Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
Regardless of whatever your thoughts are on Kansas barbecue — and regardless of whether you think “barbecue” should be spelled “barbeque” or just “BBQ” — Kansas is where this week’s NASCAR race is being held.
The KC Masterpiece 400 has been a Saturday night race since 2014, with some of the best drivers on the circuit winning the event under the bright lights:
- Jeff Gordon (2014)
- Jimmie Johnson (2015)
- Kyle Busch (2016)
- Martin Truex Jr. (2017)
Opened in 2001, Kansas Speedway is a 1.5-mile D-shaped tri-oval that features a single sweeping turn that allows drivers to maintain their speed. The track was reconfigured in 2012 when the asphalt surface was repaved and the uniform 15-degree banking in the turns was increased to a variable 17-20 degrees.
Although the surface is only six years old, it has recently exhibited signs of extreme aging, perhaps due to harsh Kansas winters. After heavy rain this week, the track had “weepers” (water streams coming up from the surface), which normally happens only at older, rougher tracks, so tire wear might be more of an issue than it typically is on a newer surface. As a result, both track position (starting position and running position) and long-run speed will be important at the race.
The variable banking is also notable, in that it allows drivers on the outside lane to go faster through the turns. Mechanical grip and downforce are important at Kansas, and the drivers who are able to handle their cars at top speed through the turns tend to thrive at this track.
Here are the main metrics I’m looking at this weekend:
- Projected finishing position
- Starting position
- Long-run practice time
- Year-to-date performance
- Large-oval track history
- Track-specific history
Per usual, I rely on the machine learning statistical models and similarity scores at RotoViz, created by Nick Giffen (RotoDoc). For more on the race, check out the podcast I recorded this week with Nick Giffen (RotoDoc).
Here are three prop bets I’m eyeing for Saturday night’s NASCAR race at Kansas.