Kenseth headlines "smart" picks entering STP 400
Read more: Practice results
If a driver wants to win in NASCAR, he must be prepared for anything. At Kansas, drivers practiced pit road entrance during Saturday’s two practice sessions. Many of them found the limit and stepped well over the line. Since the track was repaved last summer, only one half of a green flag pit stop sequence was in the books when debris from Aric Almirola’s Ford littered the track after a handful of drivers had been serviced.
This week, the wild card is going to be entering pit road under green.
Someone -- probably several drivers -- are going to miss the entrance and have to go around the course. Someone is going to get caught speeding, so fantasy players want to choose drivers who are not inclined to make mistakes. So far in 2013, the two full-time drivers who have not incurred a race day penalty by NASCAR are Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon.
Kenseth has a lot to recommend him this week. During his career with Roush-Fenway Racing he was not a strong qualifier, but that seems to be changing rapidly at Joe Gibbs Racing. He blistered the track with a new record of 191.864 mph and posted the fastest lap in final practice which means he should begin accumulating laps led points from the drop of the green.
Making a part-time appearance, Sam Hornish Jr. is setting up his car for long runs. He posted the second-quickest, 10-lap speeds in both Saturday morning and final-practice sessions. He will probably slip back from his fourth-place qualification to hover outside the top 10 for a while, but if the race goes green for any length of time he is going to catch back up to the leaders. If he times the ebb and flow right, he will finish in the top 10, but with a modest salary cap of $13.50, he will be a good value even if he finishes in the teens.
Almirola is on the cusp of winning. That first victory will probably come on a short track, but he is capable of scoring a top-10 this week. He qualified sixth, posted the fourth-quickest 10-lap average in the morning session, and had the second-fastest single lap in final practice.
It's difficult to say what to do with Gordon. His accident in qualification means he rolls off the grid 43rd and that guarantees positive place differential points in NASCAR Fantasy Live, but the No. 24 will be mired in traffic at the start and he won’t score very many fastest laps. Since this race is only 267 laps and it will take a while to get into the top 15, he will not earn many quality passing points, either. Still, the team does not seem to be panicked and if it finds something overnight, he could earn maximum points.
Tony Stewart told his crew during final practice, “We have not found a thing.” That pretty much sums up his odds for the weekend and fantasy players should continue to leave him in the garage until the summer months, when he typically picks up speed.