Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Hollywood Casino 400

by Eric McClung on October 5, 2011 @ 13:42:56 PDT


One of the newer venues in NASCAR, Kansas Speedway will host its second of two Sprint Cup Series races this Sunday. While the track is 1.5 miles in length, like many others on the circuit, Kansas features a shallow amount of corner banking. Those looking for the best comparison should turn to Chicagoland Speedway, which opened the Chase. After next year's spring race, the track will be repaved in time for the postseason event. The new-look Kansas circuit is set to feature variable banking of 18-20 degrees in the corners.

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

Drivers to keep an eye on

Kurt Busch | No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

At first glance, the elder Busch brother may not be an obvious pick for Kansas. In 11 career starts, he's recorded only three top-10s and is without a top-five finish. However, Busch qualified on the pole in June and led 152 of 267 laps, holding a race-high average running position of third. In addition, he's qualified fifth or better in all three Chase events thus far and is coming off a victory at Dover International Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

Since loop data was introduced in 2005, Johnson has never saw his average running position drop below 12th at Kansas in seven starts. In that span, the five-time defending championship has a victory, a runner-up performance and a total of six top-10s. After entering Dover 10th in points, his second-place finish, highlighted by a race-high 157 laps led, saw Johnson jump five positions in the standings.

Brad Keselowski | No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing

Although Keselowski won earlier this season at Kansas on fuel mileage, he held a respectable average running position of 12th and has been a house of fire in recent months. Until power steering issues left Keselowski to finish 20th last week at Dover, he had recorded nine straight top-12s with a pair of wins, two runner-up performances and a total of six top-fives. In the Nationwide Series, Keselowski has finished third and second the last two years at Kansas.

Jeff Gordon | No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

After winning the first two Cup races ever held at Kansas, Gordon has gone winless at the site but has added six top-fives in nine starts, including five straight. In just the last four, his average running position has been seventh or better. After entering the Chase third in points, Gordon has dropped to ninth due to a pair of postseason finishes outside of the top 10. If Gordon is to get back into the hunt, it will start at Kansas.

Clint Bowyer

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

If not for running out of fuel at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Bowyer would likely own a top-10 finish in each Chase race thus far. After missing the cut to qualify for the postseason there have been strong indications Bowyer is heading to Michael Waltrip Racing. In addition, RCR swapped his pit crew with teammate Kevin Harvick for the second straight postseason. Despite all the noise surrounding him, Bowyer has remained very competitive. The native of Emporia, Kansas has somewhat mediocre numbers on his home track with a career average running position of 16.3, good for 13th among all drivers. However, recent momentum suggests Bowyer could play spoiler once again.

Greg Biffle | No. 16 Sherwin-Williams Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

For those playing from behind in their league, Biffle could be the Hail Mary to get them back into the mix. Since 2003, he's collected a pair of wins, four other top-three finishes and has not finished outside of 12th in nine straight. Those impressive numbers are no fluke as Biffle's career average running position of 6.6 at Kansas is the best among all drivers. Currently 15th in points, Biffle could prove to be a top-notch value thanks to rock-bottom ownership.

David Ragan | No. 6 UPS "We Love Logistics" Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

Back in June, Ragan finished 13th at Kansas and matched a career-best average running position of 12th. Over the last four races of the season, Ragan has three finishes of 11th or better, including at Chicagoland. In fact, he's been a fairly dependable option on intermediate tracks for much of the season. Strongly consider Ragan as your bottom-tier driver.

Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing

Since 2005, Vickers has finished 16th or better in four of five starts at Kansas with an engine failure in 2009. Over the last seven races of the season, he's registered five top-15s, including three straight. Intermediates have been Vickersí strength during his career. Over the final seven races, four will be held on 1.5-mile venues: Kansas, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. With Red Bull shuttering its Cup operations at the end of the season, Vickers is primed to make a strong case for future employment.

Temper your expectations

Tony Stewart | No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Will the real Smoke please stand up? After winning the first two Chase events, primarily on fuel mileage, Stewart was a total non-factor from the drop of the green flag at Dover. As a result of finishing two laps down in 25th, Stewart dropped from first to third in points. While Stewart has won a pair of races at Kansas and has held an average running position of fifth or better in three straight, erratic performances this season make him a huge question mark.

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

While Earnhardt finished a career-best second at Kansas in June, it came based on a fuel mileage gamble. His average running position of 19th was good for only 20th on the day. Earnhardt did recently finish third at Chicagoland but that too came on fuel mileage while registering an average running position of 15th. Unless this race also comes down to fuel mileage, don't set the bar very high for Earnhardt.

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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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