Another scheduled race under the lights this weekend in the bluegrass state. After last weekend in Daytona was washed out for much of the weekend and the race was pushed to Sunday and eventually rain and lightening shortened, the drivers and teams will be hoping for sunshine in Kentucky this weekend.
Where do we begin with last week’s race at Daytona? My pick Brad Keselowski sent a clear message in practice not lifting, and that message was received by most of the field and most took his advice and went the same way which created chaos. Add to that the threat of lightening at the end and all hell broke loose. Keselowski was running near the front all day until he was victim of another driver not lifting when Kevin Harvick ran into the back of him and sent him into the outside wall, ending his day.
On lap 120 “The Big One” occurred when Austin Dillon tried to block Clint Bowyer at the front of the field which sent the 3 car around and back into the mass of cars running together, collecting a total of 18 cars and delaying the field. Kurt Busch, William Byron & Jimmie Johnson were among the front cars that skated through the wreck and were in prime position to win the race. Those teams opted to hit pit road before what would likely be the final green flag run of the day, when lightening hit and forced the field to come down pit road and cover up. Justin Haley, in the No. 77 of Spire Motorsports, stood out under caution and was the leader. When another bolt of lightening struck inside the area, and rain shortly ensued, NASCAR called the race and a first-time winner was crowned.
Long story short, everyone missed on their picks last week because of the chaos. At one point I was in solid shape with 5 of my 6 drivers running in the top 10, before the big one took everyone out and shook things up. In fact, in one of the big DK tournaments I was in, the winning lineup had Haley, JJ Yeley, Brendan Gaughan, Michael McDowell, Landon Cassill and Matt Tifft. Give me a break.
First things first when looking at Kentucky, your standard 1.5-mile track, there’s three names to circle and one that stands out above the rest. Martin Truex Jr. has won back-to-back races at Kentucky leading over 150 of 267 laps in both races and has arguably been the best driver of late with already 4 wins in the bank this season. Teammate Kyle Busch won the inaugural Cup Series race at Kentucky in 2011 & again in 2015 and while he’s yet to win on a 1.5 mile this season, already has 4 wins as well and is due for another. Busch also has the best average finish in his career among all drivers at Kentucky at 5.00 and has 7 top 10’s (including 6 top 5’s) in his 8 career starts at Kentucky. Brad Keselowski is the active wins leader at Kentucky with three (’12, ’14, ’16) and has 6 top 10’s in his 8 career starts there.
Looking at the results on the intermediate tracks this season, Brad Keselowski has two wins of the 6 races while Truex, Hamlin, Logano and Bowman each have one a piece. Kes has 4 top 5’s in the 6 races, while Truex, Busch, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch all have scored a top 10 or better in 4 of the 6 races run on the bread-and-butter tracks this season. We’ll have a better understanding of which cars have unloaded with speed of the 6 to really keep an eye on at the mile-and-a-halves this season. Consecutive 10-lap average will be a key this weekend much like always again.
Kentucky Opening Odds:
-Martin Truex Jr. 7/2
-Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick 5/1
-Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano 8/1
-Chase Elliott 10/1
-Kyle Larson 12/1
-Denny Hamlin, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney 20/1
-Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson 25/1
-Aric Almirola, William Byron 40/1
-Daniel Suarez, Austin Dillon 60/1
Kentucky DraftKings Picks:
Brad Keselowski ($10,000): I’m all over the 2 car this weekend at Kentucky. The active wins leader already has two wins on 1.5 mile tracks this season and was fastest in final practice and top-5 in consecutive lap averages for both practices. Yep.
Chase Elliott ($9,700): Elliott had a top 5 run at Kentucky a few years back and is poised for a bounce back performance after a few disappointing races. He was top 10 in speed for final practice, top 5 in lap average and rolls off 20th. That’s chalk in place differential standards.
Denny Hamlin ($9,100): The numbers for Hamlin have been good this season, not quite the same as his two teammates, but this weekend I rank him ahead of the other two on speed and based on where he starts. Hamlin starts 18th and was 3rd fastest in opening practice and also was top 5 in both sessions in consecutive lap average. Lock in the 11.
Kyle Larson ($9,500) & Kurt Busch ($9,300): I’m high on both the Ganassi Cars this weekend. Busch was fastest in opening practice, while Larson was inside the top 10 for both sessions. I’ll tend to always lean towards the guy starting lower in the field, so that’s Larson starting 19th vs. Busch in 4th, but both these cars should finish inside the top 10 and contend at points.
Erik Jones ($8,900): Jones is driving for JGR, so he will have speed, has back-to-back top 10’s at Kentucky, was top 10 in both practice sessions and in lap average for final practice. Starting 22nd as long as he keeps that car off the wall he should return some nice value!
Top Value Plays: William Byron ($7,500), Chris Buescher ($7,300), Bubba Wallace ($5,500), Corey Lajoie ($5,300), Daniel Hemric ($6,300)
Kentucky Winner Pick:
Brad Keselowski – For all of the reasons above plus his crew chief calling the race on the box. We saw it come down to fuel mileage in the truck race and pair that with how this team has run at Kentucky, it’s hard to bet against Brad.