Daily Fantasy NASCAR: KC Masterpiece 400 Driver Preview
Two of the biggest pillars of driver selection in daily fantasy NASCAR are track history and current form. Knowing where drivers sit on both of those spectrums is going to make our lineups look a whole lot nicer at the end of the race.
By looking at which drivers have excelled at this week's track in the past and those who are currently racing well, we can know which drivers are in line to be good plays for the slate. That's what we're going to try to do today, dividing drivers into those two buckets with noteworthy track history or noteworthy current form.
Clearly, this isn't to say that all of these drivers will be great plays in this race. A lot of that will be dictated by where they start and the scoring history at that track. To read more about what strategies we need to deploy based on starting position, check out this week's track preview.
Later in the week, once qualifying is in the books, we'll go through the top plays for the race based on all of these factors. But which drivers should we be keying on for the time being? Let's check it out.
Here are drivers we should be keeping an eye on for the KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas.
Martin Truex Jr. (FanDuel Price: $12,500): How good was Martin Truex Jr. at Kansas last year? He won the first race in dominant fashion, leading 104 of 267 laps en route to victory. In the second one, he was penalized for an illegal restart, fell all the way to 32nd, still managed to lead 91 laps, and won the dang race anyway.
Truex has had some rough luck this season, posting four straight finishes outside the top 10 prior to last weekend at Dover. But he logged a fourth-place finish there despite dealing with a flat tire early in the race, getting the season back on track. Truex was dominant here last year, and he has six top-five finishes on his ledger for 2018, so he's the man to beat this weekend.
Kevin Harvick ($13,500): Kevin Harvick picked up his fourth win of the season on Sunday, meaning we could plop him down in the current form section. But his record at Kansas is plenty noteworthy by itself.
Harvick has a pair of wins in Kansas, one in 2013 and the other in 2016, to go with 7 top-5 finishes in 24 starts. Harvick's most impressive runs have been his recent ones, with a top-five finish in six of his past nine races and a top-10 average running position in each of his past 10 trips. He's always a threat to lead laps, and with Fords dominating of late, Harvick is worth this lofty price tag.
Kyle Busch ($12,200): It turns out that all of this year's studs happen to be aces in Kansas as well. That's going to make for some fun decisions with lineups.
Kansas used to be a house of horrors for Kyle Busch. In his first 14 races here, he had more finishes outside the top 30 (5) than he had inside the top 10 (2). But the tide has turned dramatically of late as he has 6 straight top-10 finishes, including 5 top-5s and a win. His average running position has been fourth or better in three of the past four races to boot.
Busch has two straight finishes outside the top 10 in 2018, but he had a contending car in Dover before a drivetrain issue ended his day. You'll have to weigh how you view him relative to Truex and Harvick based on practice times, but all three have the juice to post high-upside days on Saturday night.
Ryan Blaney ($11,500): Over the past six races in Kansas, only Busch and Harvick have a better average finish than Ryan Blaney. And his odds of dominating may be higher than you think.
This will be Blaney's first Kansas race with Penske Racing, which is an equipment upgrade from what he had in the past with Wood Brothers Racing. But even in the other car, he had two insanely impressive performances here in 2017.
In the first, Blaney started on the pole, led 83 laps, had an average running position of second, and finished fourth. In the second, he started dead last, still posted a seventh-place average running position, led three laps, and finished third. That's not quite as impressive as what Truex did, but Blaney gave him a run for his money. If DFS players overlook Blaney to go all-in on the studs, be sure to pounce and plug him in liberally.
Matt Kenseth ($9,600): He's baaaaaack. For the first time in 2018, we get to see Matt Kenseth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, taking over what had previously been Trevor Bayne's car on a part-time basis. And Kenseth picked a great track to make his return.
Kenseth has had a top-seven average running position in four of his past five Kansas races. The one time he was outside that mark, he still finished 12th. He led at least 100 laps in the fall race here in both 2015 and 2016.
The question with Kenseth is how well his equipment will perform. Bayne has an average finish of 24.7 this year with no top-10s, and he had just 6 top-10s all of last year. Bayne's teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., though, has a pair of top-fives, so those poor finishes may not have all been the fault of the car. It's best to track Kenseth closely in practice this weekend to see what kind of speed he has and assess him based on that.
Chris Buescher ($6,800): Kansas isn't the type of track where we'd normally use Chris Buescher, instead preferring to deploy him at tracks where equipment matters less. But for some reason, he has been able to overcome those deficiencies in the past here.
Of Buescher's 4 top-10 finishes last year, 1 was in Daytona, which makes sense given that the cars race in packs. But another was in Kansas, and one was in Michigan, a track with wide, sweeping turns, similar to what you'll see this weekend. Buescher's 6th-place finish in Kansas came despite a 20th-place starting position.
Overall, Buescher has four races in his career here, and he has been in the top 25 each time, including an 18th-place finish in the other 2017 race. Buescher had a decent run in Dover, as well, so if he's in position to pick up some place-differential points, we shouldn't hesitate to use him.
Clint Bowyer ($10,200): Kansas is the home track for Clint Bowyer, a native of Emporia, Kansas, but he has just 6 top-10s here in 19 races. His average finish is 16.8. However, we should be able to overlook that with how well he's racing in 2018.
Bowyer led 40 laps last week at Dover on his way to a second-place finish that came despite some issues on pit road. He has now had a top-10 finish in 5 of his past 6 races, the lone exception being in Talladega.
That said, most of Bowyer's biggest successes have come on shorter tracks. Dover's just a mile long, his win was at the short track in Martinsville, and he had top-10s in both Bristol and Richmond. He had a good showing earlier in the year at Atlanta, though, and he was ninth in Texas right after the Martinsville win, so we shouldn't overlook his impressive runs this season. See what types of times Bowyer is putting up in practice and go from there.
Aric Almirola ($9,400): It was in this race a year ago that Aric Almirola was involved in a scary crash that resulted in a broken back, forcing him to miss seven races. But Almirola came back with a ninth-place finish in the fall, and he has carried that strong run over into 2018.
Almirola has finished in the top 15 in 9 of 11 races this season, and he crashed in one of the races where he was outside that range. That was also the only race in which Almirola's average running position was outside the top 15.
The pricing is still reasonable on Almirola at $9,400, which means he can give us a bit of relief if we're trying to jam in the studs. We might need to dip a tad lower for our third slot, but Almirola is running well enough to justify giving him a look.
Daniel Suarez ($9,500): Daniel Suarez got a price bump to $9,500 from $8,300, but he has earned that with some crazy strong runs recently.
Suarez enters Kansas with 4 straight finishes of 11th or better. That includes a third-place finish last week at Dover where he had an average running position of eighth.
Suarez hasn't been as strong on the 1.5-mile tracks (like Kansas) this year, but he did log a seventh-place finish at Kansas in the 2017 spring race. It's possible Suarez is trending up to the point where we can start to trust him even when he isn't in a place to rack up place-differential points.
Paul Menard ($7,900): Heading into last week's race, it looked like Paul Menard could have been a steal for DFS. He had been fast in practice, and his current form wasn't bad. But a tire issue sent him to the garage for 44 laps, effectively ending his hopes.
That doesn't diminish his overall impressiveness this season.
Menard has had an average running position of 12th or better in 3 of his past 6 races and in 5 of 11 races overall this year. Even though this has turned into just 2 top-10 finishes, Menard should be on our radar if he starts toward the middle or the back of the pack.