To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its Sprint Cup Series driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s 9-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.
Next: Hollywood Casino 400 (Kansas Speedway)
Race: 400 miles, 267 laps (1.5-mile oval)
April 2013 Winner: Matt Kenseth
A-List (Pick two, start one)
Are you out of starts for Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth? Because I'm out of starts for Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. It doesn't matter. I'm still picking them for this column. I'm opening new Yahoo accounts just for that purpose.
I realize there are people who hate Jimmie Johnson. They hate his winning ways. They hate that mostly full beard that seems to fill in with ease. They hate that he's better than Dale Earnhardt Jr. And they hate that I'm picking him for like the 93rd consecutive week. Sorry. I have to.
Johnson knows Kansas better than Dorothy. He's won two races there and hasn't finished worse than 14th at the track since Joe Nemechek went to Kansas' Victory Lane. Yes, Nemechek. Johnson owns an absurd 7.4 average running position at the 1.5-mile track and has spent just 11.4 percent of his laps in the last 11 races outside the top 15. Sure, go rogue and pick someone else. It won't work.
It'll frankly be a surprise if Matt Kenseth doesn't contend for the win Sunday at Kansas Speedway. Not to him of course — Kenseth isn't the type to call his shot — but to any else aware of how past performance is a nice predictor of future success.
Kenseth is the two-time defending winner on Kansas’ new pavement, with the most recent coming on a cold April weekend. Kansas is going to be cold again this weekend, but Kenseth shouldn't have trouble. He does own the second-best average running position of all A-List drivers at the track (9.5) but that's not the best reason to pick him. The best reason? Consider where the trophies from Kansas, Las Vegas and Chicagoland have all gone this season.
Also consider: Jeff Gordon (9.7 average running position), Kevin Harvick (12.7 ARP)
There are a lot of reasons to avoid Kyle Busch this weekend. Two of them are the pair of spins he took in the spring race at the track thanks to his No. 18 just simply never finding the right handle. He ultimately didn't finish when the second spin collected Joey Logano and caused a jolting crash.
But Busch is riding a wave success in the Sprint Cup Series right now after he's scored three top-5 finishes to start the Chase. He also had a car capable of winning at Chicago before his teammate, Kenseth, swept in for the glory. Picking Busch this weekend is all about how well he's run lately, not about his past Kansas record.
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr., still driving blindly toward a very uncertain future in the Sprint Cup Series, sure could use a second win in 2013 to boost his profile. It would add a dose of good news to the driver most slapped around (though least deserving of it) from the fallout of Richmond's spin-gate.
Kansas could be just the place. Truex has finished second, second and fourth in the last three Kansas races. He led in two of them for a total of 219 laps. In April, he posted the third-most fastest laps of the race (27) with only race-winner Kenseth and third-place Johnson notching more.
Greg BiffleI've not been very high on Greg Biffle making a legitimate run in the Chase thanks to his mostly ho-hum regular season. I still feel the same way three races in.
But Biffle could be an unexpected contender this weekend. Consider that his average running position in the last 11 Kansas races is 8.2 — good for second-best in the series. He's also a two-time winner on the 1.5-mile track. Biffle's win this season came at Michigan, a track with pavement only one year older than Kansas. But do be warned: Biffle started 11th and finished 19th at Kansas in April. Ho-hum.
Carl Edwards finished 17th at Kansas Speedway in April. That's enough to think he didn't have a front-running car, right? Wrong. Edwards was a top-5 car much of the day in the spring race before he was one of several victims of a caution flag that waved as the final round of green flag pit stops was beginning. In fact, Edwards was the third-best driver in the race by average running position. He led 19 laps.
More encouraging for Edwards this weekend may be how well his car handled early in the race at Atlanta on the new tire compound Goodyear unveiled that weekend. He qualified second and led 68 laps in the early stages before falling back. The new tire type returns for the first time Sunday at Kansas.
Also consider: Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch
C-List (Pick two, start one)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
The same caution flag that bit Edwards and other drivers in the spring Kansas race also consumed Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s best chance yet to record his first Sprint Cup Series win. Stenhouse wound up 11th at the finish after leading 26 laps just before the race's final pit stop.
With the Chase at full steam, it's unlikely that Stenhouse will find a way to break into the top 5 at the end of Sunday's race, but it's a good bet that he'll be the top scoring C-List driver by the end of the 400 miles.
Danica's second half of her rookie Sprint Cup season grew more disappointing when she struggled to a finish six laps down at Dover last week. It's plainly obvious that her experience and knowledge to go fast in stock car racing is still far below what it takes to compete in the top division. However, Kansas might be a track where a savvy C-List pick of the No. 10 could earn a finish close to 20th. Patrick finished 25th at Kansas in June and rolled off a 20th-place run at Chicago just three weeks ago.
Also consider: David Gilliland, Casey Mears