FANTASY: Lighting Up Kansas
5-Hour Energy 400 Fantasy Preview
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Kansas Speedway will host its first-ever night race this Saturday. The track first opened in 2001 and held its inaugural Sprint Cup Series race on Sept. 30 of that year. In 2011, it was awarded a second Cup date, and this year, one of those dates will be run at night.
Night racing always brings an added level of excitement to the Sprint Cup Series. There's something about racing under the lights that brings out the inner-crazy in people that are already crazy enough to enjoy driving at 200 mph.
Just look at the NASCAR schedule for some of its wildest races: Richmond always seems to set off fireworks; Darlington's unique track layout combined the lights seems to make for a ticking time-bomb of emotion; and the event at Bristol is often referred to simply as the Night Race because it's such a spectacle to behold.
Kansas will be the next on the list to lower the sun and turn up the heat. Let's take a look at which drivers might be the first to win a Kansas night race:
The 1.5-mile tri-oval of Kansas Speedway could be used in a dictionary for a photo of a NASCAR "cookie-cutter." The track has banking in the turns between 17-20 degrees, which is about the average for a track layout in NASCAR that's also considered average. Of course, average doesn't mean boring. Drivers are so familiar with this type of track that things can get pretty racy, especially under the lights.
The night could affect this race. Teams don't have any information about whether or not the car will respond differently under the lights as opposed to the day. If the cars are off by a little, that might throw a wrench (quite literally) in the setup and require tinkering throughout the race.
Cookie-cutters tend to be the least risky tracks to start the elite drivers on their respective Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing lists. Managers should go with the best at Kansas. Also, note that four of the 16 Kansas races, including the last two, have been won from the pole. Qualifying will be important.
- #20 Matt Kenseth - He won this race last year, as well as the previous race at the track (Oct. 2012). Kenseth has yet to find victory lane in 2014, but has been pushing hard enough that he should break through soon.
- #24 Jeff Gordon - He won the first two races at Kansas in 2001 and '02, but hasn't won at the track since. It certainly hasn't been for a lack of trying as he has a total of nine top-fives in 16 career starts at the track.
- #48 Jimmie Johnson - The winless start to season has just about run its course for the No. 48 team. Johnson has a robust 19 wins at the next four tracks on the schedule. That starts with Kansas, where he has two wins and his 7.5 average finish is the only top-10 average among active drivers.
- #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. - With just one top-five in 15 starts at Kansas, this isn't a good week to start Junior.
- #2 Brad Keselowski - It's unclear which weeks Brad is going to run top-five all day and which he's going to find trouble and finish 38th. So far in 2014, all four of his top-10s have been top-five finishes, yet he's put up two finishes of 38th. With four top-10s in eight Kansas starts, he'll hope for a positive in this race.
- #16 Greg Biffle - Kansas ranks as one of Biffle's best tracks and one of his best chances to punch a ticket to the Chase. He's won twice at the track with seven top-fives in 15 starts.
- #43 Aric Almirola - Looking for a sleeper this week? Almirola has back-to-back top-10 finishes at Kansas and led 69 laps before a crash in the race previous to those two.
- #99 Carl Edwards - He's never won at Kansas, but with nine top-10s in 13 starts at the track, it seems like a matter of time.
- #31 Ryan Newman - In his first three races at Kansas, Newman finished second, second, and first, respectively. His only top-10 in the 13 races since was a ninth in 2010. Whatever he had, he's since lost at the track.
- #55 Brian Vickers - With just one top-10 at Kansas in nine starts, Vickers doesn't seem like a good pick in this one.
- #12 Ryan Blaney - Any time there's a competent part-timer in solid equipment on the C-list, he garners attention. Blaney is one of the bright young drivers in the sport and the Penske Racing cars have been rocketships this year.
- #42 Kyle Larson - He gets a slight nod over Austin Dillon because he's looked strong on the intermediates this year, including a fifth at Texas and eighth at Darlington.
- #10 Danica Patrick - She's currently owned in 20% of Yahoo! Fantasy leagues. That's probably a reflection of people that selected her with the expectation that she'd perform well in the restrictor plate race at Talladega (which she did). It's time to back her out of the lineup. She's crashed in two of her three Kansas starts and finished 25th in the third.
Drivers are listed by car number and not necessarily rank order.
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