The NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Sunflower State this weekend as the regular season reaches its halfway point at Kansas Speedway. Let Joy Tomlinson of Frontstretch.com prep your daily fantasy NASCAR DraftKings lineups for the AdventHealth 400, airing on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FS1.
Kansas marks only the second time drivers will run on a 1.5-mile, non-drafting track this season; the only other race that offers a direct comparison is Las Vegas Motor Speedway back in March. But don’t let that deter you from looking at some other Next Gen events, especially Phoenix Raceway, Dover Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway. That trio of tracks used the same package as LVMS and can offer insight into how the race might play out on Sunday.
Also in this case, Kansas’ past history is worthwhile to see who has led the most laps, collected fastest-lap bonuses and produced positive position differential. Even with the new chassis, we've seen some drivers are just better at certain tracks than others and can likely adjust to stay up front in the Next Gen car. I’ll share some drivers I’m looking at before Saturday’s practice and qualifying (airing at 5 p.m. ET on FS1).
But first, let's check out the results from last week's race at Darlington Raceway.
My initial lineup shows why it's important to double-check practice and qualifying before you make your final decisions, as both Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick started the race in the back and finished up front, posting strong DraftKings scores. Kyle Larson, on the other hand, had some issues, including a spin and an engine problem.
While this lineup did poorly, my other two entries in the $6,000 Quarter Jukebox contest won some money. In fact, one of these was one driver off from the top-scoring lineup, which had Elliott, Joey Logano, Harvick, Daniel Suarez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Justin Haley. It just goes to show you playing around with a few different options can sometimes win you money in the end.
As far as DraftKings scoring, the rules are the same as last season: 0.45 points for each fastest lap and 0.25 for each lap led. Additionally, drivers can earn a point for each position they gain on the track (relative to where they start). They can also lose a point for each position lost, so keep this fact in mind if you decide to play the polesitter.
Now, on to my picks!
Note: The following drivers are part of a sample NASCAR DraftKings lineup; you can use this info to make your own.
NASCAR DraftKings Plays/Sample Lineup for the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway
Chase Elliott ($10,900)
Career at Kansas: 12 starts, 1 win, 6 top fives, 8 top 10s
Average finish at Kansas: 9.8
Elliott has had very good results at Kansas, as he’s finished inside the top six in six of his last seven races there. Last spring, he finished fifth and followed that up with a runner-up result in the fall. Elliott's also led some laps in several events, including the past two October races. Though it was only about 40-50 laps each time, that still shows he's able to get up front for an extended period.
The current series points leader has five straight top 10s on vastly different tracks and surfaces, including a victory at Dover where he led 73 laps. Last week at Darlington, he crashed in practice and didn’t get to qualify, but that was no problem for the Hendrick Motorsports pilot. Elliott avoided all the wrecks and brought home a fifth-place finish, scoring 73 DraftKings points as a result.
At this salary, though, you’ll need Elliott to lead a lot of laps if he qualifies up front; otherwise, the value might not be worth it. For example, at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track, Elliott began the race ninth and ended it eighth. While that was a good result, it didn’t score well on DraftKings, producing a paltry 38.4 points. So if Elliott doesn’t show much speed during practice, I'd be wary of choosing him in your lineup.
Ross Chastain ($9,700)
Career at Kansas: 6 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Kansas: 25.0
Chastain is having a breakout season, with two wins and seven top fives in 12 starts. Early on in the year, the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Team driver gained 15 positions to place third at Las Vegas, sparking a streak of four straight top-three performances. He was looking strong in last week’s Goodyear 400, too, until making a slight mistake and crashing into the inside wall. Before that, he led 26 laps and recorded 27 fastest laps.
Although Chastain’s performance at Kansas hasn’t been quite as strong, that’s likely because he drove for underfunded Premium Motorsports in 2018 and 2019. Last season, he finished in the teens after starting 24th in both events with Chip Ganassi Racing. A lot of those team members went with him to Trackhouse from CGR, so the transition has been smooth this year.
I’m only a bit wary of this salary, since Chastain's in the upper $9,000 range for the second straight week after starting the year at $6,600 in the Daytona 500. However, if his team can nail the setup once again, Chastain should log some fastest laps and earn a career-best finish at this track.
Kevin Harvick ($8,700)
Career at Kansas: 32 starts, 3 wins, 12 top fives, 19 top 10s
Average finish at Kansas: 8.9
You may be thinking, “didn’t we have Harvick the last two weeks?” Yes, I realize that. It’s just that he’s so good at Kansas, that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Harvick has the best average finish among active drivers here, even though he hasn’t won since the spring of 2018. The No. 4 Ford driver has posted a top four in four straight races on the 1.5-mile oval, including three consecutive podiums. Plus, he led 85 laps in the fall 2020 event and 104 in spring 2019. Happy has been so good, in fact, that he hasn’t finished worse than 16th since 2009.
The Stewart-Haas Racing veteran is on a roll, snagging three straight top 10s for the first time all year. One of these, a fourth-place finish, came just last week at Darlington. Like Elliott, Harvick didn’t get to qualify but brought his car to the front by the end. If he's going to stay in the $8,000 range, it's a salary worth playing even if he doesn’t win.
Austin Dillon ($8,000)
Career at Kansas: 17 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 5 top 10s
Average finish at Kansas: 16.5
I typically estimate what drivers might score on DraftKings and projected total scores with two optimal lineups I created. The best projections, regardless of the other drivers, had Dillon and Chris Buescher mixed in the roster, leaving them as potentially the most important selections on this list.
Dillon hasn’t been all that bad at Kansas. He was 10th in both events last season and drove from 17th to 11th in fall 2020. Also, in fall 2018 he advanced 12 spots to 11th; before that, he claimed a 17th-place finish in spring that same year. It’s these little things that can really help your fantasy score, especially if Dillon finishes inside the top 10.
This year, the No. 3 of Richard Childress Racing has six top-10 results, including a ninth-place finish last week. However, Dillon’s also qualified 17th or better in seven races, which makes him a bit riskier in daily fantasy. But if he keeps avoiding the crashes and stays up front, he'll still produce a solid DraftKings score.
Dark Horse Performers
Chris Buescher ($6,700)
Career at Kansas: 12 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 3 top 10s
Average finish at Kansas: 18.0
Buescher is another one who can move through the field and snag some position differential points. He did so in both races in 2021, going from 16th to eighth in the spring and 21st to 12th in the fall. He also moved up in each race in 2019, earning a 10th and 13th in May and October, respectively. These are really good finishes that scored well on DraftKings, especially at a sub-$7,000 salary.
Unfortunately, Buescher has been a riskier pick throughout the 2022 season. Last week at Darlington, the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing driver only gained two positions en route to 16th, the only time in the last five races he's had positive position differential. But he showed speed at Dover, earning his first career pole and crossing the line in eighth place — his third top 10 of the year. Hopefully, he’ll get another top 10 or 15 this week and net you a good DraftKings score.
Justin Haley ($5,900)
Career at Kansas: 2 starts, 0 wins, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s
Average finish at Kansas: 34.5
Haley ran for Spire Motorsports in his first two Cup races at Kansas, an underfunded team whose equipment is weaker than their competitors. But in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, he earned top 10s in all four events he ran here, earning a best finish of fourth in the fall of 2020 and 2021.
This season, the No. 31 Kaulig Racing team has been fairly consistent in their first season running Cup full-time, posting seven results between 11th and 17th. Last week, Haley did far better, placing a season-best third after Joey Logano gave William Byron a bump in the closing laps at Darlington. As a result, Haley scored 67.9 DraftKings points. For some reason, he’s still below $6,000, which makes this driver a great value play as long as he doesn’t qualify well.
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