Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:03 PM
Best Bets - Kentucky
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Each week during the Monster Energy Cup Series (MENCS) regular season through the Chase, we'll take a look at the best Fantasy plays, as well as Futures and Wagers when applicable, to get you ready for the upcoming race week.
The MENCS heads back to Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400, only the eighth-ever Cup race at the Sparta, Ky. track.
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch (13/4) is not listed as the overall favorite for this weekend's race, but he probably should be. He has started all seven Cup races at the Kentucky track, posting a 5.14 Average-Finish Position (AFP) with two victories, five Top 5s and six Top 10s. He has never finished lower than 12th, and he leads all drivers with 549 laps led. According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Rowdy has posted a 123.1 Driver Rating across the past five starts while running 95.4 percent of his laps inside the Top 15. Teammate Erik Jones (20/1) picked up a victory at Daytona last week and is a threat at Kentucky, too. He made his Cup debut at the track last season and was sixth, so JGR Toyotas are worth watching closely. Rowdy goes off fifth on Saturday night, while Jones started on the outside of Row 1.
Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. (3/1) will make noise in Kentucky. FRR, who has a technical alliance with JGR, including car chassis and engines from Toyota Racing Development, can basically be included under the JGR umbrella. As such, those are the cars to target this weekend due to their recent dominance. Toyota has been to Victory Lane four times in seven Cup races at Kentucky, with Ford and Dodge leading Penske Racing to three wins. Chevrolet has yet to claim checkers at the track in seven years. MTJ checks in with a 103.9 Driver Rating over the past five stops at the track, third among active drivers. He is the defending champion at this run, and he has four Top 10 finishes across his past six outings in Kentucky. Truex will start from the pole, and two of the seven champs have come from the top spot.
Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick (5/2) rolls into the weekend looking to maintain his Top 10 streak. He has five straight Top 10 finishes at the track, although he has yet to pick up a win at the track in a Cup car. He has led 128 laps at the track while posting a 10.0 AFP in his seven starts, but keep in mind that while he has never finished lower than 16th, he also hasn't been higher than seventh. Teammate Kurt Busch (25/1) is also worth watching, although he has yet to claim victory at the track, too. He is averaging a 12.9 AFP in seven starts, but he has managed just one Top 5 with 51 laps led. Clint Bowyer (16/1) is among the Top 5 betting options this week, but he is a risky play. Yes, he was in inferior equipment in recent seasons, so his past numbers aren't terribly telling. But he has been really, really average at this run. He has a 18.9 AFP with only one Top 10 while never running out front. Harvick is set to go off third, while the elder Busch starts ninth and Bowyer will head out from the eighth position.
Penske's Brad Keselowski (16/1) is the only driver to break up the Toyota monopoly at Kentucky, taking checkers in 2012, 2014 and 2016. His average speed of 145.607 mph in his June 2012 win still stands as the record pace for any of the seven Cup events. All three of his victories have come from a Top 10 starting position, including the pole in 2014. His races at Kentucky haven't been without adventure, however, as he was involved in a crash with Jimmie Johnson (40/1) last season, finsihing 39th. He got loose and collected the seven-time champ in a wreck, his only DNF in seven starts at Kentucky. Teammate Joey Logano (20/1) hasn't won at the track, and he hasn't been nearly as dominant as his Kes. He has just two Top 5 finishes , while ending up with a 14.0 AFP. He was a runner-up in 2015, but he ended up 39th with a DNF in 2016. Logano has been rather hard to figure at this event. Keselowski guns for his fourth-career Kentucky win from starting spot No. 4. Logano has the chance to earn plenty of place differential points if he finishes well, as he goes off from the 19th spot.
Speaking of J.J., the Hendrick Motorsports veteran has five Top 10 finishes under his belt in seven starts, but he hasn't been hitting on all cylinders in each of his past two stops. As mentioned, he was involved in an incident with Keselowski last season, winding up dead last in 40th place. That followed up a disappointing 32nd-place run in 2016, so he isn't quite as automatic as from 2011-15 when he posted a 7.4 AFP in his first five starts at the track. Hendrick's Chase Elliott (25/1) has been uneven in his two Kentucky Cup races, finishing 31st in his track debut in 2016, but he was third last season to turn some heads.
If you're looking for a sleeper, Wood Brothers Racing's
Paul Menard (100/1)
is considered a long shot to claim checkers, but if his qualifying and practice sessions are any indication, he could be a threat. He posted a best speed of 188.121 mph to qualify for the sixth position next to Kyle Busch. Wouldn't it be interesting to see the guy in the Menard's/Quaker State Ford Fusion run to Victory Lane in a car sponsor matching the race sponsor? He hasn't really shown signs of being a threat at Kentucky before, however, finishing 18th or better four times, and his best finish is 12th back in 2012.
Bubba Wallace (500/1)
isn't being given a great chance by Vegas to win on Saturday night, but he was a respectable 11th last season in his Cup debut at the track.
Daniel Suarez (75/1)
isn't nearly as big of a long shot in his JGR Toyota, as he looks to improve upon his 18th-place run a year ago.
Among the older drivers who can still be a threat, Chip Ganassi Racing's Jamie McMurray (100/1) has back-to-back seventh-place showings at the track in 2016 and 2017. Ryan Newman (100/1) is in the same boat, and his erratic history at Kentucky is why he is down the list. The Rocket Man might fare well since it is an even year, as he finished third in 2014 and third in 2016, but he was 20th in 2015 and 22nd in 2017. If you believe in trends, Newman could be a surprising low-end DFS buy.