Kevin Harvick won the Busch Pole Qualifying Award and will start in the top position in Saturday’s KC Masterpiece 400 (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Kansas Speedway. After a nearly two-and-half-hour practice session for this race, we’ve dissected the numbers and 10-lap averages to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration as you go to make roster decisions for the 12th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of 2018.
Note: There will be a competition caution on Lap 30.
Cars to the rear: Kyle Larson (tire change)
RJ Kraft’s revised Fantasy Live lineup following practices and the lineup being set:
1: Kevin Harvick
2: Ryan Blaney
3: Aric Almirola
4: Kyle Busch
5: Daniel Suarez
Garage: Martin Truex Jr.
Analysis: I had the front row duo of Harvick and Blaney in my original lineup and see no reason to move away from it. Harvick has two intermediate wins (out of his four total victories) already in 2018 and Blaney has three top-five finishes in his last four Kansas starts. I’m also sticking with Suarez in my lineup in large because I’ve yet to use him. He finished in the top 10 here last spring and has four straight top-11 finishes in 2018.
The big move for me is putting Kyle Busch into my lineup in place of his brother Kurt. He has five top-five finishes in his last six Kansas races — including a 2016 victory in this race. He’s been strong all season at the intermediate tracks — picking up a victory at Texas last month to kick start his run of three straight victories in April. Add in that the 2015 champion posted the second-best 10-lap average and best 15-lap average (thanks to FS1 and @mikejoy500 for sharing the 15-lap data) and I need to get him in my lineup. Playing Busch, though, does come at a cost in that I am now down to only five uses with him.
In an effort to somewhat save a driver, I’m sticking Martin Truex Jr. — the winner of the past two Kansas races — in my garage. Despite Truex not picking up where he left off last year on the 1.5-mile tracks — he has led just seven laps on that track type in 2018 — I think its too risky to sit him entirely especially when races that involve shifting from daylight to night are a 78 team speciality. I don’t plan on using all three of Harvick, Busch and Truex when my lineup locks at the end of Stage 2. The two that are running the best will stay in and I will shuttle the third of that group into the garage. If something goes haywire elsewhere in my lineup, I potentially have a tough decision to make and I’m willing to live with that potential outcome.
In a quest for significant stage points, I’m adding Almirola into my lineup in place of Erik Jones. He authored his best qualifying effort of the season on Friday — will start fourth and had the third-best 10-lap average and 15-lap average in the lone practice session. With nine top 15s in 11 races, Almirola has been solid all year. But with that starting position (and minimal usage on my rosters thus far), I’m looking for the Stewart-Haas Racing driver to score well in the stages (he currently sits 12th in that category so far in 2018).