NASCAR Picks for Kentucky
Length: 1.500 miles
Shape: D-shaped oval
Location: Sparta, Kentucky
The Cup Series heads to Kentucky Speedway this weekend. Although the track's 1.5-mile layout is nothing new, the track itself is the newest addition to the schedule. Saturday night's Quaker State 400 will be only the fourth Cup race held at the track. As you may expect, drivers and teams are still figuring out the best way to get around at Kentucky (which has already become well known for its extremely bumpy, rough surface).
Fantasy owners are in a similar situation. Three races is such a small sample size that it is really tough to predict which drivers have a great feel for the track and which have simply lucked into one or two decent finishes. With that in mind, relying on past results at Kentucky alone could be a recipe for disaster this weekend. However, fantasy owners can somewhat compensate for the lack of data at Kentucky itself by also examining driver results and trends at 1.5-mile tracks (especially results from similar tracks) this season.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Johnson is one of four drivers that has finished in the top 10 in all three races at Kentucky. His 6.0 average finish at the track ranks third in the series. Meanwhile, Johnson has three top-10s in four starts at 1.5-mile tracks this season, and his 222 laps are the second most of any driver. Johnson has been on a roll in recent weeks, so he is an easy choice for the top spot in the rankings.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He has improved his result in all three starts at Kentucky, finishing 11th and 10th at the track the last two seasons. More importantly, Harvick has been fast at the 1.5-mile tracks all season long. In four starts, his 243 laps led are the most in the series, and he has finished second in the last two races at 1.5-mile tracks.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Gordon has been one of the most consistent drivers at Kentucky and one of the most consistent drivers at 1.5-mile tracks in 2014. His 7.7 average finish at Kentucky ranks fourth in the series, and he has never finished outside the top 10 at the track. Meanwhile, Gordon is the only driver to have top-10 finishes in all four races at 1.5-mile tracks this year; his 4.8 average finish in those races leads all drivers.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
In his first start at Kentucky with Team Penske last year, Logano finished a career-best fourth at the track. He has been excellent at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2014. In four starts, Logano ranks second with a 5.2 average finish and 162 points scored, and his 215 laps led ranks third. In fact, Logano is the only driver with three top-five finishes at 1.5-mile tracks this season.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He is the defending winner of this weekend's race. In Kentucky's short history on the Cup schedule, no driver has been more reliable than Kenseth. His 4.7 average finish leads all drivers; in three starts, he has never finished worse than sixth. On top of that, Kenseth is one of only two drivers with top-10 finishes in all four races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2014.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
Keselowski won at Kentucky in 2012. In three starts at the track, he has two finishes of seventh or better. He has been solid at 1.5-mile tracks in general this year, as well. In four starts, Keselowski ranks fifth in the series in points scored and laps led.
Kyle Busch, #18 Mars Brands/Interstate Batteries, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
He won the inaugural Cup race at Kentucky, and Busch has remained one of the best drivers at the track. His 5.3 average finish at Kentucky is the second best in the series, and he is the only driver with multiple top-five finishes at the track. Busch hasn't been dominant at 1.5-mile tracks in 2014, but his history at Kentucky bodes well for his chances this weekend.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
His 8.7 average finish at Kentucky ranks fifth in the series. In three starts at the track, Kahne has never finished outside the top 15; meanwhile, he nearly won at Kentucky in 2012 before settling for a second-place finish. Kahne has quietly scored the seventh-most points of any driver at 1.5-mile tracks in 2014, and he should be in the mix for another top-10 finish Saturday night.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
After finishing 30th in his first start at Kentucky, Junior has bounced back with finishes of fourth and 12th at the track the past two seasons. He has been a little up and down at 1.5-mile tracks in 2014, but he does have two top-five finishes in four starts and came within a lap of winning at Las Vegas in March. Junior offers plenty of upside this weekend and should be a solid option either way.
Kurt Busch, #41 Haas Automation, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Although he has had horrible luck at 1.5-mile tracks this year, Busch has been strong at Kentucky. In three starts at the track, he has a pair of top-10 finishes to go along with an 11.3 average finish. Throw in the fact that Busch has been running well the past couple of weeks, and he is definitely worth considering this weekend.
Ryan Newman, #31 Caterpillar, Richard Childress Racing [Yahoo Class B]
In three starts at Kentucky, Newman has recorded a pair of top-15 finishes, including a fourth-place run in 2011 and a 14th-place effort last season. He has also been consistent at 1.5-mile tracks this year, compiling a 12.2 average finish in four starts. Newman might not have the most upside, but he should be able to provide a top-15.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
Since notching a fifth-place finish in his first start at Kentucky, Edwards has struggled a bit at the track: finishing 20th in 2012 and 21st last season. On the plus side, he does rank third in the series in points scored at 1.5-mile tracks in 2014. in four starts, he has three top-10s and a 7.2 average finish. Edwards should have a shot at cracking the top 10 Saturday.