NASCAR Picks for Kansas
Length: 1.500 miles
Location: Kansas City, Kansas
The second round of the Chase begins this weekend when the Cup Series returns to Kansas Speedway, and while the 1.5-mile oval may have a very familiar layout, history says to expect the unexpected at Kansas. After all, the track has played host to surprise winners and some of the strangest moments in the Chase. Mark Martin won at the track in 2005 while driving for a single-car team, and the next year, Tony Stewart missed the playoffs but clobbered the field at Kansas. In 2004, the race came down to a great late-race duel between Ricky Rudd and Joe Nemechek of all people. Meanwhile, Greg Biffle won a bizarre 2010 race that featured a long red flag for rain and eventually called under caution because of impending darkness. Yes, there have also been plenty of races at Kansas that have played out as many races do, but with the new Chase format, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a surprise or two at Kansas this weekend.
Kevin Harvick, #4 Budweiser/Jimmy Johns, Stewart-Haas Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Harvick provides the ideal blend of consistency and upside that you need from a No. 1 option. He is the defending winner of this weekend's race, and he finished second at Kansas earlier this year. Harvick has led the most laps in each of his last two starts at the track, and he has finished 12th or better in eight straight starts.
Jeff Gordon, #24 Drive to End Hunger/Axalta, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He is gunning for a season sweep at Kansas this weekend, and Gordon is also the only three-time winner in track history. In 17 total starts at Kansas, Gordon has 10 Top-5 finishes, including finishes of third and first in his last two starts. Overall, his 10.1 average finish at the track ranks second in the series.
Jimmie Johnson, #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
From a consistency standpoint, no driver has been better at Kansas than Johnson. His 7.6 average finish is tops in the series, and in 16 starts, he has 14 Top-10s, including 11 straight. During his 11-race streak of Top-10 finishes, Johnson has notched six Top-3 finishes, including a pair of wins.
Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
His 13th-place run at Kansas earlier this year was a little disappointing, but considering how well Keselowski has been running lately, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Plus, he is a former winner at Kansas, and his 10.6 average finish at the track ranks fourth in the series.
Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske [Yahoo Class B]
After posting mediocre results at Kansas for most of his career, Logano has been dialed in at the track since joining Team Penske. He finished a career-best fourth at Kansas last fall, and he matched that result earlier this year. Logano has been fighting for victories in a routine basis in recent weeks, and I don't expect that to change this weekend.
Matt Kenseth, #20 Husky/Dollar General, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Kenseth has been on a tear at Kansas lately. He has eight straight finishes of 11th or better at the track, posting a 5.5 average finish during the stretch. Meanwhile, Kenseth has finished fourth or better in four of his last six starts at Kansas, picking up wins in 2012 and 2013.
Kasey Kahne, #5 Farmers Insurance/Quaker State, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
Although he barely snuck into the next round of the Chase, don't forget about Kahne this weekend. For one, he has finished in the Top-15 in seven straight starts at Kansas. More importantly, Kahne has four finishes of fourth or better at the track during the stretch, including a third-place finish earlier this year.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew, Hendrick Motorsports [Yahoo Class A]
He hasn't been dominant at Kansas, but Junior has been a dependable option at the track. Since the start of the 2011 season, he has compiled an 8.7 average finish and hasn't finished worse than 16th. Meanwhile, Junior has finished eighth and fifth in his last two starts at Kansas.
Carl Edwards, #99 Fastenal/Aflac/UPS/Subway, Roush Fenway Racing [Yahoo Class B]
While Edwards has never won at Kansas, he has been one of the most reliable drivers at the track throughout his career. His 10.5 average finish ranks third in the series, and in 14 starts, he has 10 Top-10s. With finishes of fifth and sixth in his last two starts at Kansas, Edwards also offers a little upside this weekend.
Kyle Larson, #42 Target, Chip Ganassi Racing [Yahoo Class C]
It seems like only a matter of when and not if Larson ends up in victory lane, and the rookie heads to Kansas with plenty of momentum. Over the past few months, he has 10 Top-12 finishes in 11 starts, including six straight. Larson finished a solid 12th in his Kansas debut in May, and he will likely improve on that result this weekend.
Clint Bowyer, #15 5-Hour Energy, Michael Waltrip Racing [Yahoo Class A]
Bowyer has been solid at his home-state track throughout his career, logging a 14.0 average finish. In 12 starts at the track, he has notched eight Top-15s, including three in his last four starts. Bowyer has been up and down all year, but a Top-15 finish is certainly possible this weekend.
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx, Joe Gibbs Racing [Yahoo Class B]
If you are looking for a high-risk, high-reward option among the big names, Hamlin is your guy. He logged a third-place finish at Kansas in 2011 and won at the track in 2012, but his last two starts have resulted in a 23rd-place finish and an 18th-place finish, respectively. Hamlin lacks the consistency of some other top drivers, but the upside is certainly there.