Fantasy NASCAR race preview: STP 400
Starting last year, Kansas Speedway, one of the newer venues in NASCAR, began holding two Sprint Cup Series events per season. While the track is 1.5-miles in length, like many others on the circuit, Kansas features the least amount of corner banking giving it some unique aspects. After this race the track will be repaved and redesigned in time for the Chase event in late October. In addition to new asphalt, 18-20 degrees of variable banking will be added to the turns.
Practice sessions: Friday, April 20 at 1:30 pm ET, 4:30 pm ET
Drivers to keep an eye on
Coming off an impressive victory at Texas Motor Speedway, Biffle is in a perfect spot to win a second straight race and extend his lead in the standings. The Biff has scored a podium finish in six of the last nine at Kansas and is one of four drivers that own two career wins at the site. Among all drivers his career average running position of 6.5 ranks first, which helps make Kansas Biffle's best track. Now seven races into the season Biffle has finished no worse than 13th and owns an impressive average finish of sixth.
In seven career starts at Kansas, Truex has failed to record a top-10 finish and is outside a top-15 in six straight. However, the refocused efforts at MWR have greatly benefited the No. 56 team. Truex is currently fourth in points with five finishes inside the top 10 in the last six races. Given his weak resume at Kansas it takes a leap of faith but Truex was extremely impressive last week at Texas, a 1.5-mile track with more banking. He captured the pole, led 69 laps and finished sixth with an average running position of fourth.
Give Stewart a pass for last week's stinker at Texas. The team unloaded with a bad setup before moving to a backup car after Stewart hit the wall during the final practice. The race itself only had two cautions, which limited opportunities to make in race adjustments to the car. Smoke is another two-time Kansas winner and has held an average running position of sixth or better in four straight at the site. With two wins already this season, including one on the 1.5-mile track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Stewart should get things turned around this week.
After a disastrous finish at the Daytona 500, Johnson has rattled off six straight finishes of 12th or better with two runner-up performances, including last week at Texas where he led a race high 156 laps. Johnson's most recent win came during last year's Chase at Kansas after leading more than 72 percent of the race. In addition to owning six straight top-10s at the site, Johnson ranks first in Driver Rating and second in average running position among all drivers at Kansas.
Issues with fuel pressure at Texas ruined what started out as a very strong performance for the Blue Deuce. After qualifying eighth, Keselowski ran in the top five for much of the night before heading back to the garage on two occasions prior to finishing in 36th and 21 laps down. In four career starts at Kansas, including one with Hendrick Motorsports, Keselowski held an average running position of 12th or better on three occasions. Last year he won the spring race on fuel mileage and finished third in the Chase event.
After a rough, and sometimes unlucky, start to the season Gordon was able to put it all together last week at Texas. Despite a poor qualifying effort he rallied from 34th on the grid to earn his first top-five of the season. At Kansas, Gordon has held an average running position of seventh or better in five straight. He finished with a misleading 34th in last year's Chase after blowing an engine with eight laps to go. Gordon has not won at Kansas since capturing the first two races at the site but leads all drivers with eight top-fives in a dozen starts.
Despite sitting out two races due to his part-time schedule, Martin ranks 20th in points, ahead some big name drivers like Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne. In fact, Martin's three top-10s is more than those drivers combined. He finished third at Texas and has been solid over his career at Kansas, winning the 2005 race and finishing 10th in last year's Chase.
While Ambrose finished 20th last week at Texas he deserved a much better fate. After qualifying seventh and running inside the top 10 for nearly the entire race the Australian ran out of the fuel on the final lap and finished 20th. Ambrose finished a career-best ninth at Kansas last year and, as last week's performance proves, continues to make big strides on similar intermediate tracks.
Temper your expectations
Among all drivers, Hamlin's career average running position of 15.8 at Kansas is only good for 13th. While he has managed two top-fives in the last four starts at the site, Hamlin's finishes on 1.5-mile tracks this season don't offer much inspiration, 20th at Las Vegas and 12th at Texas. As one of the elite drivers on flat tracks Hamlin has shown flashes of ability on intermediates but that part of his game is a bit off right now.
There are only two tracks where Busch has failed to record a top-five finish at, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kansas. Over the last four starts at the site Rowdy has finished 21st or better with three inside the top 15. Last year Busch qualified third and held an average running position of sixth in each race but ended the day outside the top 10. There is certainly potential here but last week's 11th-place finish at Texas puts a slight downer on Busch's chances of a breakout at Kansas.
About Eric McClung
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also 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. Follow @EricMcClung
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