NASCAR Mercifully returns to the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks after last week’s wild card Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. If you had more than one active driver running at the end of the show, you probably made up ground on the competition – and if three of your drivers finished on the lead lap, then you should have topped your league.
Recall that we suggested ignoring all of the top-ranked drivers. The top 10 in terms of raw strength all finished outside the top 20 last week with the single exception of Martin Truex Jr.
Turning to the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, it is time to top-load the roster once more with the marquee drivers.
Drivers know how to put one bad race behind them, especially when all of their competitors were hit with the same hardship. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch remain the only two drivers to win on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks. Truex has finished second to one of them in two of the last three races. He won six times on this track type last year. If you are playing in the NASCAR America Fantasy Live game where the allocations reset every 10 races, start all three. If you have to choose in other leagues, go with Busch because he is the only driver who has swept the top 10 on these tracks in 2018 and has two previous wins at Kentucky.
Brad Keselowski has a knack for Kentucky. Along with Busch, he is the only other multiple winner on this track with victories in 2012, 2014, and 2016. All of these came in even-numbered years, so Fantasy Owners can overlook his 39th from last season. On the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year, he’s come close to winning twice with a second in the QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway and a fourth in the Coke 600.
Larson’s spectacular closing argument at Chicagoland Speedway two weeks ago served notice that he is going to be a force in need of reckoning. While he got a little over-aggressive on the last lap in the Windy City, that was a culmination of a near sweep of the top 10 on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this season. His only stumble this year came at Texas Motor Speedway. Last summer, he finished second to Truex in the Quaker State 400.
Joey Logano or Denny Hamlin
Joey Logano has been another of the dominant drivers on this track type. He has only one top-five in the last seven races, but he’s finished outside the top 10 only once and that makes him a safe pick.
Denny Hamlin is a little less safe, but has a greater upside. Dating back to the 2017 Coke 600, he has earned nine top-fives and a seventh in 12 races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks. Two of his worst finishes came this year, however, with a 17th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and a 34th at Texas. He needs an error-free race in order to get another top-five.
Everyone thought Erik Jones’s first win would come on a similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track. He scored three top-10s on them last year, Joe Gibbs Racing has an impeccable record on them with Kyle Busch behind the wheel, and this seems to fit Jones’ driving style. In six races this year, he scored four top-10s and an 11th. Even if he misses, it will not be by a wide margin.
Matt Kenseth deserves attention this week and could be put in your garage if he practices well. He has a setup in mind at Kentucky that obviously works because he swept the top 10 in the first six races with a win in 2013. That victory came in a race that was rain delayed until Sunday, however, which coupled with a 17th last year and the general struggles of Roush-Fenway Racing keeps him from being a guaranteed pick.
With so many top-fives on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year, it seemed like a good chance that Chase Elliott would challenge for his first Cup win on this course type. He barely finished 10th at Atlanta Motor Speedway to start the season and has not scored top-10 since. He hasn’t been terrible with three top-15s, but he is not going to help win your league.