Fantasy NASCAR preview: Price Chopper 400

by C.J. Radune on September 30, 2009 @ 00:00:00 PDT

 


Like its sister track, Chicagoland Speedway, Kansas Speedway hosted its first race in 2001. As a result of the track having almost no banking in the back and front stretches, the car setup is similar to the setups used on flat tracks like Pocono Raceway and Indianapolis. Downforce is a key factor. Engine attrition can be a concern, as the cars run high RPMs and long green flag runs are common. Incidents are most likely to occur upon entering the turns. Drivers carry a lot of speed out of the straightaways into the turns, and a loss of control can mean a hard hit into the wall.

Since the race take place in the fall, the weather is not as brutal as it could be in the summer. The engines will still be tested to their limits, though. Handling on the flat track is always a concern, too, so the teams that can best adjust a car's settings through the race will have an opportunity to distinguish themselves from the rest of the field. Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson won the last Kansas Speedway race in 2008.

Location: Kansas City, Kan.
Shape: Tri-oval
Length: 1.50 miles
Laps: 267
Turns 1-2: 15 degrees
Turns 3-4:
15 degrees
Front stretch: 10.4 degrees
Back stretch: 5 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M/Sherwin Williams Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Biffle hasn't had the smoothest start to his Chase for the Championship effort, but it wasn't a complete train wreck. He finished ninth in the Sylvania 300 and then 13th in last weekend's AAA 400, and hasn't finished outside of the top 15 for over a month. Kansas Speedway should be Biffle's chance to make a big impact on the Chase. His average finish in the last five races there is 4.2. Biffle runs extremely well on the flatter tri-ovals and Kansas Speedway is no exception. Biffle, with his recent consistency and strong Kansas resume, should be a top fantasy option this weekend.

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 DeWalt Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Matt Kenseth, NASCAR
Kenseth turning things around

Kenseth finished third in the AAA 400 last weekend - his first top-five since the Autism Speaks 400 in May. Kenseth holds down 13th position in the points, making him the top racer outside of the Chase. Kansas could bring more luck to Kenseth when considering his past statistics. His average finish in his last five Kansas races is 17.0, thought it includes two top-five results. In eight career starts at the track, he has taken home a pole, two top-fives and three top-10s.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. | No. 88 National Guard/AMP Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Things have finally started to fall in place for Earnhardt after one of the worst starts to a season of his career. While he still lacks consistency, he is scoring some good results, and Kansas will present a good opportunity for Earnhardt to get another top result. While he has never won at the track, his average finish in the last five Kansas races is 15.2 with three top-10 finishes. His Kansas statistics are strong and Earnhardt should use his experience at the track to make himself a viable fantasy option for most owners this weekend.

Casey Mears | No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Mears hasn't had much to smile about this season. He has just three top-10 finishes to his credit so far, and he ended the last five races 13th or worse. Kansas Speedway may give Mears a reason to hope for better, though. His career average finish at the track is 13.8 in six starts. Mears' best finish at the track was second in the 2006 Banquet 400, and he has only finished outside of the top 20 there twice. Mears could be a decent gamble this weekend at Kansas as he tries to round the season off and chalk up a few more top-10s or perhaps a top-five.

Elliott Sadler | No. 19 Best Buy Dodge | Richard Petty Motorsports

This year has been another rough one for Sadler. After nearly losing his seat before the season began, he has garnered one top-five and four top-10 finishes to his credit. Kansas Speedway has been pretty good to Sadler in the past, though, and perhaps he can squeeze one more top finish in before the season closes. His average finish in the last five Kansas races is 14.8, but he scored back-to-back top-10 finishes in the last two efforts. Sadler, while nowhere near a solid fantasy driver on most tracks this season, could be a decent sleeper option at Kansas. He might be worth a shot if qualifying goes his way.

Temper your expectations

Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

Matt Kenseth, NASCAR
Don't expect much from Busch this week

Busch has been consistently good since the Chase began. He has been good all year as well. The past three races have all turned in top-10 finishes for the driver looking for his second Sprint Cup. Kansas Speedway has historically been a slow patch for Busch, though. His average finish in the last five Kansas races is 17.2. Busch has also only tallied two top-10 results in eight career starts at the track. He has been a solid driver all season, and is definitely a consideration for nearly any race, but expecting his fourth top-10 finish in a row may be expecting too much from the Las Vegas native.

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Hamlin finally got the second win he was looking for in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 two weeks ago, and he backed it up with another second-place finish a week later. Unfortunately, he struggled at Dover International Speedway and finished 22nd. The Price Chopper 400 may be another weak outing from Hamlin, too. In four career Kansas Speedway starts, Hamlin has never finished in the top-10. His best finish at the track was 11th in last year's Camping World RV 400. His career average Kansas finish is 22.5 with an average qualifying result of 16.8. Hamlin doesn't scream out to be a starter in the fantasy world this weekend, and owners should think twice before relying on him.

Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Dodge | Richard Petty Motorsports

Kahne has shown speed and determination this season but has struggled to display some consistency. His last four results range from a win to a DNF. Consistency is necessary to be considered a serious Chase contender and also a solid fantasy option. Kansas has presented issues for Kahne in the past, though he does have one top-10 result to his credit there in five career attempts. His career average Kansas result is 18.8. Kahne's inconsistency and scattered past Kansas performances make him a fairly weak fantasy option this weekend. Save him for next weekend when the series visits Auto Club Speedway and his average finish jumps much higher.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Yet again, Busch is a driver that fantasy owners should never overlook, however Kansas is not one of his top venues. Outside of stumbling last weekend, Busch has been on a tear recently. Even without that stumble he would still have a lot to overcome to turn around his history at Kansas Speedway. His average finish in five career tries is 26.8 with an average qualifying position of 20.6. His best Kansas result was seventh in the 2006 Banquet 400; other than that, he hasn't finished better than 21st.

Ryan Newman | No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Newman put together a string of five top-10 finishes in the last five races. He is seventh in the Chase for the Championship standings and running consistently well. Kansas Speedway has been a bit of a bogey for Newman lately, though. After scoring three-straight top-two finishes in his first three tries at the track, his results have severely suffered. His average finish in the last five Kansas races is 27.8. Based on that average, and a best finish of 16th in that span, Newman does not rise to the top of fantasy choices for the Price Chopper 400.

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About C.J. Radune

Radune has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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