As has been in the case with many races this season, we had some qualifying inspection issues on Friday here at Kentucky Speedway: Denny Hamlin, Matt DiBenedetto, Jesse Little, and Timmy Hill all didn’t make a lap in qualifying and will start from 36th to 39th when the Quaker State 400 goes green. This will make Hamlin and DiBenedetto chalk plays on Saturday night but Little and Hill were pretty much expected to start back there anyway. Kentucky is a 1.5-mile “cookie cutter” track that is very similar to the other tracks of that length that we have ran at this year, and I highly suggest you take a look at these in-depth Fantasy NASCAR statistics that I posted earlier this week for this track type in preparation for Saturday night.

As far as race length goes, Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 is the same number of laps as Chicagoland was a couple of weeks ago: 267. However, this race is going to be quite different. Track position is key at Kentucky, and there isn’t nearly as much tire falloff, which means it’ll be more difficult for drivers starting further back to get to the front–not that it’s impossible. Still, you can expect the majority of the laps on Saturday night to be led by the guys starting up front. Looking at last year, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr., who started 1st and 2nd, led for a combined 264 of the 274 laps. In 2016, the front row qualifiers (Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski) led for a combined 203 of the 267 laps.

GPP Drivers I Love For The Kentucky Quaker State 400

Martin Truex Jr Fantasy NASCAR 2018
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Martin Truex, Jr. ($11,200) – Martin Truex, Jr. has averaged just 16 fastest per race on 1.5-mile tracks this season (and just 3 laps led per race) so why am I projecting him as having a dominating night on Saturday? Well, let me explain. Truex has yet to really start up front on a 1.5-mile track this season. He started 35th at Atlanta, 4th at Las Vegas, 6th at Texas, 7th at Kansas, 15th at Charlotte, and 36th at Chicagoland. This weekend? Pole sitter. This #78 team is notorious for making minimal changes once they unload, and if Truex has a car that can sit on the pole without any qualifying practice, he’s got a car that can dominate. As far as the practice sessions go this weekend, the #78 Toyota was 2nd in overall speed in Practice #1 and then wound up 7th in ten-lap average and overall average speed in Happy Hour. Finally, Truex dominated this race last year and also led 46 laps en route to a 10th-place finish in the 2016 Kentucky race. Some people are going to be “off” of Truex because of his top starting spot and limited domination on 1.5-mile tracks this season, but I see this as the opportunity to strike–and I’m expecting the #78 Toyota to return to 2017 level on Saturday night. Don’t forget about the #1 pit stall advantage, too!

Kyle Larson ($10,400) – DraftKings under-priced Kyle Larson this weekend, but there’s a chance he goes under-owned on Saturday night due to the fact that you have three dominators priced above him and then Denny Hamlin sitting there at $9,500 looking like he’s going to get a bunch of place differential points. Don’t forget about Larson, though, because he’s going to get some place differential points as well; the #42 Chevrolet will roll off the grid from 18th when the Quaker State 400 goes green this weekend, but Larson should be a top 5 car by the end of the first Stage. He was actually the fastest in the opening practice session of the weekend and then ran a whole bunch of laps in race trim during Happy Hour and ended up with the 6th-best ten-lap average. Kyle has finished 2nd, 7th, and 4th in the last three races at 1.5-mile tracks and put up 49, 21, and 48 fastest laps (respectively) in those events. There’s no reason to think he won’t put up some great numbers here at Kentucky, too.

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Jamie McMurray ($7,900) – If you’re going to roll with Denny Hamlin ($9,500) on Saturday night, Jamie McMurray is my favorite mid-priced driver to fill out your roster with. You can check out the “Talkin’ Strategy” section down below so you can see my thinking on this. Anyway, McMurray actually has an adjusted average finish of 14.2 on 1.5-mile tracks this year, and his record here at Kentucky Speedway is solid. In addition to finishing 7th in this race last year, McMurray came home 7th in 2016 and 14th in 2015. Five of his seven starts here have ended in top 15 finishes, and his career-best result (2nd) came back in 2013. This weekend, Jamie Mac qualified 22nd but should be able to move up quite a bit. He was 7th-fastest in Practice #1 on Friday and posted the 9th-best ten-lap average in Happy Hour.

Bubba Wallace ($6,000) – If Bubba Wallace can replicate his 2017 Kentucky performance this weekend, he’s going to win players a lot of money on Saturday night. In this race last year, Bubba started 17th, had a 16th-place average running position, and ended up finishing 11th when the checkered flag flew. This year, he’s going to start from back in 25th, but the #43 Chevrolet actually looks a bit more speedy than normal this weekend. Bubba was 18th-fastest in Practice #1 on Friday and then posted the 6th-fastest lap in Happy Hour later that afternoon. Bubba has an adjusted average finish of 18.2 on this track type in 2018, including an 8th-place result at Texas and a 16th-place finish at Charlotte.

Salary Cap Relief at Kentucky

Matt DiBenedetto Fantasy NASCAR 2018Matt DiBenedetto ($5,500) will probably be the highest-owned driver in DraftKings for Kentucky. He didn’t make a lap in qualifying and will start from back in 37th. Realistically, we’re probably looking at a finish between 25th and 30th for DiBenedetto on Saturday night. His career best finish at this track is 25th, and that came in this race last year.

Looking at the other drivers down here, Ty Dillon ($5,600) can save you some cap room, but keep in mind that he’s really not that good at this track. He wound up 25th here in 2016 and then finished 33rd last season. Still, Ty’s adjusted average finish on this track type in 2018 is 22.4, and he’s starting back in 28th so he has a little room to move forward. Other than those two (and Bubba Wallace, mentioned above) you’re really just looking at “hopeful for attrition” plays in this price range, and I’m not a huge fan of going too heavy on those. One play that I don’t hate is Kasey Kahne ($6,700) from back in the 29th starting spot, but at the same time, can $6,700 really be considered “salary cap relief?”

Talkin’ Strategy

Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

This weekend it’s all going to come down on whether you want to fade Denny Hamlin ($9,500). I personally like that play, just because I like to be aggressive when it comes to a chalk play with a guy starting in the back. That play can definitely burn you, though (I faded Larson in the Kentucky race last year, when he started 40th and finished 2nd). The thing with Hamlin is that he’s probably not going to get many fastest laps, and it’s hard to see him leading much. Additionally, he’s one of the most mentally weak drivers in the field, so you never know what kind of self-created problems he’s going to run into.

Leaving Hamlin off your lineup allows you to load up on the studs. With the chalk pick of Matt DiBenedetto ($5,500) starting 37th, you could easily put a lineup together with three of the top four projected drivers for Saturday night–that being Martin Truex, Jr. ($11,200), Kyle Larson ($10,100), and either Kevin Harvick ($11,600) or Kyle Busch ($11,000). If those guys split the fastest laps this weekend–which wouldn’t be overly surprising–I think that’ll work out better than having Hamlin in your lineup purely for the place differential FPTS. Not to mention, the public is going to be on Hamlin big time, so if he does wreck, you’re going to be looking gold.

Driver Point Projections for the Quaker State 400

The following chart takes into account the very basics: the starting position and the projected finish of each driver. The projected finishes are averaged from five different ranking systems, using both mathematical equations as well as personal rankings. This chart also includes the average projected base + laps led + fastest laps DraftKings FPTS as well as the dollar per FPT. You can click the headers below to sort the chart by that attribute. By default it is sorted by average projected FPTS.

DriverDraftKings SalaryAvg Proj FPTSStarting PositionAvg. Projected FinishProj Laps LedProj Fastest LapsDollar Per FPT
Martin Truex Jr$11,20089.6102.88456$125
Kevin Harvick$11,60077.3303.26041$150
Kyle Busch$11,00073.4501.83934$150
Kyle Larson$10,10066.51805.41921$152
Denny Hamlin$9,50059.23611.404$160
Brad Keselowski$9,80052.6404.21419$186
Clint Bowyer$9,60047.4807.21512$203
Joey Logano$9,30045.51909.001$204
Ryan Blaney$8,50043.3707.8119$197
Erik Jones$8,30039.5208.42110$210
Kurt Busch$8,10038.3909.016$212
Aric Almirola$8,80037.61210.223$234
Chase Elliott$8,70035.41612.802$246
Jimmie Johnson$9,10034.62718.200$263
Jamie McMurray$7,90030.02218.000$263
Bubba Wallace$6,00029.82519.600$201
Daniel Suarez$7,70027.21114.402$283
Ricky Stenhouse Jr$6,60025.61416.200$258
Paul Menard$7,20025.2613.815$286
Austin Dillon$7,00023.81316.600$294
William Byron$6,20023.82120.600$261
Kasey Kahne$6,70023.42924.800$286
Chris Buescher$6,50022.82020.600$285
Matt Kenseth$6,90022.61719.200$305
Alex Bowman$7,60022.21518.400$342
Matt DiBenedetto$5,50022.23729.400$248
Ty Dillon$5,60021.22825.400$264
AJ Allmendinger$6,40020.82624.600$308
David Ragan$5,80018.82424.600$309
Ryan Newman$7,40018.01018.000$411
Michael McDowell$6,10016.22325.400$377
Ross Chastain$5,20014.03030.000$371
Corey Lajoie$5,00013.43130.800$373
Jesse Little$4,80012.03835.000$400
Landon Cassill$5,30011.03333.000$482
JJ Yeley$4,90010.83232.600$454
Timmy Hill$4,50007.43937.800$608
BJ McLeod$4,70006.43435.800$734
Garrett Smithley$4,60004.63537.200$1,000

As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.