1) Kevin Harvick (Starting – 4th) (Odds To Win – 9/2)
Kansas Fantasy Outlook – Kevin Harvick is poised to be the driver to beat at Kansas. He’s favorite based on odds, he had the best car this spring (PROS Rankings) and he’s arguably been the best driver since the fall 2012 repave. For the season at 1.5 mile tracks if you credit him with the finish he deserved at Chicagoland it’s pretty clear nobody has been better than him on this track type. In the Chase Harvick has shown tremendous speed and he could easily have three wins. In practice Kevin Harvick appeared to have a good car. In Happy Hour he had the 5th best 10 lap average and in practice #2 he ranked as the 2nd best.
Kansas Track History – Kevin Harvick has been an awesome performer at Kansas on the new reconfiguration. On the new layout he has the best driver rating, best average finish (6.7), best average running position (7.5) and has led the most laps (371). This spring he had a great car and would’ve won if the late caution didn’t come out. When the checkered flag waved he finished 2nd, earned the 2nd best driver rating and led 53 laps. Last fall he finished 12th but that result deserves an asterisk mark. Performance wise he looked like a lock to finish in the top three but with 53 laps to go while he was running in 3rd he slowed on the track and pitted under green because he thought he had a tire going down. That dropped him back to 23rd but he still battled back for a respectable result. In the race even with his problem he led 61 laps, had a 5th place average running position and earned the 3rd best driver rating. In spring 2013 he dominated the race but Jeff Gordon cycled ahead of him following late pit stops and that’s what decided the outcome. In that event he started on the pole, earned the best driver rating, finished 2nd and led 119 laps. In fall 2013 he also started on the pole and closed out strong racing his way to victory lane. In that event he earned the best driver rating and led a race high 138 laps. While his car was out front probably the only driver who had anything for him was Jimmie Johnson. On lap 87 there was a caution during the pit cycle and it trapped him back in the 20′s. He was able to get his track position back but it was mostly through pit strategy. In the first two Kansas races on the current layout he finished 11th and 12th.
Recent Similar Track Trends – Kevin Harvick has been the driver to beat at 1.5 mile tracks. For the season at tracks of this length he has the best driver rating. At these venues minus Chicagoland where he looked very impressive but wrecked he has a 3.7 average finish and a 4.4 average running position.
Momentum – In the last two races Kevin Harvick has finished 1st and 2nd. In the two races prior to that he was good enough to win but had problems which led to misleading results.
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2) Matt Kenseth (Starting – 11th) (Odds To Win – 7/1)
Kansas Fantasy Outlook – There’s a lot of pressure on Matt Kenseth to win this weekend or come home with a top five because of his rough weekend at Charlotte. The good news for Kenseth is that Kansas is a good track for him to race under pressure. He’s been great here and this year at 1.5 mile tracks he’s ranked as an elite performer. Kansas is somewhat of a mini-Michigan and in August at that venue he dominated. In practice Matt Kenseth seemed relatively happy with his car and was fine tuning. In Happy Hour his ten lap average ranked as the 4th best. His 15 lap average in final practice ranked as the 2nd best.
Kansas Track History – Matt Kenseth belongs in the conversation of being the strongest driver at Kansas since the track reconfiguration. In the six races on the current layout he has the 2nd best driver rating, a 7.0 average finish and is the only driver with multiple wins. This spring he didn’t have an easy race but finished 6th. He started in 18th and on lap 130 while he was running in 9th he spun which dropped him back to the 30’s. He had a good car so he was able to rally back. Last fall he finished 13th but he was better than his result. In the race he started deep in the field in 27th but by lap 50 he raced his way up to 13th. By lap 200 he was running in 8th. Unfortunately his race wasn’t incident free. With 47 laps to go while he was running in 9th he pitted because he had a left rear tire going down which dropped him to about 23rd. From that point on he rallied hard up to his 13th place result. In spring 2014 he really didn’t have a great car but finished 10th when the race reached its conclusion. In fall 2013 Kenseth had a solid race. He finished 11th, had an 11th place average running position and earned the 7th best driver rating. In the race he performed better than his result. What happened is that he got a pit road speeding penalty under yellow around lap 140. That sent him all the way back to 30th. Before that happened he was running in the top five. In spring 2013 Kenseth had a dominant performance en route to victory lane. He started on the pole, led 163 laps and earned a near perfect 146.0 driver rating. In the first race on the new surface Kenseth was very good. In that race he led the most laps (78), had the best average running position (6th), earned the best driver rating (141.7) and finished 1st.
Recent Similar Track Trends – Matt Kenseth has run well at all 1.5 mile tracks this year. For the season at these venues minus Texas and Charlotte #2 he has a 5.7 average finish and an 11.0 average running position.
Momentum –At Charlotte Kenseth had multiple problems and finished 42nd. That snapped his four race top ten streak.
Further Recommended Reading – Kansas Post Practice Predictions, Kansas 10 Lap Average Speed Cheat Sheet, Kansas Starting Lineup, Kansas Happy Hour Notes, Kansas Happy Hour Speeds, Practice #2 Notes, Practice #2 Speeds, PROS Rankings, Asterisk Mark Report, Scouting Report
3) Joey Logano (Starting – 14th) (Odds To Win – 7/1)
Kansas Fantasy Outlook – Joey Logano will be one of the drivers to beat at Kansas. He has four straight top fives at this venue and if it wasn’t for Kevin Harvick he would likely be hailed as the best here recently. This year at 1.5 mile tracks he’s been a fantasy ace. He’s scored the most points and he’s coming off a win at Charlotte. One advantage Logano has on much of the field this week is that he can race aggressively and use more pit strategy because he has nothing to lose. This weekend I think Logano is doing a little more experimenting then usual because this is essentially a throw away race for the team.
Kansas Track History – Joey Logano has been very strong at Kansas. In the last four races he has the best average finish (3.5), is tied for the best average running position (5.3) and has led 247 laps. This spring Joey Logano had a great race. He finished 5th and led 29 laps. What makes his result so notable is that he overcame devastating pit road problems twice while running well. Last fall he took the competition to the “wood shed” and led 45.6% percent of the laps. When the checkered flag waved he finished 1st, earned the best driver rating, had a 3rd place average running position and led 122 laps. In spring 2014 he was very strong. He started 2nd, earned the 2nd best driver rating, had a 3rd place average running position, finished 4th and led 63 laps. In fall 2013 Logano had a great car. He started in 5th, had a 6th place average running position, finished 4th and led 33 laps. His car in the race was very good and he even overcame other drivers pit strategies which shuffled him from the lead back to about 13th.
Recent Similar Track Trends – This year at 1.5 mile tracks Joey Logano has scored the most points, has a 5.6 average finish, 5.5 average running position and has led the most laps (447). Charlotte is a 1.5 mile track like Kansas and last week he dominated at that venue.
Momentum – In the Chase Joey Logano has scored the most points, has a 5.0 average result and is the only driver to finish in the top ten every race.