Race Preview Update: Kansas

Jeff Gordon was fast Friday and Saturday in the prelims and is the favorite for today's race. (Photo Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

As expected, the Kansas City area enjoyed excellent, consistent weather Friday and Saturday, so the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams got in all three practice sessions and qualifying. To handicap today’s race, I crunched the numbers from those sessions to produce initial rankings, and then I merged those rankings with the historical rankings I produced earlier this week (weighting the results heavily toward the initial rankings).

Finally, I tweaked the results by considering starting positions, 10-lap averages and the opinions of another online expert. I came up with this top five:

  1. Jeff Gordon
  2. Jimmie Johnson
  3. Greg Biffle
  4. Kasey Kahne
  5. Kevin Harvick

In my opinion, Gordon is the clear favorite to win. He was fast in qualifying trim Friday, and fast on both short and long runs in race trim Saturday. Plus, he has an excellent starting position (3rd), and he looks great in the historical data. My money says Gordon wins today and adds some excitement to the Chase.

I’ve got Harvick rated down at #5, but he makes a fine sleeper today. He wasn’t fast in qualifying trim and starts way back in the field (24th), but he was very strong on long runs Saturday. I suspect he will power his way up through the field and could challenge for the win.

In my preview on Thursday, I rated predictability this week a little above average, and I’m holding to that. Bettors can therefore find value in slightly weaker odds than normal, and fantasy NASCAR players should refrain from saving driver starts unless the value offered by a nine-start guy and a non nine-start guy is very close.

If you’re betting today, make sure you shop around to get the best possible line on your driver(s). Picking up an extra point or two for one race may not seem like much, but it’s crucial if you want to make money in the long run.

My Yahoo! Fantasy Picks
Group A
I have Gordon available, and I will cheerfully start my #1 pick over Tony Stewart. Johnson also offers excellent value today, as does Biffle.

Group B
I’ll run Harvick and bench Jeff Burton in favor of either Clint Bowyer or David Reutimann. I rate Reutimann ahead of Bowyer, but I’m considering running Bowyer because this is likely his last week with his crew chief before NASCAR’s suspensions kick in. With three hours remaining before race time, I’m really torn on this one.

Kahne looks fabulous (I’m out of Kahne starts), and I think Joey Logano looks good, too. Matt Kenseth offers good value as well.

Paul Menard looked good in the prelims. (Photo John Harrelson/Getty Images)

Group C
Surprise, surprise—A.J. Allmendinger actually looked crappy in the prelims. I’m out of ‘Dinger starts, but if I had him available, I’d bench him in favor of Paul Menard or Sam Hornish Jr.

I’ll run Menard over Hornish. Menard looked fast in the prelims and could well score a top 10.