What looked like a potential victory for Denny Hamlin at the Brickyard 400 on Sunday afternoon, would end up being dashed within a blink of an eye. With just seven laps left to go and leading second-place driver Kevin Harvick by just under a second, his right front tire would give out.
Next thing you know Hamlin goes sailing into the first turn wall, affording the leading drivers another chance to steal a win. On the final restart, Harvick would get the push he needed to get the jump on Matt Kenseth and lead the final three laps. With the victory, Harvick increases his standings lead on second place driver Chase Elliott by 85 points.
Aric Almirola, Brad Keselowski, and Cole Custer rounded out the rest of the top five. Kenseth would not only pick up his best result since returning to NASCAR after over a year, but he would also manage to spoil the Ford party. Of the top five finishers, Kenseth was the lone driver not in a Ford car.
We now move on from the infamous Indianapolis Motor Speedway and travel to Kentucky Speedway. It is a 1.5-mile tri-oval asphalt track and seats around 107,000 spectators. Kurt Busch went to victory here last July, after a late-race battle with brother Kyle Busch. The younger Busch has won here twice himself in fact.
So without further ado, let’s delve into the driver options for this upcoming Cup series event. I’ve broken down the selections between high salary, mid-range and value plays. Best of luck to everyone with their lineups.
Brad Keselowski (9,000 DK 11,300 FD)
The consistency has certainly been there for Keselowski, this season. Outside of his 19th place finish at Talladega, Keselowski has finished outside the top 11 just twice this season. And in fact, the only other instance was back in February at Daytona. Keselowski comes off a fourth-place result at the Brickyard, after starting out the race in 10th. He is currently trailing second-place Chase Elliott by just three points.
Granted his past three-cup trips to Kentucky have been hit and miss, having finished 20th last July. However, Keselowski does lead all-current drivers at this track, in total victories with three. Slated to start in the 6th position, Keselowski has sound dominator potential and also comes at a reasonable price. I see no reason why Keselowski cannot push himself to the front of the pack in the early going and click off a decent portion of laps led. In four of the last six tries at this event, he has led 38 or more laps.
Kurt Busch (7,600 DK 9,700 FD)
Busch comes off back to back top 13’s at Pocono and the Brickyard respectively. Currently 11th in points and hot on his kid brothers trail, I’m sure the older Busch will be itching to give him a run for his money this Sunday. Fortunate for Busch, Kentucky in fact has proven to be one of his best tracks in the last pair of seasons. Since 2017, Busch has his best driver rating among all-tracks at Kentucky and was in fact the winner here last July. In that race, he would finish with 41 laps led and a driver rating of 129.2.
Michael McDowell (5,700 DK 6,000 FD)
McDowell continues to quietly produce, as the season moves along. Just last week he finished well within the top 10, having captured a seventh-place result. Outside of the 40th place stinker two races ago at Pocono, you need to go back as far as week two at Las Vegas to find a race in which he finished outside the top 25.
Expect McDowell to be quite chalky this weekend at Kentucky, as he is slated to begin the race in the 30th position. However, that should not deter you when looking to fill out the bottom end of your team as McDowell continues to come at a bargain-basement price. He should be able to work himself past at least a half dozen or so cars and finish among the top 24 drivers. In his past ten races, McDowell is a +54 in points through place differential.
Daniel Suarez (6,400 DK FD 5,000 FD)
I was contemplating which driver to choose between Suarez and Ty Dillon. The reason I prefer Suarez for Kentucky is the solid body of work he’s managed to display. Consider that in three previous attempts, Suarez has an average finish of 13.67. His last race at Kentucky back in July, Suarez finished eighth overall with 52 laps led. He also has proven to be very dependable this season, when it comes to keeping his cars on the track. Through 15 starts, Suarez has finished 99.1% of the laps. Suarez is set to start in the 37th spot on Sunday and could be in store for a top 25 finish. So plenty of potential for bonus points through place differential.
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