By Cole Cusumano
Each week, Cole Cusumano will provide statistical and observational insight for the upcoming race in hopes you can redeem it for “Cole’s Cash” once the checkered flag waves.
The NASCAR Cup Series is setting up shop in the Sunflower State, but expect the opposite of sunshine and rainbows in the AdventHealth 400. After an eventful weekend in South Carolina, teams are eagerly clicking their ruby slippers down to Kansas Speedway in hopes to establish a rhythm and regain some normalcy with a stretch of intermediate tracks.
Now officially at one-third mark of the season, the complexion of the sport is becoming more defined, which gives us a better gauge on how to successfully calculate a profitable stretch for betting. It’s going to take a lot of heart, brains and courage to take home the hardware in Kansas on Sunday, but with a little assistance, you’ll be stacking enough cash to mirror Emerald City.
Pre-Practice & Qualifying Odds/DFS Value per DraftKings Sportsbook:
Kyle Busch +700 ($9,800)
Kyle Larson +700 ($11,100)
Denny Hamlin +700 ($10,200)
Chase Elliott +700 ($10,900)
William Byron +1000 ($9,900)
To no surprise, Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing enter this weekend as heavy favorites for Kansas. The two powerhouses split trips to victory lane at the 1.5-mile track last year and have been the class of the field in 2022, which is why the oddsmakers determined a four-way tie for the race winner was appropriate.
Seeing as there is a strong probability the winner will come from HMS or JGR, it’s important to narrow down your options between the eight drivers. It wouldn’t be fiscally responsible to place bets on different winners given the even odds and it’s nearly impossible to build a DFS lineup with more than two favorites given their steep values. Who should you go for?
Weighing The Great and Powerful
At this point in time, it would be ignorant to pick anyone other than Chase Elliott or William Byron for the win this weekend from the Chevrolet stable. The 2020 Champion is riding a series-best five-race top-10 streak and coming off a top-five at Darlington Raceway in a backup car, while his younger teammate leads the series in victories (two), stage wins (three) and laps led (544).
Since winning at Kansas in 2018, Elliott has five top-six finishes including a runner-up in the most recent event held there. He also has a 66.7% top-10 rate and a second-best average of 9.3 in 12 starts. As for Byron, he’s riding a five-race top-10 streak at the 1.5-mile track with 92 laps led with a stage win last Fall.
Joe Gibbs Racing is a tough one to predict, because the speed has been evident every week, but the results have been inconsistent for most of the four-team lineup. With recent and season-long productivity in mind, it would be wise to go with Kyle Busch or Christopher Bell this weekend.
Busch had a five-race top-10 streak snapped at Darlington, but his team has had championship caliber composure all year. Bell has been knocking on the door for a breakout victory and is riding back-to-back top-10s with three in his last four starts.
The Candyman won his second race at Kansas last Spring and has 13 top-10s, 404 laps led with a 15.6 average in 28 starts, which isn’t anything special for someone who typically highlights the stat sheets at every track on the circuit, but he’s been consistent. Bell could be a strong sleeper for the win, given his success as of late. He has a NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at the 1.5-mile track and should be considered as a lock for a top-10 day with a shot at a top-five or greater.
As for the remaining four drivers, the speed and success is never in question, but rather the inconsistencies. With Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman, it’s like Jekyl and Hyde – you never know what you’re going to get. Even at tracks they have great history at, it seems if they don’t unload fast, they’ll struggle to get a top-15. The driver of the No. 48 has been a bit more trustworthy with a second-best 12.1 average this season.
Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin are tricky, because they were the two best drivers in 2021, but that hasn’t been the case this year. The reigning champion has four DNFs already, contrasted to only two last season. He led the most laps and won at Kansas last year, meaning he should be a threat, but Elliott and Byron are safer options.
We’ve been through the same thing over-and-over with Hamlin this season: outside of his one win, he’s finished outside of the top-10 in every other race. The driver of the No. 11 has looked much better as of late and should be in line for a quality day at Kansas, but from a DFS standpoint you can definitely feel more comfortable using Bell instead, who is a bargain value.
DFS Price/Odds: Truex $10,400 (+1000), Bowman $9,300 (+1600), Bell $8,400 (+2000)
Kevin Harvick is finding his groove and adding to some historic stretches. After extending his top-10 streak to eight at Dover, he tacked on an astounding 13th to his Darlington resume after placing fourth. Entering as the most experienced driver at Kansas with 31 starts, he leads the series in wins (three), top-10s (19), laps led (949) and has the best average (8.9). The 2014 Champion’s DFS value is a steal this weekend and he should be a lock for all lineups.
Coming off yet a ninth-place day at Darlington, Austin Dillon continues to assert himself as a contender with the Next Gen car. Last year, he was 1-of-5 to place top-10 in both Kansas races and he has a 16.5 average in 17 starts there. Additionally, he only has one DNF and has completed 97% of laps in his attempts. The eldest grandson of Richard Childress is always a safe bet for DFS. If he starts 15th or deeper, he should be considered a lock.
Typically, safe bets like Dillon won’t win you a lot of money, so you need to think outside the box.
Justin Haley has nothing left to prove from a DFS sense and has been money in the bank all season. Coming off a third-place finish at Darlington and 19 laps led at Dover the week prior, the Kaulig Racing product is riding a three-race top-15 streak and has positive place differential in all but four races this year. He hasn’t finished lower than seventh in four NXS starts at Kansas and should be a lock for all lineups going forward.
Although unable to avoid a late wreck, Bubba Wallace looked the best he had all season on a non-superspeedway last week, running top-10 a majority of the day at a track he struggles at. Morale seemed to be high in the No. 23 camp after a strong run and he enters Kansas after scoring his best finish in the recent Fall race.
Finally, there’s Michael McDowell. The 2021 Daytona 500 Champion has scored three top-10s in his last four races and matched his career-best finish at Kansas last Spring. Obviously, the driver of the No. 34 would be more of a gamble than the drivers listed above and shouldn’t be used for DFS unless he’s starting 20th or worse.
DFS Price/Odds: Harvick $8,700 (+1800), A. Dillon $8,000 (+8000), Haley $5,900 (+15000), Wallace $6,400 (+15000), McDowell $5,300 (+50000)
Emerald City Envy
After starting off the season as arguably the fastest driver in the sport, Ryan Blaney has cooled off significantly and makes the weary list for a third-straight week. In placing 26th and 17th respectively in the last pair of races, we were correct, but there is a little more optimism for the 28-year-old this weekend.
Kansas has been a bit of an enigma for Blaney, as he always appears to have one of the best cars – backed up with 171 laps led – but tends to get taken out by situations out of his control. In his last six starts at the 1.5-mile track, he only has one top-10 and his best finish last year was 21st. He may not be a terrible pick for race winner or DFS, but there are certainly better options in his price range.
Joey Logano is an interesting one to make this category after winning at Darlington and given his esteemed resume at Kansas. Not only have all three of the former champion’s wins come in the Fall, he owns a 21st-place average in Spring starts at the 1.5-mile track contrasted to his 10.3 in the second-race. The driver of the No. 22 is too fickle for DFS this weekend, especially after his run-in with Byron.
It’s time to stop biting the bait on the enticing values and flashy names of Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez in DFS. Going back to 2019, the driver of the No. 10 has an 18.2 average at Kansas, which is a smaller scale for his 18.9 average in 20 starts. The Trackhouse Racing product is often touted as someone with proven speed and top-10 potential, but only has four to show on the season. He’s qualified top-15 in six races this year, placing lower than 10th in four of those starts.
DFS Price/Odds: Logano $9,600 (+1200), Blaney $9,100 (+1400), Almirola $7,200 (+6000), Suarez $7,500 (+8000)
Big Money Prop Bets
William Byron to place top-five +125
Christopher Bell to place top-five +250
Race Winner (Smaller Bet) / DFS Inclusion Combo
Kevin Harvick +1800 ($8,700)
Christopher Bell +2000 ($8,400)
For more in-depth an audial DFS analysis, check out The Money Stop on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Anchor.