Nascar continues its run of 400-mile events this week, moving to Kentucky for the Quaker State 400. Last week’s race, which spent the majority of the day being one of the more exciting races of the season, left a bad taste in the mouth of most DFS enthusiasts. I, for one, was sitting on a huge payday at the end of the 2nd stage, only to see the “big wreck” happen a handful of laps into the final stage, literally taking all six of my drivers out in a single wreck, only to see the race red-flagged seven laps later. Our loss was Justin Haley’s gain as the sometime driver managed his first Cup Series victory. Such is the extreme tilt in DFS Nascar some weeks. Time to put that in our rearview mirrors and get after this week’s event at Kentucky Speedway.
Kentucky Speedways is a 1.5-mile tri-oval which opened in 2000 and was first introduced to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule in 2011. The 72-feet wide asphalt racing surface has a 1,600-foot backstretch with a 17-degree banking in Turn 1 and 2 and a 14-degree banking in Turn 3 and 4. The inaugural race took place in July 2011 and was won by Kyle Busch of JGR. The Kentucky Speedway rules package will mirror the setup used at other 1.5-mile tracks this season — the same package most recently at Chicagoland in the race won by Alex Bowman. The engine will be fitted with a tapered spacer generating an expected horsepower of about 550. Cars will also feature aero ducts.
A Chevrolet driver has never won at Kentucky — only claiming a trio of runner-up finishes. A Toyota team has hoisted the trophy in five out of the eight races at the track. The other three wins were all by Keselowski in a Ford. There are some interesting stats involving Jimmie Johnson and this week’s race. Despite being winless in 2019, Jimmie Johnson boasts the longest active streak of top-10 finishes at 1.5-mile tracks with four. The seven-time Cup Series champion also has the most 1.5-mile wins is NASCAR history at 28. Johnson will make his ninth career start at Kentucky on Saturday night. Remarkably, Johnson has notched his first win at a given track in his ninth respective start there an amazing five times in his career. Could this be the week he breaks out and gets a win? Kentucky has the highest percentage of winners from the pole of any track in the Cup Series with 37.5% of pole-sitters taking the checkers in the short 11-year history of the track.
The playoff race continues to heat up. Here are the players not yet locked into the championship as they sit heading into Kentucky. Everyone above the line is currently in, while those below are on the bubble (with points behind the final playoff position shown).
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Suarez -3 (Pts behind making the final playoff spot)
What all this means, as the regular season is coming into the home stretch, is that drivers are going to start getting aggressive. Especially any driver near that cut line. Bowyer and Newman are in as of now, but separated only by a single point. This information alone will not dictate our lines moving forward, but it’s something we want to keep an eye on.
A couple of other stats I want to point out just because they may or may not make the write-up…Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman (7.8), Chase Elliott (8.2), Jimmie Johnson (8.4) and William Byron (10.6) rank second, third, fourth and ninth, respectively, in average finish among all drivers that have competed in the five races at 1.5-mile tracks with the aero ducts and 550 horsepower rules package this season. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has finished 12th or better in the last three races at 1.5-mile tracks and has a 10.0 average finish in the five that used the aero ducts.
Past winners entered this week are Keselowski (3), Kyle Busch (2), and Truex (2). As always, my articles are directed at DK gpp formats, but I will be around in chat to discuss FD options and cash plays for those players interested. Let’s get to it.
Logano is atop the list of drivers at intermediate tracks in 2019. He has consistently dominated on this track type and is a favorite heading into this week’s race. Logano has a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at the last three races on this track type. At Kentucky Logano is top ten good historically in incident free races. Last year, he finished 10th. In 2017, he finished 8th. In 2016, Logano ran up front until a wreck eventually took him out of contention. Logano has been good…not great…at Kentucky with five top 10s in eight starts. Logano had the 8th best 10 lap average in happy hour and rolls off 11th on race day.
Keselowski has been one of the top drivers this year at 1.5-mile tracks. Minus Texas, Keselowski has a 5.6 average finish and a 9.0 average running position. Keselowski has dominated Kentucky Speedway in general, picking up three career wins in eight starts. Keselowski was the inaugural winner following reconstruction of the speedway. Last year, when the checkered flag waved, he finished 3rd, having led 38 laps. In 2017, Keselowski wrecked, after racing up front early. In 2016, Keselowski took home the victory. In addition to winning, he earned the second-best driver rating, had a 5th place average running position and led 75 laps. Keselowski sat near the top of the speed charts all week in practice, and despite starting up front, is a solid play this week.
Buescher is in the middle of a career year. He’s competitive weekly and has run in or near the top ten many times in 2019. In 2 of the last 3 races at 1.5-mile tracks, he’s finished in the top ten. He has a combined 13.5 average finish at intermediate tracks this year. At Kentucky, Buescher has finished in the 20’s every race. Last year, Buescher finished 23rd. In 2017, he finished 16th. He’s run much better in 2019 and I would expect a mid-teen result with a chance at another top ten on Saturday. He starts 26th and presents a great opportunity to save some salary and generate some positional points.
Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has back to back wins at Kentucky, and is the clear favorite heading into this weeks’ race. He’s won the last two races here while dominating the competition in doing so. He has the best driver rating, the best average finish, the best average running position, and has led the most laps here while racing to the checkers in those events. Last year at Kentucky, he started first, finished first, won the first two Stages, and led 174 laps. In 2017, Truex dominated the entire field, at times racing with a 1/3 lap lead on 2nd place. He won both stages that day as well and led 152 laps along the way. Truex has been strong again this year at intermediate tracks, having turned in a good race at Charlotte recently, leading 116 laps on his way to victory. Truex surprisingly wasn’t near the top of the speed charts in practice, yet he’s been in this spot before in 2019, only to charge to the front on race day. He starts 8th and we’ll need some dominator points for him to pay off salary this week.
Busch has a 5.5 average finish in incident free races on this track type in 2019. Rowdy has a great Kentucky history as well. He’s a two-time winner who sports a 5.0 average finish. He has the 2nd best driver rating, and a 4.0 average running position in races since the reconfiguration here. Last year at Kentucky, Busch finished 4th and had a 5th place average running position. In 2017, he started on the pole and finished 5th, while having a 3rd place average running position, and leading 112 laps. In 2016 at Kentucky, he finished 12th. Keep this in mind…he has earned less than 20 points in two of his last three 1.5-mile starts. I debated not using Busch in my article this week, but he starts 10th and that leaves room for positional points as well as possible dominator points.
Bowman continues to be one of the hottest drivers in Nascar and should be on everyone’s radar on a weekly basis moving forward. Over the last three combined races at intermediate tracks his 3.3 average finish ranks as the best in the series. He ran strong again last week at Daytona before the big wreck and abbreviated finish. Bowman’s record at Kentucky isn’t good, but he only has a single race on this current configuration, and he wrecked in that event. His last three starts on 1.5-mile tracks have yielded no finish worse than seventh and an average of 45 points per race. He struggled a bit with handling in practice, so use with caution.
Jones has been good the last several races and is now firmly on my radar most weeks. He has a 6.5 average finish here in his two Kentucky starts. Last year, Jones started 2nd, and finished 7th. In 2017, he finished 6th, and had an 8th place average running position. This year at intermediate tracks, Jones has been fast and minus Charlotte, he has a 6.8 average finish. He rolls off 21st and that screams “roster me”.
Elliott ran well again last week and has come on strong in recent intermediate races as well. Over the last four races at this track type, his 8.0 average finish is 3rd best. Last year at Kentucky, his lucky number was 13. He finished 13th, had a 13th place average running position and earned the 13th best driver rating. In 2017, he finished 3rd, and had an 8th place average running position. In 2016, Elliott wrecked while running in the top ten. Elliott enters Kentucky with the second-most points earned on 1.5-mile tracks. Elliott was among the top 15 drivers in happy hour 10 lap averages, and his 20th place starting position is hard to pass up.
Other drivers I like are Harvick, Tifft, Blaney, Johnson, and Larson.
Salary-savers this week are Tifft, Bubba Wallace, and Ragan, though I would use all three with caution.
Dominator potentials this week are Keselowski, Harvick, Truex, and Kyle Busch.
Movers this week are Elliott, Bowman, Larson, Jones, and Buescher.
Fades for me this week are Suarez, Hemric, and Austin Dillon.
My pick to win the race this week is Keselowski. He’s been dominant here in recent races since the reconfiguration, and while he’s not great value for DFS purposes, he’s still a solid play, and a good pick if you’re picking a winner somewhere.NASCAR