STP 400 Fantasy Preview
I usually use the intro to tell some story about a part of the country I once visited or at least give a cute little anecdote, but I don't have anything this week. I once drove clear across the country and then back on a completely different route, but I've never been in Kansas.
When I went west on I-80, I probably wasn't more than a few miles at some points from the state line while in Nebraska. I kept looking to the south and imagining that Kansas was out there somewhere, like a Holy Grail of the Flatlands (or maybe I was just looking for a way to get out of Nebraska as quickly as possible).
On the journey home, I checked out a map and realized that I-44 ran within about the length of a solid golf drive of Kansas. However, I'd wouldn't get any closer than several hundred feet from the state as I passed through Oklahoma into Missouri near Jamie McMurray's hometown of Joplin.
While I might never have visited to Kansas, it's been a staple of the Sprint Cup Series for the last decade. Completed in 2001, the track is a relatively recent addition to the speedway world. It's 1.5-mile D-shaped oval mimics that of the typical "cookie cutters" of NASCAR. Fifteen degrees of banking in the corners might not be the steepest in NASCAR, but it might be the least flat thing in Kansas. Here at NHMS, where we're hard pressed to find anywhere steeper than 6.9 degrees, it's certainly some noteworthy banking and one that helps it fall in line with the standard intermediate track build for NASCAR.
It's similarities with other tracks made it easy for the best drivers to pick up. Jeff Gordon won the inaugural race and strong drivers like the Jimmie Johnsons and Tony Stewarts of the group all have multiple wins.
Like the consistent level of the surrounding area of the speedway, the predictability of strong finishes should make this track a good one for the fantasy owners that follow the pattern of the Yellow Brick Road. (And, I bet you'd about given up on me putting a "Wizard of Oz" reference in here, didn't you?)
Strategy: Basically exactly what I just stated in the last two paragraphs. Cookie cutter tracks produce cookie cutter finishes. Barring a "that's racing" moment of bad luck, you should know what you're getting with each driver, so pick the ones that do consistently well. If that sounds easy, it should!
#14 Tony Stewart - Stewart has two Kansas wins and has been racing well much of the season. He dipped poorly last week at Texas in finishing two laps off the pace, and this is a similar track, so that raises questions. However, history should have more bearing than a bad week (after all, he won at Texas last fall).
#24 Jeff Gordon - The No. 24 needs to continue to hit the pavement quickly and make up ground in the Cup standings. He should have gotten a top-five before he was taken out at Martinsville and did get a top five last week in Texas. He has eight top-fives in 12 starts at Kansas, so his recent success should continue.
#48 Jimmie Johnson - He won five consecutive championships by owning this track type, as it is very common in the Chase. He leads the field with an 11.2 average finish on intermediates and is second with an average of 8.4 at Kansas. He has two wins and (bonus points alert) three poles at the track.
#18 Kyle Busch - One top-10 in nine Kansas starts and he's struggling this year. If you were hoping for more commentary, go ahead and start him, but you'll likely regret it.
#15 Clint Bowyer - The Emporia, Kan., native tends to finish well at his home track. He only has one top-five and three top-10s in seven starts, but an average finish of 12.0 suggests he's not usually finishing far behind tenth.
#16 Greg Biffle - The Biff has a chance to make it back-to-back wins on the season. His 8.3 average finish at Kansas tops the field, as he has two wins and eight top-10s in 11 starts at the track.
#22 AJ Allmendinger - In a season long effort to find a possible sleeper that the competition is not paying attention to, Allmendinger gets this week's nod. He has two top-10s in five Kansas starts and hasn't been in equipment this good before. He might not be getting any attention this season, but hasn't finished worse than 15th in any of the last three races.
#55 Mark Martin - I was kicking myself for not starting him last week during his third place finish. As I tweeted to Yahoo Expert Dan Beaver, a part time driver like him is "free money" when he's finishing well. A 92.9 driver rating ranks second on the B-List and the 13.1 average finish trails just Biffle and Bowyer in this group.
#39 Ryan Newman - Sure, he's won here, but he seems to have a win at just about every track! Like last week, he doesn't have a strong track record with just four top-10s in 12 Kansas starts and a flat out dismal 64.1 driver rating.
#56 Martin Truex Jr. - Most of his stats are out the window as he's much improved this year, but it's hard (or should I say, easy) to ignore a guy with a 26.3 average finishing position at a track. He has no top-10s in seven starts and there are more reliable options.
#13 Casey Mears - In a more memorable part of his career, he put up two top-fives at Kansas (in a total of 10 starts). He won't get near that this weekend, but in the absence of a whole lot of options, he's one.
#43 Aric Almirola - You save allocations on Almiorla whenever possible so that you have plenty for weeks like this one. He's really the only guy I have any faith in putting out there this weekend.
#34 David Ragan - Do the 35% of Yahoo users with him in their lineup realize that he's averaging a finish of 29th? That's worse than Mears and David Gilliland and tied with Dave Blaney and David Reutimann. He's no longer starting for Roush Fenway Racing, so why is he starting for you!?
The picks in this blog are based around Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game and its standard scoring rules. The preview is designed to provide suggestions, while still encouraging managers to make their own decisions. Once sorted into Yahoo's A, B and C-Lists, they are organized based on car number and not directly associated with a rank value.
You can sign up and play for free, by visiting http://racing.fantasysports.yahoo.com. If signed up, the "Fans of NHMS" group may be joined by clicking here.