After a crazy and unpredictable race at Daytona, we settle back into the groove of things this weekend with the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Kentucky is another 1.5-mile track, which means we already have a ton of performance data from other races this year. It’s also a track that we only visit once per year, for what that’s worth.
NASCAR decided to go with the condensed schedule this weekend, which means we have inspection on Saturday afternoon. Any car that fails will cause the driver’s qualifying time to be disallowed and he will have to start from the back and be scored from there as well in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These picks were made before inspection started, so they may change depending on how it goes, as any driver that fails will be a great pick in this game due to the place differential points.
Click here for the starting lineup for Saturday night’s race at Kentucky. Also if you’d like to analyze the results from Friday’s first practice, you can do so by clicking here. For speeds from the second practice (Happy Hour), click here.
*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on Sunday.*
Kentucky Quaker State 400 Slingshot Picks
Kyle Busch ($12,700) – You can’t go wrong with Kyle Busch at Kentucky. He’s a two-time winner at this race track and has led 100+ laps in four of his eight career starts here. He’s also never finished worse than 12th in a Kentucky race, and has an overall average finish of 5.0, which is borderline insane. Rowdy will roll off the grid from 10th when the Quaker State 400 gets going tonight, but he should be up fighting for the lead within the first Stage. This weekend, the #18 Toyota ranked #1 on the overall average speed chart, and Kyle is also ranked P1 with the Algorithm Predicted Finishes for tonight. Busch has had two bad Slingshot points races in a row. I’d be incredibly surprised if he makes it three this weekend.
Kyle Larson ($10,900) – I’m not in love with this pick by any means, but it’s hard to ignore how much speed Kyle Larson has had on the 1.5-mile tracks this season. If it wasn’t for the bad luck that this team constantly finds themself running into, he’d probably have one of the best average finishes on this track type in the series. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so his average finish is sitting there at 18.8, which is 20th-best in the series. With that being said, I think Larson has top 10 speed for tonight’s race at Kentucky. He also recently finished 2nd at Chicagoland, so that’s encouraging. Larson ended up 9th here at Kentucky last season and finished 2nd in 2017 despite starting 40th. He rolls off the grid from 19th tonight but should be much higher than that when the checkered flag waves.
Alex Bowman ($10,800) – This weekend, the Hendrick Motorsports cars didn’t show quite as much speed as we’ve become accustomed to, but let’s try not to get too caught up in the practice speeds from Friday afternoon (for a Saturday night race). The fact of the matter is that Hendrick owns three of the top four average finishes on 1.5-mile tracks this year (excluding Atlanta), with Alex Bowman coming in 2nd-best in the series with an average finish of 7.8. For the record, Chase Elliott is 3rd-best with 8.2, while Jimmie Johnson is 4th-best with 8.4. Speed-wise, I don’t think this #88 Chevrolet has enough to win for the second 1.5-mile race in a row, but a top 10 is definitely within reach for Alex Bowman on Saturday night. He starts 22nd, so that’s some great place differential potential for a guy of his caliber.
William Byron ($9,400) – William Byron isn’t in the top 5 of average finishes on the 1.5-mile tracks this season, but he is in the top 10. To be exact, he’s tied with Denny Hamlin for 9th-best in the series with an average finish of 11.8. And while that may not seem overly great on the outside, if you remember back to last season, Byron rarely finished inside the top 20 on this track type. So it’s definitely an improvement. This weekend, the #24 Chevrolet actually wasn’t too bad in qualifying (12th-fastest), and on the overall average speed chart, I clocked Byron at 5th-fastest despite running more laps (68) than most between the two sessions. Just on momentum alone, Byron is a great Fantasy NASCAR pick this weekend, as he has four top 10s in the last six races overall and is coming off of a season-best 2nd-place finish at Daytona. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he challenged for a top 5 tonight.
David Ragan ($6,200) – This pick is a little out there, but I’ll explain why I’m rolling the dice with David Ragan this weekend. He qualified 25th, which is pretty high for a car that runs mid-pack every week, but not as high as his teammate, Michael McDowell, who ended up 17th. And that’s a reason why I like Ragan: his teammate showed good speed on Friday. Additionally, David Ragan is actually pretty good here at Kentucky Speedway. Over the last four races at this track, Ragan has finished between 18th and 24th in each of them, including an 18th-place finish in this race last year. On recent 1.5-mile tracks, Ragan has finished 23rd (Chicagoland) and 15th (Charlotte). This is one of those picks that will likely change if there are quite a few inspection failures on Saturday, but we’ll see.