Through the Field: On to Kansas Speedway
“Through the Field,” a seasonal column by Elliot Hicks, follows the NASCAR season and provides broad driver analysis to support Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and NASCAR betting. Elliot is in his third season writing the column and sharing his perspective on life with the In-Between Media community. This week, he recaps the Southern 500 and gives his NASCAR DFS and betting picks for Kansas Speedway.
One word sums up this past Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington.
In a sense, the playoff opener for the NASCAR Cup Series being unpredictable was almost too predictable, ironically enough. Last season, this race saw multiple playoff drivers have issues. This season has been so wild in general. Calamity ensuing would have surprised no one.
But even the predictable unpredictability became even more unpredictable with how wild the race was once it played out.
The most dominant cars in the race (Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.) were both eliminated due to engine failure in the final stage. The most popular driver and championship favorite (Chase Elliott) looked terrible all weekend and crashed out of the race early. Multiple others saw self-inflicted errors or mechanical issues negatively affect their races. And a driver not even in the playoffs (Erik Jones) earned the victory in one of the season’s longest and most prestigious races.
If the first race of the playoffs was this crazy, I only expect things to get crazier as time marches forward in the Round of 16.
Among the playoff drivers, here are some names to watch and some to stay away from heading into the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.
Drivers to Buy for Kansas Speedway
Joey Logano: Joey Logano currently sits atop the playoff leaderboard after a fourth-place finish at Darlington. His No. 22 team hasn’t won since St. Louis. But it’s on a roll of seven top-12 finishes in a row, six of those being top-six runs. Logano is in a great spot in terms of consistently strong finishes – the best strategy to advancing past the Round of 16.
William Byron: William Byron earned his first top-10 finish since Sonoma at Darlington. The No. 24 team was a popular pick to be eliminated in this round because of that inconsistency. Yet, as I mentioned on last week’s episode of “The Backroad,” I expect all Hendrick Motorsports drivers to perform up to par now that the races truly matter again in terms of elimination. With how well Byron ran early in the year, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a new top-10 streak build.
Drivers to Sell for Kansas Speedway
Ross Chastain: Ross Chastain has continued to run well, but his No. 1 team has lost the ability to put together a full race. He has not finished in the top 15 in the last seven races. He’s 15 points above the cutline. But Ross created enemies. Plus, Bristol is a short-track elimination race. All this could accumulate to put Chastain in a bad spot.
Kyle Larson: While I expect Hendrick Motorsports to perform better in the playoffs, I’m very worried about Kyle Larson. More mechanical issues put him in a hole for most of the Darlington race. Though the team recovered, Larson doesn’t have the same points cushion he did last season. Nor does he have the likelihood of winning as often or being as dominant. He could easily put the concerns to bed with a win at Kansas Speedway. Still, he’s one to watch as the surprise elimination of the Round of 16.