2012 (chart here).
14. Ryan Newman – As I said before, I expect Stewart-Haas to have a nice rebound from this off-weekend in Texas. Newman started in the top 10 last Saturday, but as you know, he ended up a disappointing 21st (sorry fantasy owners who started him). At Kansas, The Rocketman started off great, finishing 2nd in 2001 and 2002, and he finally won here in 2003. Since then, though, Newman hasn’t been too great. In the last nine Kansas races, Ryan has just one top 10 finish and an average finish of 22.6. I’m thinking top 15 for Newman right now but I could bump him up to the top 10 if he impresses me in practice.
15. Kurt Busch – Here’s my dark horse pick of the week. We all know that Phoenix Racing equipment is in no way great, but if you want to be different than everyone else, go ahead and take a shot with Busch. In the last two intermediate races this year, Kurt has finished 9th (Fontana) and 13th (last week in Texas). He sat on the pole in this event last season and led a race-high 152 laps en route to a solid 9th-place finish. Busch followed that up with a 13th-place finish here last fall, and he has finished in 13th or better in five of the last six events here. He’s not as reliable, but Kurt could surprise people this weekend in the #51 Chevy.
Marcos Ambrose – He ran out of gas last weekend with a lap or two to go and while running 8th, but he had a strong car for the majority of that race (Yahoo! chart here). Ambrose finished 9th here last fall so you may want to keep an eye on him.
Brad Keselowski – In the two events last season, BK finished 1st and 3rd. Sounds good, huh? But let’s look deeper into that. His win came from a fuel gamble, but the Blue Deuce seemed to be in the top 15 for many laps that race (Yahoo! chart here). With his 3rd-place finish last fall, Keselowski looked even better, as you can see from his Yahoo! chart (click here). Brad was doing great until his problems last week in Texas and probably would have had a top 10.
A.J. Allmendinger – Penske Racing as a whole has been good here lately and A.J. has two top 10s in his five career starts at Kansas (in 2008 and 2010). He finished 15th at both Fontana and Texas this season.
Those To Avoid Entering The STP 400:
Jeff Burton – His history at Kansas is a bit concerning and Burton hasn’t been too great on the intermediates this year, both average finish-wise (chart here) and when looking at average driver rating (chart here). In twelve career starts, Jeff has averaged a finish right around 19th and he hasn’t finished better than 18th in his last four starts at this track.
Joey Logano – Sliced Bread may be good for a top 20 finish, but that’s not really what I’m looking for. He ranks 22nd in terms of average finish at the intermediate tracks this year (chart here) and his best finish at Kansas is just 17th, which came back in 2010. He started 4th in that race. That is also Logano’s only top 20 at this race track.
Aric Almirola – For those that play Yahoo! Auto Racing, there’s simply no reason to waste a start on Almirola when you can get close to the same finish out of Casey Mears or David Reutimann. Wait until another short track comes around–or Aric shows something at an intermediate track–before starting the #43 Ford.