The MENCS travels back to Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400. This will be the last chance for the 12 drivers still competing for the MENCS Championship to advance in the playoffs. There are only 5 races left in the season so there is no need to save allocations. This is a good race to use the best drivers you have left on your team. Kansas tends to be one of the most predictable races on the schedule.
The MENCS will be back to a normal schedule this week. There will be one practice Friday (2pm ET on NBCSN) and qualifying Friday evening (7pm ET on NBCSN). There will be two practices Saturday (10:30am ET on CNBC and 1pm ET on NBCSN). The teams will have plenty of track time to dial in their cars for the Hollywood Casino 400. Our Driver Group Game picks need to be submitted by 8am ET Friday morning.
The MENCS last competed at Kansas in April. Kevin Harvick won the pole, led 79 laps and used 4 fresh tires to run to the front and win the KC Masterpiece 400. Ryan Blaney qualified 2nd, led 54 laps, won the first Stage but was involved in an accident on lap 247. Kyle Larson qualified 22nd and quickly made his way to the front by running up against the wall. Larson led a race-high 101 laps, won Stage 2 and finished 4th. The Team Penske Racing cars and Martin Truex Jr. also looked very strong in this race.
Race Rewind at Kansas: KC Masterpiece 400 (2018)
12 MENCS teams tested at Kansas last month. The drivers included: Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon, Matt Kenseth, Chris Buescher, Ty Dillon and David Ragan. Elliott posted the top speed on the first day and Buescher posted the fastest speed on day 2. Kyle Busch was the only driver to finish in the top 3 in all of the test sessions at the track.
Here are my picks for Kansas…
Driver Group Game A Picks
My pick to win at Kansas is Kevin Harvick but I only have 1 allocation left with the No. 4 car. I am saving it for Phoenix so I will have to fade Harvick this week. If you have 2 or more allocations with Harvick, I would pair him with Martin Truex Jr. Kyle Busch is also a good pick but I only have one allocation left with the No. 18 car. I like the momentum Brad Keselowski has right now so I decided to use the No. 2 car over the No. 18 this week.
Martin Truex Jr. (3): Truex Jr. must have one of those dominate races Sunday that he usually has on the 1.5-mile tracks. Truex is on the cut-line in the playoffs. If any drivers below the cut-line (Brad Keselowski, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman) wins the race Sunday, Truex could easily find himself on the outside of Round 3. This is the best track for Blaney and Keselowski is former winner at Kansas. Larson led the most laps in the last race at Kansas so he is a threat too. If the No. 78 team has a horse in their stable they know can win a race, they will have it at the track this week. Truex has finished 1st, 1st and 2nd in his last 3 races at Kansas so he can easily get the job done Sunday.
Brad Keselowski (6): Keselowski is 18 points behind the cut-line and he is almost in a must win situation. Just like the No. 78 team; the No. 2 team will be bringing their best car to the track. Team Penske Racing said they found something at the test at Kansas last month. Keselowski won the last 2 races on the intermediate tracks (Kansas and Darlington). He is the best driver in the field under pressure so I want him on my team this week.
Group A Driver Rankings: 1) Kevin Harvick 2) Martin Truex Jr. 3) Brad Keselowski 4) Kyle Busch 5) Joey Logano 6) Kyle Larson 7) Denny Hamlin 8) Jimmie Johnson
Driver Group Game B Picks
Ryan Blaney (2): Blaney is 22 points below the cut-line. He either needs a huge crash up front involving many of the Playoff drivers or he needs to win the race. If you asked Blaney which track he would pick to race at in a must win situation, he would probably pick Kansas. Blaney has led more laps at Kansas than any other track. He finished 3rd in this race last year and I expect him to run in the top 5 Sunday.
Kurt Busch (1): Busch is running as well or better than any driver in the playoffs. His average finishing position in the last 13 races is 8.7. That is incredibly consistent. Busch has an 8.4 average finishing position at Kansas since joining Stewart-Haas Racing. He finished 2nd in this race last year and he is running a lot better now. Busch is my sleeper pick to win this week.
Aric Almirola (3): I want as many Stewart-Haas Racing drivers as possible this week. That team seems to have the field whipped. Almirola could easily be looking for a sweep of Round 2 this week. He had the race won at Dover if it was not for a late caution. Then he bounced back and won at Talladega. He said Kansas is his best intermediate track. I will continue to ride the hot hand with Almirola.
Erik Jones (3): I am saving Chase Elliott because he said he is using the race at Kansas as a test for the race at Texas. I do not trust drivers who plan to test so I will use Erik Jones instead. Jones has finished 8 of the 10 races on the intermediate tracks this season in the top 11. That includes a 7th place finish in the first race at Kansas. I expect Jones to add another top-10 finish to his 2018 resume this week.
Group B Driver Rankings: 1) Kurt Busch 2) Ryan Blaney 3) Clint Bowyer 4) Aric Almirola 5) Chase Elliott 6) Erik Jones 7) Daniel Suarez 8) Austin Dillon 9) Paul Menard 10) Ryan Newman
Driver Group Game C Picks
Alex Bowman (2): Bowman has not been great on the 1.5-mile tracks this season but he is in a must win situation. Hendrick Motorsports does not have any other drivers in this race who are racing for a spot in Round 3 of the MENCS Playoffs (Chase Elliott is already locked into Round 3). HMS will likely work on different setups for the No. 88 car in practice to ensure his car is dialed in for the race. I think it is a good idea to use Bowman before he is eliminated from the playoffs.
Regan Smith (8): Leavine Family Racing announced last week that Smith will drive the No. 95 car for the remaining races on the 2018 schedule. Smith has not been very good at qualifying but he has been good at working his way to the top 15 at the end of the races. He finished 12th at Las Vegas while filling in for Kasey Kahne. Smith should be able to finish inside the top 20 again Sunday.
Group C Driver Rankings: 1) Alex Bowman) William Byron 3) Regan Smith 4) Chris Buescher 5) David Ragan
Driver Group Game Team
Group A: Martin Truex Jr. (3), Brad Keselowski (6)
Group B: Ryan Blaney (2), Kurt Busch (1), Erik Jones (3), Aric Almirola (3)
Group C: Alex Bowman (2), Regan Smith (8)
I will post my final picks for Driver Group Game Saturday evening.
If you need any further advice with your team, look for me on Twitter @MrFantasyNASCAR
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