Fantasy NASCAR preview: Price Chopper 400

by Eric McClung on September 29, 2010 @ 11:59:00 PDT

 


Starting in 2011, Kansas Speedway will hold two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events per season. That could go a long way in helping drivers get used to one of the newest tracks on the circuit as very few own a consistent resume at the site. This weekend will mark just the 10th Cup race held at Kansas. The setup of the track is 1.5 miles, like many others, but Kansas features the least amount of corner banking. When looking to compare the site to other venues, Kansas is most similar to Chicagoland Speedway. After Kansas, four of the seven remaining Chase races will be held on intermediate tracks. Those that find success in the nation's heartland could have a leg up for the rest of the postseason.

Location: Kansas City, Kan.
Shape: Tri-Oval
Length: 1.5 miles
Laps: 267
Turns: 15 degrees
Frontstretch: 10.4 degrees
Backstretch: 5 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards
Edwards a fine pick at Kansas

Consistency at Kansas and over the last several weeks helps make Edwards a fine fantasy selection. Since 2005, Edwards has four top-10 finishes at the site in five starts, including two top-fives. Over the last 11 races this season, he's finished no worse than 12th with six top-fives and two runner-up performances, including Chicagoland. Mediocre qualifying runs skew some of Edwards' loop data statistics at Kansas, which only mask his value further. Getting a top spot on the grid may not be an issue this week, however. Edwards has qualified 10th or better in six of his last seven attempts, winning two poles. The combination of momentum and past performance at Kansas should have fantasy owners quaking about Edwards this weekend.

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

Among active drivers, Biffle owns the second-best average finish at Kansas (9.0). Since 2003, he has finished no worse than 12th with five top-three finishes, including a win in 2007. Since loop data was introduced in 2005, Biffle has recorded over 97.0 percent of his laps running in the top-15 on three occasions and has never failed to notch an average running position of at least 10th. Last year, Biffle lead a race-high 113 laps and finished third, the fourth time in eight career starts he led over 35 laps at the Kansas. The Biff has been mediocre in recent weeks, which could paint him to be quite a bargain at a track that is among his very best.

Clint Bowyer | No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

As a native of the Sunflower State, Bowyer will surely have the crowd behind him this week. His success at the site isn't a bad reason to start him either. In four career starts, Bowyer has three finishes of 12th or better and was the runner-up in 2007. Earlier this season at the similarly-configured track at Chicagoland, Bowyer finished fourth. The only downside here is the likelihood Bowyer will be without his crew chief and car chief due to punishments handed down for a rules violation following a post-race inspection after winning the Chase opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. While holding onto a bubble spot to make NASCAR's postseason, Bowyer was often backed into a corner and responded in spades. This weekend is shaping up to be no different.

Jamie McMurray | No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet | Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing

In seven career starts at Kansas, McMurray has just two top-10s and an average finish of 21.0 at the site. However, by now we know to throw McMurray's past statistics out the window as his career-reviving season heads into the final stretch. His results on 1.5-mile tracks this season have been mixed, but he won the pole and finished fifth at Chicagoland, the most similar track on the circuit to Kansas. McMurray is something of a boom-or-bust selection this week. Owners playing from behind should reel Jamie Mac into their lineup as his ownership levels will likely be lukewarm.

David Reutimann | No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

If you are using the results from Chicagoland as a baseline for creating your lineup this weekend than you know Reutimann is a very good selection for Sunday. Back in July, the Double Zero won at Kansas' sister track. However, in the nine starts since that second career Cup win, Reutimann has just two top-10s. In last year's race at Kansas, he finished a career-best eighth and spent 99.3 percent of the race running in the top 15. Bad luck has been hard for Reutimann to shake for much of the season; a return to a friendly site could offer some refuge.

Temper your expectations

Jeff Burton | No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Hendrick Motorsports driver Mark Martin
Not out of the woods just yet

Over the last three years, Burton has qualified no better than 34th at Kansas and has finished outside the top 20 on two occasions. While he does have some success on intermediate tracks this season, including a seventh-place result at Chicagoland, Burton has just two top-10s over the last six races. As a driver that is typically among the most started in his tier, Burton is risky start given his unimpressive history at Kansas. A better qualifying run could certainly alter his course, so monitor the situation closing before investing in Burton.

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

In his first three career starts at Kansas, Newman finished second on two occasions and won back in 2003. In six starts since, he has yet to crack the top 15 and has five finishes outside the top 20. This trend is not unlike other intermediate tracks that Newman once excelled on only to stumble again and again at over recent years. While he has started performing more consistently at such sites this year, he's far from a sure thing. In July, Newman finished 22nd at Chicagoland. Since then, he's finished 12th or better seven times in nine starts, including five straight. Owners that are looking ahead will want to reserve Newman for Martinsville Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway, two flat tracks that he has been very successful at recently.

Mark Martin | No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Last week's 12th-place finish was Martin's best since August, but that's not good enough to safely reinsert him into your lineup. However, he could be worth a speculative look in formats that gives rewards to strong qualifying performances. In the last two years, Martin has sat on the front row at Kansas, including securing the pole a year ago. Martin qualified third last week but started from the rear of the field following an unapproved equipment change. After a long and disappointing season, Martin's performance this weekend should be monitored closely. A good run could pave the way for a respectable end to the season, especially on the four remaining intermediate tracks left on the Chase schedule.

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

Since 1.5-mile tracks are Kahne's bread and butter, it may seem odd to suggest sitting him at Kansas. When you consider his struggles over the last several weeks it only makes sense. Over the last nine races, Kahne has just one top-10 and four top-15s. With two cookie-cutter tracks left, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, fantasy owners can use this week as a temperature gauge to see if Kahne is performing good enough to start at those friendlier 1.5-mile venues.

Martin Truex Jr. | No 56 NAPA Auto Parts/Susan G. Komen Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing

Last week was a microcosm of the season for Truex. After a strong run in the early stages of the race, a loose wheel and a broken axle would wipe out any chance he had at recording his sixth top-10 of the season. His history at Kansas has been somewhat similar. Truex has led at least two laps in three straight starts at the site, yet his best finish is 16th. In 2008, he held an average running position of ninth and led 27 laps but finished dead last due to a transmission failure. While there have been some encouraging signs along the way, Truex and his team have not been able to put together solid runs over an entire race. Continue to pass on him until we see otherwise.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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