Fantasy cheat sheet: Driver rankings for Kansas Speedway

 

Kevin Harvick waves to the crowd during driver introductions prior to the race at Richmond International Raceway. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Special to Yahoo Sports
By Dan Beaver

The past five weeks have featured three short track and one restrictor-plate, superspeedway races, but it’s time to get back to the meat and potatoes of the schedule. The majority of events in NASCAR are contested on unrestricted, intermediate speedways most of which are similarly configured. This week will be a test of who is going to have the most strength during the long summer months. Fantasy players might want to place-and-hold the drivers who fare well at Kansas.

1. Kevin Harvick: The No. 4 car has been creeping up on a victory with top-fives in their last three unrestricted races. Harvick finished first and second at Kansas last year, so he could finally break into Victory Lane this week.

2. Kyle Larson: He has one of the more incredible recent records on the “cookie-cutter” tracks with runner-up finishes at Atlanta, Vegas, and Texas. Larson will be back in his element at Kansas.

3. Joey Logano: It will be important for Logano to get back into Victory Lane soon. He needs to erase the memory of Richmond’s encumbered finish from the minds of his fans and detractors alike.

4. Jimmie Johnson: A victory in the O’Reilly 500 galvanized this team. Johnson looks like an entirely different driver than the one who struggled at Atlanta and Vegas.

5. Brad KeselowskiIn his three starts on “cookie-cutter” tracks this year, Keselowski has not finished worse than sixth. He won at Atlanta and will challenge the leaders again in Kansas.

6. Chase Elliott: At the beginning of the season when it appeared Elliott and Larson were dominating the field, that impression came largely from strong runs on unrestricted, intermediate speedways.

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7. Jamie McMurray: He has not made a lot of noise this season, but McMurray is one of six drivers who swept the top 10 in three races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year.

8. Kyle BuschThis year has not gone according to plan for Joe Gibbs Racing. They dominated this track type in 2016, but Busch has only one top-15 in three races on “cookie-cutters” this year.

9. Kurt Busch: He had the longest active streak of top-15s on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks at 19 before finishing 20th last fall at Texas. He finished 10th on the track this year and was 30th in this year’s Kobalt 400 at Vegas.

10. Clint Bowyer: At the start of the year, Bowyer was expected to run best on drivers’ tracks. He’s defied that notion with one top-10 and a pair of 11ths in three races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks.

11. Martin Truex Jr.: In 2012, Truex swept the runner-up position at Kansas. He’s added two more top-fives in the eight races that followed, but he has trended downward in his last three starts with no top-10s and three top-15s.

12. Ryan Blaney: There is a 50 percent chance that Blaney will score a top-10 this week. Even if he misses that mark, he should be a good value with a solid top-15.

13. Kasey Kahne: After a promising start to the season, Kahne has slipped well down the order. His 38th-place finish at Texas snapped a seven-race, top-15 streak on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks.

14. Matt Kenseth: He had an incredible run of nine consecutive top-10s entering the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas, but a 16th put an end to that streak. In his last three races this year, he’s earned only one more top-15.

15. Dale Earnhardt Jr.This week will be a big test for Earnhardt. His only strong finish in 2017 came at Texas in the O’Reilly 500 and it’s time to see if that was a fluke.

16. Denny Hamlin: The past two years have been erratic for Hamlin on “cookie-cutter” courses. He has earned only four top-10s and none of them have come in consecutive events.

17. Daniel Suarez: In each of his three attempts on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year, Suarez has improved by one position. His 19th at Texas could point to an 18th at Kansas

18. Ty Dillon: It took a while for many fantasy players to trust Dillon and the No. 13 team. While they were waiting to see consistency, the driver recorded three results of 21st or better and became one of the top Rookie of the Year contenders.

19. Erik Jones: This sensational rookie is starting to look like a first-year driver with great performances and uneven results, so it might be time to let him rest for a week or two.

20. Aric Almirola: He has not scored a top-10 on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks in 15 attempts, but Almirola has a handful of top-15s including a 14th in this year’s Kobalt 400.

21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: Roush-Fenway Racing has been among the most improved organizations in the field and that, more than his Talladega victory last week, makes Stenhouse attractive to fantasy owners.

22. Danica Patrick: With results ranging from 11th to 36th in the past two years on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, Patrick is hard to handicap. Her average finish is about 21st.

23. Chris Buescher: In his last six races on this track type, Buescher has finished between 16th and 24th. He’s been driving under the radar for most players this season and that makes him a great differentiator.

24. Trevor Bayne: Now that Stenhouse has broken into Victory Lane, it’s time for Roush to put a little more effort into getting Bayne his first win of the season.

25. AJ Allmendinger: The best way to shrug off a mistake like the one Allmendinger made at Talladega is to run well in the next race. Unfortunately, this track type has not been overly kind to the No. 47 in 2017.

26. Ryan Newman: Look for Newman to be a much better value on drivers’ tracks and concentrate on someone else on these unrestricted, intermediate speedways.

27. Paul Menard: It has been 11 races on this track type since Menard finished in the top 15 and there is very little reason to think he will reverse that trend at Kansas.

28. Landon Cassill: It has been nine races since Cassill finished outside the top 30 on a similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track. That will not make him anchor any roster, but he could fit a salary cap slot.

29. David Ragan: The No. 38 team could be used as filler in salary cap games so long as fantasy owners are willing to accept the fact that Ragan will finish in the mid- to high-20s.

30. Austin Dillon: In the first seven similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track races last year, Dillon had an average finish of 11.9. In his most recent six attempts, that has fallen to 27.5.

31. Michael McDowell: With a 29th at Atlanta this spring, no one paid much attention to McDowell in the Kobalt 400. He finished 18th in that race, however, and was one of the top values.

32. Matt DiBenedetto: In three “cookie-cutter” starts this year, DiBenedetto has shown consistency with results ranging from 26th to 31st. Look for him to land in that same range again at Kansas.

33. Cole Whitt: With a worst finish of 30th in three similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track races this year, Whitt is not a terrible value, but each checkered flag has seen him deeper and deeper in the field.

34. Jeffrey EarnhardtThere is a little potential in this driver and team. Earnhardt scored two top-30s in seven races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks last year. His best result on this course type in 2017 is a 32nd.

35. Gray Gaulding: Consistency is more important for rookie drivers than raw speed most of the time. Gaulding has finished either 34th or 37th in each of the three races on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this year.

36. Reed Sorenson: The first two similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track races this year ended in identical 31st-place results. He slipped to 35 at Texas, however, and that was obtained mostly by attrition in a short field.

37. Corey LaJoie: One of LaJoie’s better finishes this year came on an unrestricted, intermediate speedway. He was 30th at Auto Club despite sustaining some crash damage in the race.

38. Timmy Hill: With only one failed attempt to qualify in the last two years it has been a while since Hill raced at Kansas, but his average in five starts is a respectable 31.2.

39. Derrike Cope: The only way this team is going to move up through the field is by attrition and the few place-differential points he earns will not make Cope acceptable in any game.

For more analysis, go to DanBeaver.com or follow him on Twitter