3 NASCAR Prop Bets for Saturday Night’s KC Masterpiece 400 at Kansas
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.
Denny Hamlin (+125) Over Ryan Blaney (-155)
It makes sense for Blaney to be favored over Hamlin (pictured). Blaney has better starting position (2 vs. 6), and he had the faster 10-lap speed in practice (5 vs. 8). Additionally, in the 2018 season Blaney has the superior average running position (9.5 vs. 11.2) and has led a higher percentage of laps (15.6 vs. 6.0).
Hamlin, however, is in better track-type form. Over their 10 most recent large-oval races, Hamlin has outperformed Blaney in driver rating (98.6 vs. 94.5), running position (9.5 vs. 10.8), quality pass percentage (66.4 vs. 54.0) and laps-led percentage (5.8 vs. 0.2). In the RotoViz model, Hamlin has a projected finish of 6.62; Blaney, 6.82. In what should be a pick’em, Hamlin is investable at plus odds.
Chase Elliott (+140) Over Clint Bowyer (-170)
Bowyer will be popular in daily fantasy because his back-of-the-field starting position gives him plenty of place-differential potential, but his failure to make a qualifying run hurts him in this matchup. Bowyer in comparison to Elliott easily had the superior 10-lap speed in practice (4 vs. 13), but Elliott’s superior starting position gives him a massive edge (17 vs. 33).
Additionally, Elliott has proven himself to be a track-type dominator over his short career. He has two top-10 finishes in his four Kansas races, and in their 10 most recent large-oval races Elliott has put Bowyer to shame:
- Finishing position: 9.8 vs. 17.2
- Driver rating: 94.9 vs. 80.5
- Running position: 9.7 vs. 14.8
- Quality pass percentage: 61.9 vs. 49.2
- Laps-led percentage: 2.1 vs. 0.0
Yep, Bowyer has led exactly 0% of the laps at the last 10 large ovals he has raced. In the RotoViz models, Elliott has a projected finishing position of 10.37; Bowyer, 12.81.
Kurt Busch Top-Five Finish (+350)
Busch the Elder always seems to be undervalued these days. The Venus to Kyle’s Serena, Kurt hasn’t won a race since last year’s season-opening Daytona 500, but (along with Kevin Harvick and his brother) Kurt has been a top-three driver this year in quality pass percentage (73.9), and he’s sixth in the circuit in 2018 driver rating (96.1) and running position (10.2). Additionally, Busch is in the best form he’s been in all season, coming off two straight top-five finishes at Talladega and Dover.
Although Busch had just the 10th-best 10-lap speed in practice, he has good starting position (8), and over his last 10 large-oval races he has the seventh-best average running position (10.5). In the RotoViz models, Busch has the fifth-highest projected finish (8.36), and in the RotoViz sim scores eight (40%) of his 20 most comparable drivers finished their races in the top five. His +350 odds imply that he has a 22.2% chance of earning a top-five finish, so he offers some nice value.