The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back at Kansas Speedway this weekend, and Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 will be the ninth race of the season at a mile-and-a-half track. All season long, I have been enjoying success at the 1.5-mile tracks by sticking with the big names, and I have no plans on changing things up this weekend.
For Fantasy Live, this means including at least a couple members of the Big 3, if not all three. If you want to try to gain some ground in case any of them have trouble, I recommend going with someone other than the Big 3 for your garage spot. I’m going with Ryan Blaney, but Joey Logano and Aric Almirola also look like intriguing alternatives. I’m also sticking with the obvious options for my non-playoff options.
In the Driver Group Game, your ability to load up your lineup with big names is dependent on whether or not you have saved starts. If you have, this is definitely a track where you want to be aggressive and use up the starts you do have left.
For Slingshot Fantasy Auto, I’m not chasing place differential points. Big names tend to dominate the 1.5-mile ovals, so I don’t mind rostering multiple drivers starting up in the Top 10. I’ll jump on any big names starting deep in the field (Kyle Larson), but I am not just going to take fliers on any driver starting in the back.
Check out all my season-long fantasy NASCAR picks for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, and good luck in the final race of the Round of 12.
NASCAR.com Fantasy Live
Kevin Harvick (Playoff)
He has been the man at the 1.5-mile ovals all year, and Kansas has always been one of his best tracks. He finished second in both stages and went to victory lane here back in May, and he has seven finishes of third or better in the last 10 races Kansas, winning three times. Harvick qualified second, and he showed tons of long-run speed in race trim Saturday. A dominant day could be on tap.
Kyle Busch (Playoff)
Busch has been the model of consistency at the 1.5-mile ovals this year, finishing in the Top 10 in all eight races and posting a series-best 4.1 average finish in those starts. He has also reeled off seven straight Top 10s at Kansas, leading a race-high 112 laps in the fall race last year and finishing first and fifth in the two stages. Busch also earned points in both stages in the May race at Kansas this year. Starting seventh with a car that was fast on long runs, I’m expecting plenty of stage points.
With six finishes of 11th or better in the eight races at 1.5-mile tracks, including a seventh-place finish at Kansas in May, Jones was already on my radar coming into the weekend. After he qualified sixth and ranked second in both practices Saturday, he’s an easy choice for one of my non-playoff spots.
Yes, he is inconsistent, but Hamlin also has arguably the highest ceiling of any of the non-playoff drivers currently available. He has back-to-back Top 5 finishes at Kansas, finishing third and first in the two stages last fall and picking up points in Stage 1 of the May race this year. He starts ninth this weekend, and he ranked in the Top 10 in 10-lap average speed in Happy Hour. Hamlin could be headed for some more stage points Sunday.
Garage Driver – Ryan Blaney (Playoff)
I considered Martin Truex Jr. and Aric Almirola, but I went with Blaney because of the speed he has shown this weekend and the speed he’s shown at Kansas in the past. He starts fourth, and he cracked the Top 10 in both practice sessions Saturday. He also finished in the Top 5 in both races at Kansas last year, and he finished first and third in the two stages of the May race before getting caught up in a late wreck. I want him available in case he piles up stage points again Sunday.
Fantasy Racing Cheat Sheet Driver Group Game
Kevin Harvick (A)
Any of the Big 3 would make sense this weekend, but Harvick won at Kansas in May and has seven finishes of third or better in the last three races at the track. He also qualified on the front row, and most of the competition felt he had the best car in race trim Saturday. Unless he has some type of bad luck, he looks like a lock to contend for the win.
Ryan Blaney (B)
Blaney has shown Top 5 upside at the 1.5-mile tracks all year, and Kansas has been one of his strongest tracks for a while. He has four Top 10s in seven starts here, including a pair of Top 5s last year. Blaney led more than 50 laps and won Stage 1 in the May race before crashing late, and after a Top 5 qualifying effort, I think he has a shot at the win Sunday.
Erik Jones (B)
He has been solid at the mile-and-a-half ovals all year, finishing 11th or better in six of the eight races. Jones finished seventh at Kansas back in May, and he looks to have won of the cars to beat this weekend after qualifying sixth and ranking second in both practice sessions Saturday. A Top 5 run isn’t out of the question.
Chris Buescher (C)
I wanted to save Alex Bowman for the flat tracks still to come, which leaves with me Buescher for this weekend’s race. He’s been hit and miss at the 1.5-mile tracks this year, but he does have three Top 15s. Buescher also had a surprise Top 10 run at Kansas last year. I’m not expecting him to sniff the Top 10 Sunday, but I’m hoping he can sneak into the Top 20.