Kevin Harvick will start from the Busch Pole in Sunday’s Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Should you ignore a potential lack of uses and go all-in with the defending race winner at the 1.5-mile track on your Fantasy Live lineup? We’ve dissected the numbers to offer a suggested lineup worthy of your Fantasy Live consideration.
Remember that the garage locks at the end of Stage 2. Once the final stage starts, your roster is locked in.
RJ Kraft’s Fantasy Live lineup for race day at Kansas:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Alex Bowman
3. Kurt Busch
4. Erik Jones
5. Clint Bowyer
Garage: Ryan Blaney
Analysis: I had to rip up most of my planned plays following the inspection failures of Daniel Suarez, Aric Almirola, Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. All of them were going to be in my lineup, but let’s not dwell on the negative. Let’s focus on the opportunity that provides others to drive into my race-day lineup.
Harvick has been in a class by himself as he led the 15- and 20-lap board (h/t@mikejoy500) and is the defending race winner. I understand the usage concerns here, but if you have six or more left, he’s a must-start. At five, I’d still play him — four is where I’d draw the line. Another option is to stack your bonus picks with the 4 car in an effort to save a use if you are low on how much you have left for Harvick. For me, I’m at five uses left and he’ll be in my lineup and will be manning all my bonus picks. Bowman was in my planned lineup at the start of the week and I’ve seen nothing to change that thinking. Bowman was fifth and fourth on the 15- and 20-lap boards. Add in his back-to-back runner-up finishes, a solid Kansas history of late and plenty of uses left to me and he’s a solid play.
The biggest bugaboo for Kurt Busch has been a starting spot, but the inspection failures move him to ninth in the lineup and he’s been solid all year on 1.5-mile tracks. Jones has been up and down all year, but I like taking advantage of a sixth-place starting spot with him, especially when he had the fifth-most points at this track last year. I’m not crazy about playing Bowyer, but it’s hard to argue against a second-place starting position and the No. 14’s 10-lap averages were good. I said on the podcast he was an avoid for me, but the allure of stage points following all the inspection woes is too great to pass up. Keselowski was also a consideration, but I want to be a bit mindful of my usage on him since I am throwing it to the wind with Harvick.
For my garage play, I’m going to go with Blaney. I like the Kansas history and the lap averages were solid in final practice. He moves up to start 13th and I like the speed he had over, say, Denny Hamlin or Jimmie Johnson. William Byron is also a sneaky play here as he’ll start third, but I’m reluctant to trust him back-to-back weeks after a solid result at Dover.
Almirola has had plenty of speed all weekend, but at just five uses left, I don’t want to risk using him when he starts at the back. I like Larson and the speed he’s shown as well, but I think he’s more likely to make a mistake flying up from the back and that’s a risk I’d rather not take. Suarez misses my lineup because he’s not nearly as attractive a play starting in the back quarter of the field as opposed to when he’s slated to start fourth. If Truex’s lap averages were better, I’d have no problem righting a wrong I committed at Dover and sticking him in the garage. However, those lap averages were pretty pedestrian and that leads me toward sitting him.
Each week in this space, we’ll also highlight two Props Challenge items for players.
1. Kurt Busch has an average finish of 10.5 the last six races at Kansas. Will he finish in the top 10 on Saturday? Initially, I was leaning no on this at the start of the week. However, the 2004 champion qualified ninth and has performed well on 1.5-mile tracks this season — a perfect 3-for-3 in top 10s so far. Given the long run speed he has shown as well, this seems like a solid yes.
2. O/U 19.5 lead-lap finishers at Kansas. I’m going under here for two main reasons. The three races contested on 1.5-mile tracks so far this year have seen an average of 16.7 cars finish on the lead lap and the high for one race was 18. The past three Kansas spring night races have averaged 19 lead-lap finishes with the over being hit just once. The numbers and trends indicate the under and there’s where I’m going.