Mike Forbes examines the Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway!!
After weeks of racing on short tracks and then a quick stop at Talladega the Nascar Cup series drivers head to an intermediate 1.5 mile track in Kansas. Now before I get into the race analysis I have to say that this has to be the worst name for a race I have ever heard. I can’t even say the race name without cringing but I digress.
Last week saw one of the most subdued and interesting races I have seen in a while at Talladega. I am sure Joey Logano would disagree with me after he took a wild ride upside down and nearly landed directly on Bubba Wallace. In the end it was Brad Kesolowski who would take home the checkered flag and join his other Penske teammates as race winners this year.
Now we move onto Kansas and a race with the 550HP engine and downforce package. This is the weekend where we are going to find out if the early season struggles of drivers like Kevin Harvick and the entire Stewart-Haas team are in the past or if they need to do more work to catch up to some of the other teams.
Last year’s champion Chase Elliott is another driver who needs to get back to battling for victories and a track like Kansas provides him with that opportunity. He leads all drivers in recent average finishes with a 6.17 average. He does have a victory here back in 2018 but he hasn’t been at the top of his game this year.
If you would have told me he would have been the last Hendrick driver to win a race in 2021 I would have told you that you were crazy. It’s not like this year has been horrible for him but he hasn’t been in contention as much as he or his team would have liked.
For Chase a strong race here would be a great start towards getting back to where he was at the end of last season. I do not think this is the race where Chase breaks through and takes the checkered flag, but a solid top five would be great for him in terms of confidence.
There are a couple other Hendrick Motorsports drivers who I do think have a much better chance at visiting victory lane Sunday. The first one is Kyle Larson. In his last four races at Kansas racing for Chip Ganassi he has averaged a finish of 7.25. I have often mentioned that he is in much better equipment this year, and by having an engine issue at Talladega last week, he will start 32nd on the grid.
I would expect Kyle to be one of the highest owned drivers in the field Sunday and that is for good reason. The talk leading up to this race has been about how many in the sport expect Kyle to be the class of the field in this race. If indeed he can come up and battle for the win from the 32nd starting position he is well worth a spot at the top of our lineup.
His teammate William Byron has to be one of the biggest surprises of the season. He and his crew chief Rudy Fugle are really in sync and William has been performing above most people’s expectations all season long. His streak of eight straight top 10 finishes is astounding. His statistics in Kansas are not great and his worst finish this season was on a mile and a half track, but that team is getting better each and every week. He starts on the outside pole which isn’t ideal, but he does have a chance to battle for the win at the end of the race.
Since we have talked about all of the other drivers at Hendrick Motorsports we should finish off the spotlight of HMS with discussing the 88 of Alex Bowman. His very first race win was on the 1.5 mile layout that closely mirrors the Kansas Motor Speedway in Chicago. In his last two races in Kansas he has finished 8th and 3rd. I wouldn’t bet on his chances to win but if he somehow ended up in victory lane it wouldn’t shock me. As a fantasy pick he starts 25th, which I absolutely love. I am very bullish on his performance this year even if he doesn’t win. I would not hesitate using him on Saturday.
We talked about how Chase Elliott needs a strong race here but I started off telling you how Kevin Harvick needs to prove something this weekend. This is a track where he should be able to do just that. Now me personally I am going to wait and see him do it before I jump all in on a driver who has just been off this season, but this is a track where we should see Kevin flex some muscle. His recent average finish is second to Chase Elliott.
Kevin needs to lead some laps and be at the front when the race ends to prove that they have found something after a couple of races where they’ve looked better. He starts 4th which does not excite me and the casual fan will most likely look at his statistics and jump all over him this weekend. To me there are some better options to look for at the top of our lineup but I will be very interested in what Kevin can do on Sunday.
Joey Logano who will start 29th for this race won in Kansas the last time the series raced here in the Fall. His finishes in the couple races prior to that were not great however. I like what I have seen from those Penske Ford’s recently and I just feel like Joey has been getting better all season long before he had his crash last week. Starting 29th is easy money when it comes to points that he will gain coming through the field. I really like him from a fantasy perspective this weekend.
Stop me if you have heard this before but Martin Truex Jr has to be a driver to watch this weekend. He didn’t have a great race last weekend and there was even some controversy about whether he should have made it to the pit lane when his tire went down but he will roll off 15th Sunday. Starting 15th for a driver who should be a factor at the end is incredible value. His salaries have been a little higher than I personally would like recently but he has backed it up with his performances if you take out last week. Martin is and should be a target for the top of your lineup.
Ok so I have been telling you for weeks now that Denny Hamlin is going to win the race that weekend. I have been so confident that I have taken him as my favorite in many of the most recent races. When I looked at this race his name once again jumped out at me as a guy I want to target. Denny is going to be rolling off the grid 20th and I couldn’t be more excited from a fantasy standpoint. Before he finished 15th last fall he had won back to back races in Kansas. I think this may REALLY be the week we see Denny back in victory lane and if not you will most likely see this very same paragraph written next week.
There is a driver who has been really good here that isn’t having a great start to the season with his new team and that driver is Erik Jones. In his last six races here his average finish is 7.67 and that includes a 20th last Fall. Now I don’t expect that kind of finish from him this week but we don’t necessarily need that either. He is going to start the race 27th and we do expect him to move up through the field as the race goes on. His salary also makes him a bit of value starting that far back. If we can slide him in the bottom half of our lineups we will be building a really solid lineup this week.
Last week’s winner Brad Kesolowski who will be starting on pole does have a recent race win in Kansas. I like Brad starting on the pole and his finishes last year of 4th and 2nd are enough to get our attention. Brad will put together some fast laps early on but I do not see enough value there for us to use him at the top of our roster.
There are a couple of other drivers who we haven’t talked about but do need to show up and perform this weekend. I am talking about Aric Almirola and his teammate Cole Custer. I started off this article talking about how the entire Stewart-Haas team needs to stand out this weekend. Both Aric and Cole have been impressive on this track in the past. In terms of fantasy production as I stated earlier I need to see it before I believe it. In terms of interest for the rest of the season this weekend will be telling in terms of how we expect the SHR guys to perform all Summer.
The final organization that needs to start to show improvement is Chip Ganassi Racing. Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain’s seasons have been forgettable this year. The fact that we are not seeing the Ganassi teams improving like the rest of the Chevrolet teams has to be concerning for that group. I think we all expected Ross Chastain to struggle but seeing Kurt Busch struggle as bad as he has is concerning both for the team and for Kurt. If we continue to see the other Chevy teams get better while leaving the CGR teams behind you have to wonder what the future of that organization looks like.
Now let’s run through the entire field rankings. (DraftKings salary)
- Kyle Larson ($11,300)
- Denny Hamlin ($10,800)
- Martin Truex Jr ($10,000)
- Brad Kesolowski ($9,700)
- Kevin Harvick ($9,100)
- Joey Logano ($11,100)
- Chase Elliott ($10,400)
- Kyle Busch ($8,600)
- William Byron ($8,800)
- Christopher Bell ($8,000)
- Alex Bowman ($10,200)
- Ryan Blaney ($9,500)
- Aric Almirola ($8,400)
- Kurt Busch ($9,300)
- Austin Dillon ($7,500)
- Erik Jones ($7,800)
- Bubba Wallace ($7,200)
- Matt DiBenedetto ($7,700)
- Daniel Suarez ($6,300)
- Cole Custer ($7,100)
- Tyler Reddick ($6,900)
- Chase Briscoe ($6,000)
- Ryan Newman ($7,400)
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr ($8,200)
- Michael McDowell ($5,800)
- Austin Cindric ($6,700)
- Ryan Preece ($5,600)
- Ross Chastain ($6,500)
- Chris Buescher ($6,100)
- Corey Lajoie ($5,500)
- Justin Haley ($5,100)
- Quin Houff ($4,600)
- Anthony Alfredo ($4,500)
- Joey Gase ($4,900)
- Garrett Smithley ($5,400)
- Cody Ware 9$4,700)
- Josh Bilicki ($5,000)
- BJ McLeod ($4,800)
- Matt Mills ($5,300)
Next let’s get into lineup construction and how we want to go about building our lineups. At the top for me it is going to be Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. I am going to be paying up at the top of my lineup because where these guys are starting it provides us with a ton of value. These two drivers will finish near the top of the grid unless they get caught up in an accident but I have to believe these are the best two values at the top.
Other drivers I would consider up here include Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.
Moving to the middle tier we are going to have to be creative a bit. Erik Jones is a driver I can see using here starting 27th. His price tag is good but remember we can’t expect the same level of success as he had when he was racing for Joe Gibbs. I like Christopher Bell here for 8k as well as Ricky Stenhouse Jr. coming from 23rd for $8,200. If you want to pay down at the top a driver like Kurt busch at $9,300 starting 28th is solid value. I also almost feel like we are being baited into taking Kevin Harvick at $9,100 with all his success here.
At the bottom of our lineup there are some good values. I really like what Daniel Suarez has been doing this year so getting him at $6,300 seems like a steal. Austin Cindric at $6,700 looks good coming from 38th but we have seen that experiment fail in the past. I also like Chris Buescher’s price tag of $6,100. I am torn however on Michael McDowell at $5,800. He once again ran really well on a superspeedway but can he hold his position up front on an intermediate track? If he can that price looks really good. If not he looks like fools gold.
My ideal lineup will look like this.
- Joey Logano
- Martin Truex Jr
- Erik Jones
- Matt DiBenedetto
- Austin Cindric
- Daniel Suarez
Finally for my bets to win Sunday. For my favorite I will once again take Denny Hamlin at 5/1. I feel like I am going to ride the 11 car until they breakthrough for me. Kyle Larson at 4.5/1 isn’t to bad either.
Mid pack I am going with Joey Logano at 12/1. It was between him and William Byron at 16/1 and I may change my mind before the race goes green.
My longshot is Aric Almirola at 100/1. I know this is really a big swing but if he can play some strategy towards the end he may have a chance to steal one here.
For an even deeper dive into the race Sunday watch out for Sean Engel’s article and cheatsheet! You can follow me on Twitter @mikejforbes for updates as they happen this weekend.