We’re off to Kentucky this weekend for the Quaker State 400 and, yep, you guessed it: rain is in the forecast. Sunday’s race is scheduled to start around 2:30 pm ET but honestly I could see it being delayed several hours and turning into a night race–which is what we normally have at Kentucky anyway.
My DraftKings Projections for Kentucky were posted on Thursday and I highly recommend checking out that article in conjunction with this one. There’s a lot of great statistics in the Projections one, too.
Click here to get to the Projections article for Kentucky.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday saw plenty of racing action at Kentucky Speedway, with two Xfinity races, and ARCA race, and a Truck Series race all happening. And one thing was very apparent: it’s still incredibly difficult to pass the leader here, and being fast on restarts is key. Track position is everything at Kentucky, and in the Xfinity races, the outside lane was the preferred place to be during restarts. Don’t be surprised if we see some gamesmanship on pit road on Sunday.
Speaking of restarts, let’s take a look at who has been fastest on restarts this year. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find the pdf for this, so I had to take a screen grab and upload it that way. Click the image below to open it fully. Yes, it says Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but as you can see, it’s the average rank for the season and it’s after Indianapolis.
Now let’s get to the breakdown. Admittedly, I’m not super confident with this race. I have quite a few strategies and drivers that I’m still going back and forth on, so if any of the analysis seems scatter-brained, that’s why. In the end, I hope I’ve provided enough statistics for you to put together a great lineup, and I hope my analysis helps in some way.
Driver-by-Driver Breakdown for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky
- Kyle Busch ($10,100)
– The contrarian in me still likes being underweight on Rowdy even though Kentucky is his best track, the #18 Toyota has improved in speed as of late, and Kyle is still 6th in the “Fastest on Restarts” category even though he’s struggled this year. With that being said, I could still see him leading 100+ laps on Sunday. I’ll likely limit my Kyle Busch exposure to 20-30% on Sunday and not use him in a few single entry contests.
- Joey Logano ($9,600)
– I actually really like Logano as a sneaky play and I think he could end up being one of the dominators. Remember, he probably would have won this race last season if it wasn’t for that late caution, and Joey won at Las Vegas earlier this year and they’re using the same tire combination this weekend. The problem with him starting 2nd is that he needs to dominate some of the race for it to work out.
- Kevin Harvick ($11,600)
– The no-brainer pick of the week. If you take out Harvick’s dud at Homestead this year, he’s averaging almost 80 DraftKings points per race on this track type. Still, the contrarian in me likes being underweight on him (obviously) and I just can’t get the one top 5 finish in his entire career here at Kentucky statistic out of my head. I could honestly argue it either way. My advice? Trust your gut.
- Aric Almirola ($7,300)
– I do think Almirola is capable of finishing inside the top 10 this weekend but with him starting up in 4th, it’s going to take a top 5 for him to be worth the risk in DraftKings. He’s only had one good race on 1.5-mile tracks this year when it comes to Green Flag Speed, and that was at Homestead.
- Alex Bowman ($7,400)
– Remember back at Charlotte, when the #88 team made a strategy call early on and then was able to stay out front and be the main dominator? I could see that happening again here on Sunday. I actually really like Bowman at this price point but wouldn’t go super crazy with him, 15-20% exposure max.
- Brad Keselowski ($9,000)
– His record at Kentucky is very good and he hasn’t finished worst than 10th on a 1.5-mile track this year, but Keselowski is only averaging 7.7 DraftKings dominator points on this track type in 2020. With that being said, with Keselowski starting up in 6th and Truex back in 9th, I think many DraftKings players will roll with the #19 instead. I like Kez as a pivot off of MTJ, not to mention this #2 team likes to gamble, and that will likely come into play here on Sunday. My biggest concern, though, is Jeremy Bullins on the pit box, but he got a 2nd-place finish with Ryan Blaney here back in 2018.
- Kurt Busch ($7,600)
– Kurt is the defending winner of this race, but he didn’t have the best car last year. He actually got pretty lucky with that late caution and had the freshest tires, and still barely beat his brother to the line. Kurt is priced well this week and could easily finish top 5 but I like limiting my exposure to around 15%.
- Chase Elliott ($10,500)
– I wrote up Chase Elliott in my Projections article. You can click here to read what I wrote about him.
- Martin Truex, Jr. ($9,200)
– Truex is projected to have the 3rd-most DraftKings FPTS on Sunday at Kentucky and he’s priced at $9,200. Tastes like chalk. With how these Kentucky races play out, and with how my contrarian brain works, I like to be underweight on the chalk. Truex at 20-25% exposure is probably where I’ll be. EDIT: Truex failed inspection and will drop to the rear on the pace laps. He’ll still be scored from 9th. My opinion of him doesn’t change much.
- Matt DiBenedetto ($7,800)
– I want to like DiBenedetto this week, but with no dominator points, he’s going to have to pull off a top 5 finish for that price tag to even have a chance. A really good, mistake-free day from this #21 team would put him around 10th. I won’t have much, if any.
- Ryan Blaney ($9,800)
– Blaney is just a great Fantasy NASCAR pick all around this weekend. He’s been super fast on the 1.5-mile tracks recently, and he was one of the best at Las Vegas earlier this year, too. Blaney has Todd Gordon on the pit box and he had Joey Logano in position to win here at Kentucky last year without that late caution. I think the #12 Ford is going to have a great day on Sunday and could challenge for the win.
- Denny Hamlin ($10,900)
– The #11 Toyota has a ridiculous average Green Flag Speed ranking of 2.3 over the last four non-superspeedway races. Hamlin also dominated the last 1.5-mile track we visited (Homestead). His high salary should keep plenty of DraftKings players away, yet he’s starting 12th so he has good place differential potential as well. Hamlin has two top 5s in the last three Kentucky races and I actually like being overweight on him this weekend.
- Chris Buescher ($5,900)
– Buescher ran 14th at Vegas this year and 11th at Charlotte. He starts way too high for me to go crazy with him in lineups on Sunday, but the cheap $5,900 price tag makes him a sneaky GPP play for sure. Buescher ran 10th here at Kentucky last year and finished 16th in 2017.
- Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ($7,100)
– Any 1.5-mile track opens up the door to sneak in some Stenhouse here and there. This team gambles quite a bit and that allowed them to finish 3rd at Las Vegas. Ricky also came home 4th in the second Charlotte race this year. His 14th-place starting spot should keep Ricky’s ownership level really low, and I don’t mind being at 10-15% exposure with him, Stenhouse has finished 14th, 26th, and 12th at Kentucky since it was repaved.
- Clint Bowyer ($9,400)
– Clint Bowyer has zero top 10s on 1.5-mile tracks this year, and when you take out Atlanta, he has a combined 1 fastest lap over the other four races at these tracks. With that being said, Clint ran 6th here at Kentucky last year. With his price tag, you’re probably going to have to rely on the lower-price dominators and have Bowyer be a finish/place differential spot in your lineup. To be in the optimal lineup I think we’re going to need to have a crazy race and a Bowyer top 5 finish. Honestly, I’ll have minimal exposure here.
- Erik Jones ($8,400)
– I wrote up Erik Jones in my Projections article. You can click here to read what I wrote about him.
- Matt Kenseth ($8,000)
– There’s plenty of talk around Matt Kenseth right now due to his 2nd-place finish at Indianapolis and top 5 runs at Pocono. I completely understand why there’s optimism there, especially with the 17th-place starting spot on Sunday, but I just don’t like what I’ve seen from him at 1.5-mile tracks thus far. Not to mention, his worst runs here at Kentucky have all came after the track was repaved. I’ll be underweight on Kenseth this week after being very overweight on him at Indianapolis. EDIT: Kenseth will drop to the rear on the pace laps due to inspection failure. He will still be scored from 17th. My opinion of him doesn’t change much.
- Bubba Wallace ($7,000)
– I don’t hate having around 10-15% Bubba Wallace exposure on Sunday. He finished 11th here at Kentucky during his rookie season (2017) and this #43 team is running well lately, with top 14 finishes in five of the last eight races, with no result worse than 21st during that span.
- Austin Dillon ($6,500)
– I wrote up Austin Dillon in my Projections article. You can click here to read what I wrote about him.
- Jimmie Johnson ($8,800)
– Here at Kentucky, Johnson never finished worse than 10th in his first five starts, and then the repave happened and his average finish has been 29th since. With that being said, the #48 Chevrolet has been solid on the 1.5-mile tracks this season, and Jimmie has an average finish of 8.2 on them, which is 4th-best in the series. His DraftKings salary sucks this weekend but if Johnson can pull off a top 5 it’ll be worth it.
- William Byron ($8,600)
– I think Byron is a great play this weekend but he has to finish the race. Remember, he put up 35 fastest laps at Las Vegas earlier this year and is 5th-best in terms of Green Flag Speed on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. Unfortunately Byron only has one top 10 finish–a 9th-place run at Homestead. As far as his record here at Kentucky, Byron finished a career-best 18th here last season, but don’t forget he was up in 2nd when he got a penalty around lap 190.
- John Hunter Nemechek ($5,300)
– Nemechek starts a little higher than I’d like, but that actually works out well at a place like Kentucky where track position matters so much. On the 1.5-mile tracks this season, John Hunter has three top 20s (including a 13th in the second Charlotte race) and no result worse than 24th. Momentum-wise, Nemechek has also finished 19th or better in four of the last five races overall.
- Ryan Newman ($6,100)
– I’m not very high on Ryan Newman this weekend but it’s hard to pass on that price. He’s likely a 15th-to-20th place car on Sunday. Looking at the Green Flag Speed for this #6 Ford, the highest it has ranked on 1.5-mile tracks this season is 15th, and that was at Las Vegas when Ross Chastain was in the car.
- Tyler Reddick ($8,200)
– Reddick should be a great play on Sunday. I’m not sure how chalky he will be with all of the potential in the $9,000-$10,000 range, but Reddick can get you finish points and place differential points this weekend. He’s projected as the 9th-highest scoring driver for me, but I do like Erik Jones as a pivot, as I explained in my Projections article.
- Garrett Smithley ($4,500)
– Full fade.
- Josh Bilicki ($4,600)
– Full fade.
- Corey LaJoie ($5,500)
– Corey LaJoie is a fun one this week. He finished 14th at Las Vegas and 19th at the second Charlotte race, but all other 1.5-mile races have ended with him in 24th or worse. As far as track record goes, LaJoie has made two starts and has finished 31st and 28th. I’ll probably have 5-10% LaJoie exposure on Sunday just to keep from being so heavy on McDowell and Nemechek.
- Quin Houff ($4,700)
– Full fade.
- Cole Custer ($6,900)
– On a normal day, Cole Custer is about an 18th-place car for Kentucky. You never know how the strategy and everything is going to play out, though, and he has Stewart-Haas power. He’s worth some exposure for the place differential. Fun fact: Austin Dillon’s and Michael McDowell’s combined salaries equal the same amount as Cole Custer and John Hunter Nemechek…
- Michael McDowell ($5,700)
– My favorite low-dollar play almost every week. McDowell is a safe play, but with all the hype around him it could shoot his ownership percentage up a bit. He has an average finish of 23.8 on the 1.5-mile tracks this year.
- Brennan Poole ($4,900)
– Minimal exposure. Without attrition, 31st is about where Poole is finishing as well.
- Ryan Preece ($6,300)
– I’ve been heavy on Preece a lot this year but the fact of the matter is he’s about a 20th-to-25th place car each week. He has finished between 23rd and 26th in four of the five races at 1.5-mile tracks this season. You know what you’re getting with Preece.
- Ty Dillon ($6,700)
– The #13 Chevrolet finished 10th at Las Vegas but if you remember back to that race, the ending was kind of a fluke. Now obviously it’s possible that happens here at Kentucky, too, but Dillon has finished between 26th and 29th in four of the five 1.5-mile races this season. That’s not worth the $6,700 price tag.
- Christopher Bell ($11,200)
– If you’re rolling with the “underweight on Harvick” strategy then being overweight on Bell is a great play, as you can’t fit both in a lineup and also follow the three dominator strategy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Christopher Bell finished top 10 on Sunday.
- Joey Gase ($5,000)
– Full fade.
- JJ Yeley ($5,100)
– Full fade.
- Daniel Suarez ($6,400)
– Suarez may be worth putting in a few lineups just in case there’s a lot of attrition but he’s about a 30th-place car and that’s it. Definitely not worth the $6,400 price tag.
- Timmy Hill ($5,200)
– Full fade. This car is junk and the only way Hill moves up more than a couple of positions is if there’s a lot of attrition.