Nobody was quite sure what to expect during qualifying at Kansas Speedway. The 1.5-mile track's repaved surface was a potential curveball for all of the drivers, including the title contenders. However, it was business as usual for a majority of the drivers, starting with pole-sitter Kasey Kahne
. Kahne leads all drivers with an 8.7 average starting position, and he backed up those numbers by shattering the track record in qualifying. After finishing second at Kansas last fall on the old pavement, Kahne could definitely make a run at a win on the new surface. After all, he has won more races at 1.5-mile tracks than any other type.
Veteran Mark Martin will also start on the front row, and like Kahne, starting up front is nothing new for Martin. In fact, he leads all drivers with four poles in 2012, and his 9.4 average finish is the third best in the series. Don't be surprised if he parlays the strong qualifying effort into a solid run Sunday. Martin finished 10th at Kansas last fall, and in 2005, he crashed the Chase party by picking up a win at the track.
As for the championship frontrunners, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin all qualified ninth or better. Johnson is the defending winner of this weekend's race after winning at Kansas last fall, and Hamlin won at the track earlier this year. Meanwhile, Bowyer is coming off a win last weekend at Charlotte and has finished as high as second at his home-state track. All three should be able to continue their solid performance in the Chase, and fantasy owners shouldn't hesitate to add them to their rosters this weekend.
Points leader Brad Keselowski, on the other hand, didn't fare so well in qualifying. He will roll off 25th Sunday, but fantasy owners shouldn't hit the panic button. For starters, he hasn't been a great qualifier all year, managing just a 16.1 average starting position. More importantly, he has compiled a 5.0 average finish in his last three starts at Kansas. One of those starts resulted in a win, and in that race, Keselowski started 25th. Don't let his mediocre effort in qualifying fool you, he is still worth a roster spot.
Owners looking for a sleeper pick may want to consider Aric Almirola. He finished an unspectacular 23rd in his Kansas debut earlier this year, but he has been enjoying a decent stretch of late. He has three straight finishes of 19th or better, including a 12th-place finish at Charlotte last weekend. Almirola qualified fifth for Sunday's race, and his recent performances suggest that he could deliver a top-20 finish and maybe a little more.
About Brian Polking
Racing has been part of Brian's life ever since he can remember, and he spent his childhood at dirt tracks throughout Ohio and Kentucky watching his father race. NASCAR naturally became his favorite sport, and he has been following the Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series for most of his life. Brian majored in journalism and economics at Ohio State University and becoming a sports writer has always been his dream. Although he has covered everything from minor league baseball to the NCAA tournament, his passion has always been NASCAR. Brian has served as a NASCAR writer for a variety of sites, eventually becoming head editor of the NASCAR section for Fanball.com. His knowledge of NASCAR comes from his life-long love of racing, and he tries to add a personal touch to every article he writes. Brian is always up for talking NASCAR with anyone that wants to. Brian joined KFFL's team in 2011.
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