Well, ladies and gentleman, my hot streak continued last week at Talladega. I was running inside the top 100 prior to that final caution with the Busch bros, DiBi and Hemric all running inside the top 10. Despite the major wreck ruining most of their days, Denny Hamlin survived by hanging out around the back and finished 3rd and was the best selection of the race with his starting spot while Corey Lajoie continued to be the sleeper on super-speedways scoring another top 10 finish. Now that the craziness of Dega is out of the way, time to move on to a cookie-cutter mile and a half to conclude the Round of 12.
I was kidding above on the cookie cutter 1.5 mile track as Kansas has actually produced solid racing with multiple grooves of late. Brad Keselowski won earlier this season fending off Alex Bowman, his second career win at Kansas to go with 10 top 10’s in 19 career starts. Kevin Harvick has the best average finish among active drivers of 9.81 and has won 3 times at Kansas including 2 of the last 6 races. All in all the driver of the No. 4 has a series-high 855 laps led with 14 top 10’s in 27 races.
Martin Truex Jr. swept at Kansas in 2017 and has been money on these tracks and ripped off back-to-back wins in the opening round of the playoffs, he’s finished inside the top 5 at Kansas in four of his last five races. Chase Elliott is also in a must-win spot this weekend 22 points below the cut-line and has 3 top 10’s in his last 5 Kansas starts, same with his teammate Alex Bowman. Another desperate driver on Sunday will be Clint Bowyer, who sits 24-points below the cut-line searching for his first win at his home track and scored a top 5 earlier this year.
Kansas Opening Odds
-Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. 9/2
-Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott 11/2
-Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano 10/1
-Kyle Larson 11/1
-Denny Hamlin 14/1
-Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Erik Jones 20/1
-Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch 25/1
-William Byron 28/1
-Jimmie Johnson 33/1
-Aric Almriola 50/1
Kansas DraftKings Picks:
Kevin Harvick ($11,000): Harvick’s car failed inspection four times rendering him unable to qualify on Saturday, he starts 40th as a result. Add his career numbers at Kansas, the speed that car has shown (5th fastest in consecutive lap average in final practice) and we have a lock in all builds. Harvick led over 100 laps here in the spring and should get up front in no time.
Denny Hamlin ($10,500): Hamlin was 4th fastest in lap average during final practice and starts 23rd. The Toyota’s were built to race this weekend and all 3 JGR cars are trimmed out ready to go. Hamlin is $300 cheaper than MTJ & $900 less than Kyle Busch. I don’t see a major difference between the three at least for this weekend so I’ll go with the guys that’s the least expensive and starts the lowest.
Clint Bowyer ($8,800): Clint Bowyer heads to his home track in desperate need for a win to advance. He might be able to point himself in, but most likely needs to win. SHR cars have all had speed and starting 21st, Bowyer will return value with a likely finish inside the top 10. Can’t beat this price for a hungry playoff driver.
Joey Logano ($9,800): Logano hasn’t really jumped off the charts in any category, which is why I have him ranked lower, but it’s hard to ignore that 29th place starting position. He’s currently the driver that sits on the cut-line so Todd Gordon will want to get him up front early to score stage points and build cushion. That alone warrants looking at Joey.
Chase Elliott (10,100): The speed hasn’t really been there, surprisingly, for Chase yet this weekend. However he has the results at Kansas to warrant a selection and he needs a great run to advance in this round. Starting 14th mitigates some risk.
William Byron ($8,200): Byron has shown even less speed than his teammates, but does start 25th and will need a great run to keep his playoff run alive. He’s 4th in speed out of the Hendrick camp, but if you have the money is worth taking a shot with starting this low.
Chris Buescher ($6,700): I love this pick. Buescher starts 26th and scored a top 10 earlier this season at Kansas. Week in and week out he finishes ahead of where he starts, to his credit and it’s why he’s landed a job at Roush Fenway next season.
Paul Menard ($6,900): Menard has 5 races left in his career. This weekend might be one of his last real chances to score a good finish. That car was 7th fastest in consecutive lap average during final practice and starts 22nd. I’ll take that all day, especially with that Penske alliance and a 6th-place finish here last year.
Deep Value Plays: Corey Lajoie ($5,900), Ryan Preece ($6,400), Daniel Hemric ($6,600), David Ragan ($5,500): In that order. Lajoie starts 31st and that car hasn’t finished below 23rd in the last 3 Kansas races. Preece has better equipment and starts 28th, but with that hauler accident I have no idea how their equipment will hold up.
Hemric is on the pole, so if you think he’ll score a top 10 and lead laps, roll with the 8. Ragan will make his final Kansas start and on the front-row no less, but that negative place differential will sink a lineup. I’d caution you on using the 8 & 38 but did have to give those two an honorable mention.
Kansas Winner Prediction:
Kevin Harvick: That car just has so much speed and when looking at past results, everything is coming up No. 4. A win here for Harvick sends them into the next round with the upper-hand especially with Texas and ISM coming up in just a few weeks. I’ll take him to win from the rear.