Buschy McBusch Race 400 (Cup Series)

Kansas Speedway

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Welcome, Speed Degens, to another week of NASCAR Cup Series DFS! This week, we return to Kansas Speedway for the first time since last fall’s playoffs. Due to the schedule change in 2021, few races in the 550 horsepower, high downforce package than usual, and those include Vegas, Homestead, and Atlanta. There appears to be a clear strategy that I will be employing, and I’m excited to see what happens. Let’s dig in!

Quick Race Facts

  • 267 laps on a 1.5-mile D-shaped oval (400 miles total)
  • There are approximately 180 hog points available.
  • Due to the mayhem last week at Talladega, several big names start deeper in the pack, throwing a wrench into our strategy this week.
  • In the three races in this package this season, four drivers have top 10 finishes in all 3: Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, William Byron, and Martin Truex Jr.
  • The tire compound being used this weekend was used earlier this year at Vegas and the second races at Texas, Kansas, and Vegas last fall. Brad Keselowski has mentioned that it is more similar to the tire from 2019, for what it’s worth.
  • Though speed is always helpful, pit strategy, passing ability, and restart prowess have proven to be correlated with wins here at Kansas.
  • Note that last spring’s race was on a different tire combination, while last fall, the weather was considerably cooler than we expect to see today.

Lineup Construction

As a reminder, here are the general rules I developed in the off-season to assist with constructing winning DraftKings lineups for the Cup Series:

  1. Target 5x value minimum with all drivers in the lineup. (88.9% of optimals and all others can be explained)
  2. If deciding between drivers, target 6x value upside. (85.6% of drivers in optimal lineups)
  3. Spend at least $49000, except at drafting tracks. (80.6% of optimals)
  4. Roster 2-3 drivers priced above $9000. (88.9% of optimals)
  5. Roster at least one driver priced above $10000. (88.9% of optimals)
  6. Avoid drivers priced below $5000. (91.7% of optimals)
  7. At short tracks, roster 2-3 drivers starting in the top 10 as your dominators. They must reach a 7x value to be optimal.
  8. Play no more than one punt play priced at $6000 or below.

Here are the optimal lineups on each site for the 2020 Kansas races:

Drivers to Target

$10k and above

Kyle Larson (32) – Thanks to a considerable team mistake causing an engine failure on lap one at Talladega last week, Larson is in prime position for place differential upside. He has had the fastest car on average in the 550 hp package this year, which is evident if you watched those races. He dominated and won at Vegas, dominated and finished 2nd at Atlanta, and was solid running top 5 all race at Homestead. As if you needed another reason to play Larson, he scored 31 hog points the last time he raced at Kansas in 2019. While I do expect Larson to dominate, he can still hit 6x value with simply a top 5 finish. Easily my favorite play in all formats, regardless of ownership.

Denny Hamlin (20) – Though he has ranked as the fastest car in the 750 hp package this season, Hamlin ranks 7th in speed in this 550 hp package. Though his pit crew has been solid under caution this season, he has lost 30 spots under green flag pit stops at non-drafting ovals. So why play him? He offers someplace differential and has won 2 of the past 3 Kansas races. In those three races, he has averaged the most hog points. I fully expect them to bring a similar setup and contend for at least a top 5 finish. 

Alex Bowman (25) – Bowman has finished in the top 10 in 4 of the past 5 Kansas races. His median speed in this package so far is even with Hamlin, too. Kansas is a track where you will see different pit strategies, which falls right in Bowman’s favor. His team leads the series in position retention rate following green flag pit stops, which illustrates that crew chief Greg Ives is competently calling races and helping his driver succeed. Add that he is driving confidently right now after his win at Richmond, and I like his chances this week.

**Note: Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. have not been up to par with their usual performance on this track type in 2021. Both have negative surplus passing values in the 550 hp package. Logano could be considered in cash lineups due to his PD upside, but I will fade both in GPPs. Chase Elliott could be regarded as mainly due to his series-leading passing stats, but I like the three discussed above more.

$8k to $10k

Brad Keselowski (1) – Ah, the typical play or fade the polesitter dilemma… Lately, I’ve been more convinced that fade is the right way to go, but allow me to play devil’s advocate for a minute. Keselowski ranks 2nd in speed at this track type so far in 2021. He also ranks 1st in average positions gained on restarts. Given McDowell (weak car) and Harvick (struggling) is starting in the second row, I would not be surprised to see Brad lead early over William Byron.

Kurt Busch (28) – Before last fall’s race at Kansas, he had three straight top 10 finishes. Unfortunately, in 2021, the results haven’t panned out, but most of that is due to the lack of speed in the 750 hp package. In this 550 hp package, Kurt ranks 4th in median lap time. A top 10 finish will give him a shot at being optimal, but I like him more in cash. I think others have more upside at his price, but he should be a safe PD play.

William Byron (2) – Although the track shape and tire wear differ, Byron does already have a win at Homestead, another intermediate track, this year. He has also been very impressive across the board, showing improvement most weeks. He has finished top 10 in the past 3 Kansas races. Now, starting on the front row, he has a chance to lead early. Though Keselowski ranks 1st in average positions gained on restarts, Byron has gained overall restarts. I wouldn’t play them both, but I think one of them may lead enough to sneak into the optimal lineup.

Kyle Busch (9) – When was the last time Kyle was priced this low? 8600? Are you kidding me?! Though he hasn’t been able to dominate, he has an average finish of 6.0 on this track type in 2021. Also, on this specific tire combo dating back to last fall, he has 6th, 5th, 1st, and 3rd. Busch ranks 2nd in advanced passing stats at this track type so far this season. Despite a down year in 2020, he still 52 laps here last spring. After a win last night in the Truck Series, I think Kyle has a chance to contend today. If not, he should at least be able to finish top 5. Despite being underpriced, I still believe he may go overlooked (or at least I hope so).

**Note: I may also consider Ryan Blaney and Christopher Bell. I just don’t have a firm conviction either way regarding them. Harvick and Almirola, however, have struggled this season, even at Atlanta, where Harvick usually dominates. 

$6k to $8k

Austin Cindric (38) – The other recurring dilemma: whether or not to plug and play Cindric when he’s starting in the back… We need at least a top 20 finish to achieve 6x value. His finishes this season are 15th, 22nd, and 27th. The 22nd place finish was the only one in this package, at Atlanta. His car is likely top 20 equipment, but the adjustment to the Cup Series is no joke. At this price, Cindric is mush in cash and a strong play in GPPs as well. 

Ross Chastain (24), Daniel Suarez (21), Chris Buescher (16) – I am grouping these drivers because I see them having similar upside. Chastain and Suarez are in new situations and appear to be still getting used to it. Chastain also looked very strong in the Truck Series race last night, while Suarez has contended for top 10s multiple times. Buescher has been impressive, but I’m not sure if it’s a fluke or the start of a new era for Roush Racing. I expect them all to finish top 15. 

**Note: I am just not a big fan of the $7,000 range. Most are starting way too high for consideration, in my opinion. 

$6k and below

Honestly, I am hoping to avoid this range if possible. I have seen others in the industry supporting the idea of playing Anthony Alfredo due to his $4.5k price tag, making it easy to stack high-priced drivers. While it seems enticing, I believe his projected low point total would mitigate any assumed advantage of loading up on high-priced drivers. If I were to consider anyone down here, it would be either Ryan Preece (to hold position) or Justin Haley (to pick up some through attrition).

Final Thoughts

This race could break several different ways, but I will have a minimal player pool. I usually don’t like to focus mainly on place differential with my high-priced options, but this week, the best cars with the best chance of winning the race are all starting further back in the field. I will have at least one of Larson, Hamlin, or Bowman in every lineup I make. Given their upside, it is possible to fade the front-row pair of Keselowski and Byron, but they should be the main lap leaders early on in the race. I will be mixing and matching my dominator choices with punts in the $6k price range and filling in with $8k drivers as able.

Cash Core: Larson/Cindric/Chastain plus either Hamlin/Bowman/Kurt Busch

As always, best of luck this week, Speed Degens! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to join the FREE (see what I did there?) Fantasy Sports Degens slack chat or hit me up on Twitter (@dsmaybin0308). I am looking forward to seeing those green screens!