And just like that, we’re down to four. The third round of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs kicks off this weekend with the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. This is also the 33rd race of the season, meaning there are only a few more chances left to really make some moves for your final Standings position in Fantasy NASCAR leagues. Are you feeling risky or want to just go with the flow? It seems like these 1.5-mile tracks have been the time to take some underdogs all season long… Chase Elliott will be on the pole for Sunday’s race and you can click here for the Hollywood Casino 400 starting lineup.
*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on race day.*
Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest Picks for the Kansas Hollywood Casino 400
Denny Hamlin ($12,800) – Thus far in 2020, Denny Hamlin has led 50+ laps in seven races, and three of those have been at 1.5-mile tracks. That’s actually quite impressive when you consider that Joe Gibbs Racing got off to an incredibly slow start on this track type this season. Also, one of those races was here at Kansas back in July, and no Denny has back-to-back wins at this track. Can he go 3-for-3 this weekend? It wouldn’t surprise me one bit. This #11 Toyota also led the most laps at Las Vegas last month, which is the most recent 1.5-mile track we’ve visited, and that tells me that this team has this car dialed in on these tracks now. Hamlin starts 7th on Sunday and is a race-winning contender. I like him a bit more than Kevin Harvick ($13,000) and Martin Truex, Jr. ($12,600) just because he starts further back, but all three could win this race and are great Slingshot picks this weekend.
Kyle Busch ($11,800) – Kyle Busch should put up a big points day in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest this weekend considering he starts back in 20th and has finished inside the top 5 in each of the last five fall races here at Kansas. The only exception? The 2017 fall race, when he ended up 10th but still led 112 laps. Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole is always fast at this track, and Kyle Busch had a potential race-winning car here last July but a late tire issue relegated him to an 11th-place finish. My only concern with this #18 team is whether they’re going to go in full-out experiment mode now that they are eliminated from the Playoffs. If any team is going to do that now to prepare for the 2021 season, it’s going to be this team. That doesn’t automatically mean a terrible race, though, and without any major issues I still think Kyle Busch has top 5 potential on Sunday.
Erik Jones ($10,600) – All the data points to a great race out of Erik Jones here at Kansas on Sunday, but you always have take his statistics with a grain of salt because…well, it’s Erik Jones. But let’s just look at a couple of things: Jones has now finished 8th or better in five of the last six Cup Series races, and four of those were also top 5s. Here at Kansas, he’s came home 7th or better in five straight races, including a 5th here in July. Also, looking at this year’s Kansas and Charlotte races–which used the same left side tire that the cars will run this weekend–Jones has the 10th-best average running position (12.7) in the series. I’m willing to bet big on Joe Gibbs Racing this weekend at Kansas. They’ve been the most consistently fast cars at this track lately.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,000) – First and foremost, Matt DiBenedetto’s track record at Kansas Speedway is beyond horrendous. Over 11 career starts here, Matty D has an average finish of 26.8, and only once has he cracked the top 20 here (he finished 15th in this race last season). Does that worry me, though? Not really. There are two things that have become increasingly clear when it comes to races at 1.5-mile tracks this season: restarts are incredibly important, and Matt DiBenedetto has one of the fastest cars on restarts. That’s why he was able to finish 2nd in both Las Vegas races as well as come home 3rd at Kentucky. The problem with this #21 team is that they have horrible luck, so we’ve seen DiBenedetto have some terrible finishes this season as well. I’m more than willing to roll the dice here at Kansas on Sunday, though, because the upside with Matt is very high. And after all, this race is sponsored by a casino, so it seems fitting.
John Hunter Nemechek ($6,600) – I do like Corey LaJoie ($6,500) as a pivot here if you don’t want Nemechek, but both of these drivers have been solid on the 1.5-mile tracks this season (relatively speaking) so you can’t go wrong with either. As far as John Hunter goes, he’s finished between 13th and 24th in six of the seven races on low-wear 1.5-mile tracks this season, including a 19th-place finish in the first Kansas race this year. Both him and LaJoie have an average finish of 21.6 on this track type this season, and they start back in 32nd and 29th (respectively) this week. Just great low-dollar options here that should score around 60 points in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest on Sunday.
Note: The above lineup is what I consider a very safe lineup for Sunday’s race at Kansas, and heading into the weekend I’m debating whether I want to roll the dice or not. The alternate roster I’m also considering is one with Martin Truex, Jr. ($12,600) instead of Kyle Busch and then Alex Bowman ($10,000) instead of Erik Jones. The other three drivers in my lineup are pretty solid in my mind.