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Fantasy Update: Strong Saturday at Kansas for Christopher Bell, Kurt Busch

As we’ve seen in multiple practice sessions this season, the Next Gen car continues to be hard to drive. In preparation for Sunday’s AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway, there were several incidents, though many of them can be attributed to low air pressure in the left rear tire. Even so, several of the projected frontrunners for the 400-miler came to play, with Christopher Bell earning his third pole of the season.

Dustin Albino’s race-day lineup:
Starter 1: Kyle Larson
Starter 2: Tyler Reddick
Starter 3: Martin Truex Jr.
Starter 4: Christopher Bell
Starter 5: William Byron
Garage pick: Chase Elliott

MORE: Set your lineup | Starting lineup | Fantasy Fastlane

NEXT IN LINE: Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin.

RISING: Christopher Bell will start from the pole in a Cup Series race for the third time in his career, as he was the quickest driver in Saturday’s qualifying session. Before winning the pole, the No. 20 Toyota was fifth on the single-lap speed chart, while turning the quickest five- and 10-lap average. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Bell battling for the win.

Earlier this week, I said to stay away from Kurt Busch this weekend, as the No. 45 team has had a tough stretch of races dating back to COTA, with five finishes of 28th or worse. But Saturday’s practice and qualifying session was Busch’s best since joining 23XI Racing, and he will take the green flag from fifth. That came after being quickest in practice.

FALLING: Joey Logano is coming off a boost of momentum after winning the pole, leading the most laps and winning the race at Darlington Raceway last weekend. That was short lived. Unfortunately for the No. 22 team, Logano was one of six drivers to blow a left rear tire in practice at Kansas on Saturday, and one of two to go to a backup car (Chris Buescher). Though he has three wins at Kansas, Logano will start from behind on Sunday.

Since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, Kevin Harvick has upped his performance at most race tracks, including Kansas. In 16 starts at the track driving the No. 4 car, the 2014 champion has nine podium finishes, which includes wins in 2016 and 2018. However, he will start a surprising 23rd on Sunday and was 30th in practice. Save Harvick for later this season.

FEATURED MATCHUPS:

Joey Logano vs. William Byron: What a coincidence that these two drivers are matched up against each other this weekend. While Logano wrecked in practice, Byron didn’t set the world on fire, turning the 13th best lap in qualifying. Still, Hendrick Motorsports has shown superior speed on tracks similar to Kansas this season. Byron is the choice here, and no bad blood will transfer over from Darlington to Kansas.

Kyle Larson vs. Denny Hamlin: In a game of “What’s going to happen to Denny Hamlin this week?,” he also blew a tire in Saturday’s practice session. Maybe his tough luck for the weekend is out of the way for the weekend. Even if it is, Larson led over 49% of the laps at Kansas last year between two races, so the No. 5 team will be tough to beat.

Aric Almirola vs. Erik Jones: While it’s Almirola that has the better starting position (seventh to Jones’ 22nd), Jones has shown much more speed all season, particularly on old, worn-out surfaces, such as Auto Club Speedway and Darlington. The edge goes to the No. 43 Chevrolet this weekend.

Kevin Harvick. vs. Tyler Reddick: With the speed Reddick showed on Saturday, it’s very possible he gets his first career victory on Sunday. In fact, he’s my pick to win. As noted above, Harvick’s team is starting from behind with a disappointing 23rd-place starting position.