Last week was a great week for Richard Childress Racing, but it wasn’t a great one for my bankroll. Childress’s team pulled off its first one-two finish since Talladega in 2011 based on pit strategy.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 20, 2020
And one lucky someone cashed a huge ticket over at BetMGM.
One bettor @BetMGM put $20 on Dillon to win.
Dillon's odds were +10000.
That's a $2000+ payout. You miss 100% of the bets you don't make…
— Isaiah Sirois (@is_sirois) July 20, 2020
In my column last week, I argued that Ryan Blaney had a good chance to dominate and win. He dominated, but he didn’t come across the line in first. Because Kansas is a (relatively) similar track to Texas, I’m going to stick to my guns. The race gets underway this Thursday at 7:30 PM EST on NBCSN.
Past Performance at Kentucky and Kansas
Both Kentucky Speedway and Kansas Speedway are 1.5-mile D-shaped ovals. They differ from other 1.5-mile tracks like Texas in that their front straightaways are curved, not angled, and the best drivers at one tend to succeed at the other: four of the six active Kentucky winners have also won at Kansas (Keselowski, Truex, Kenseth, Ky. Busch), and both of the drivers with multiple Kentucky wins also boast multiple Kansas victories (Keselowski and Truex).
The last Kentucky race was under two weeks ago, so I’ve once again combined drivers’ career stats at both tracks.
|Driver Name||Avg Finish||Races||Wins||Top 5’s||Top 10’s||Driver Rating (Last 10)|
|Martin Truex, Jr.||12.76||33||4||11||16||115.64|
*I calculated Almirola’s stats based on only his starts in a Stewart-Haas Racing car.
Martin Truex Jr. leads the way in driver average at these two tracks. He has four total wins, and he’s finished top-5 in a third of his Kentucky and Kansas races. He’s coming off a runner-up finish at Kentucky where he had a shot at winning — until Cole Custer passed him on the outside. Kyle Busch, his Joe Gibbs teammate, has the next-best driver rating. He hasn’t done much of note this season, however, and he’s only posted one top-5 in the last four races. He has no wins in 2020.
Next, the best non-Gibbs driver is Kevin Harvick, and he’s got the best average finish among drivers with more than ten races. His Kentucky stats actually drag him down here — all three of his wins came at Kansas, and he’s posted top-10s in over half his races here.
There’s a steep drop-off after Harvick in terms of both driver rating and average finish. Aric Almirola has the next-best average finish if you isolate his stats from Stewart-Haas Racing, and while he’s only posted four top-10s, he’s finished top-15 in all but one of his seven starts. He had never led a lap at one of these tracks until this year’s Kentucky race when he dominated by leading 128 of them.
Ryan Blaney is the last driver with a triple-digit driver rating at these tracks. He’s led in five of his seven races with Team Penske at these tracks, and he almost won at Kansas with the Wood Brothers. There will be a one in that win column soon enough.
Blaney’s Penske teammates, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, are themselves strong performers at these tracks. That said, Keselowski’s five wins obscure a less impressive driver rating than Logano’s. Both of these drivers have two Kansas wins, and they will usually compete for a top-5 or a top-10.
Chase Elliott is another good driver at 1.5-mile tracks. Half of his six wins have come at these courses, including one at Kansas.
Lastly, Tyler Reddick has a shockingly high average finish, given his driver rating. He’s excellent at keeping his car in contention late in races, and he has found ways to steal top-10s at these tracks and others.
NASCAR drivers are often limited by their equipment. As a result, it’s essential to factor trends in speed into our betting predictions. Driver rating serves that purpose excellently — since it weighs stats like laps led and average running position, it allows us to gauge how well a driver’s car has performed from week to week. I’ve isolated the last four races, all of which used the intermediate package, and two of which came on 1.5-mile tracks.
|Driver||Driver Rating (Last 4 Intermed.)|
|Martin Truex, Jr.||80.83|
Kevin Harvick has been the man to beat of late. He hasn’t finished outside the top-5 since June’s Talladega race, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. Of course, his odds reflect his dominance, so don’t expect to make much money off him.
Harvick’s Stewart-Haas teammate Aric Almirola has been on a similar hot streak. He has seven straight top-10 finishes, and while he had a top-5 starting position in four of those races, he clawed back from a mid-pack starting positions three times. I might be a little bit late to the Almirola train, but I don’t think it’s stopping anytime soon.
Ryan Blaney. The kid nearly won at both Kentucky and Texas, and that’s after he almost won at Las Vegas earlier this year. He’s going to win on a 1.5-mile track this season. It’s just a question of when.
Next, we’ve got Chase Elliott. The Georgia Boy has cooled off recently, as he posted only one top-10 in the last four races. Yes, he won the All-Star Race, but that’s not a points-paying race, and wasn’t on an intermediate track, either. Hendrick Motorsports has fallen off a bit from their start to the season, and it’s reflected in Elliott’s falling driver rating.
Team Penske’s other drivers, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, slot in next on this list. They both have two wins in 2020, and they both finished top-10 at Texas, Kentucky, and Indianapolis. Look for them to maintain that momentum on Thursday night.
Let’s take a look at the betting odds for our featured drivers over at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Of course, Harvick is the favorite. He deserves to be. That said, I’m a little bit surprised that his odds to finish top-5 aren’t shorter (they were -200 last week), so I’ll be playing that line in this spot.
Best Bets for Kansas
To Win: Ryan Blaney (+700)
Just how dominant was Blaney at Kentucky and Texas? He led over a quarter of the total laps, and he won both stages at Texas. Blaney has openly joked about his bad luck, but he is beyond due for a win at one of these tracks.
To Finish Top-5: Ryan Blaney (+120)
And even if he doesn’t win, he should post a top-5 finish. Blaney has now missed the top five in four of seven 1.5-mile races, but all three of those misses were near hits. He almost won at Las Vegas in March, he finished sixth at Kentucky after a last-lap blunder, and he ended up seventh at Texas after Childress’ late-race shenanigans.
To Finish Top-5: Kevin Harvick (-134)
You won’t make a fortune betting on Harvick to post top-5 finishes, but you’ll make some money. The wheelman hasn’t finished worse than fifth since late June, and I don’t think that streak will end here.
To Finish Top-10: Joey Logano (-186)
Logano has fallen off a bit since winning two of the four races before the shutdown. That said, he’s posted top-10s in four of seven races at 1.5-mile tracks, and he most recently finished third at Texas. He may not compete for a win, but he should have a car capable of posting a top-10 or a top-5.
To Finish Top-10: Aric Almirola (-148)
Almirola’s lines are set too low, given his recent performance. He has a longer top-10 streak than Kevin Harvick, and five of his seven consecutive top-10s were also top-5s. If he can stay hot, he should contend for a top-10 or a top-5.
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