Dan Beaver

Chasing the Cup

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Chasing Kansas (Spring)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


NASCAR’s spring short track season is completed and two of the four restrictor-plate, superspeedway events are in the books. During the regular season, those specialty tracks host three more events. Two other races will be held on road courses, so the majority of upcoming events will be held on a variety of one-mile or longer ovals.

There is still a lot of variety coming up on the schedule, however. The next unique track will be Dover International Speedway in three weeks. It is followed closely by Pocono Raceway. Drivers and teams can build momentum when back-to-back races are contested on similarly-configured, 1.5- and two-mile tracks, but the unique tracks may be seen as opportunity races for a number of drivers.

Regular Season Races Remaining: 26 (Maximum points per race = 60)
Unique Winners in 2017: 8

Locked into the Playoffs

Brad Keselowski (2 wins / 2 stage wins / 367 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 18.83
Charlotte: 9.00
Dover: 7.00

Keselowski avoided the "Big One" at Talladega and earned his eighth top-10 in the first 10 races of the season. His two victories were great for fantasy owners, but this consistency is even more important. The series is about to hit a stretch that should really suit him, so Kez should be considered a place-and-hold driver.

Jimmie Johnson (2 wins / 0 stage wins / 305 points)
Power Ranking: 9
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 12.33
Charlotte: 16.83
Dover: 13.00

Talladega typically does not mean a lot to drivers unless they can take something positive away from it. Johnson was extremely pleased to have survived with a top-10 finish because of his recent struggles on plate tracks. If that puts a spring in his step at Kansas, he will be an even greater value there.

Eligible on Wins

Martin Truex Jr. (1 win / 5 stage wins / 374 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 12.33
Charlotte: 10.17
Dover: 6.67

The "Big One" crash at Talladega ended a three-race, top-10 streak for Truex. Before finishing 35th in the Geico 500, his worst result was a 16th, but despite that consistency he has not been a great value. His 2016 season went so well that he is highly-priced in most salary cap games. He needs to contend for top-fives to make his price tag worthwhile. He has only two of those in the first 10 races.

Kyle Larson (1 win / 2 stage wins / 428 points)
Power Ranking: 1
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 20.50
Charlotte: 14.67
Dover: 9.33

Larson was the first driver to slap the wall last Sunday at Talladega. During the event, he lost a lap making repairs to his car, but he soldiered on for a 12th-place finish. That is both how a driver stays in contention for the playoffs and how he earns maximum points for his fantasy owners.

Kurt Busch (1 win / 0 stage wins / 227 points)
Power Ranking: 13
Points’ Standings: 15
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 16.83
Charlotte: 13.33
Dover: 17.33

Busch is inching his way up the Fantasy Power Rankings grid from 17th to 15th, but that is part of the problem. Every time this drivers sucks fantasy players into believing he will develop some consistency, he struggles. Five top-10s in 10 races this year have provided a lot of value, but an average finish of 17.3 has made Busch a poor bargain just as often.

Ryan Newman (1 win / 0 stage wins / 237 points)
Power Ranking: 14
Points’ Standings: 14
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 9.50
Charlotte: 9.50
Dover: 18.17

Newman survived the "Big One" at Talladega only to crash a few laps later in a two-car incident. His victory at Phoenix is enough to lock him into the playoffs, but with only three top-10s to his credit Newman has not added a lot of points to fantasy owners’ coffers. Three other results were in the mid-teens, however, which makes him a good filler.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (1 win / 0 stage wins / 250 points)
Power Ranking: 16
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 18.33
Charlotte: 22.50
Dover: 21.67

Stenhouse has joined the ranks of NASCAR winners with his triumph in Talladega. The pressure of making the playoffs is off his shoulders, but there is still a lot to be done. The record book is filled with racers who never went on to find another win after scoring their first on this wild card track.

Eligible on Points

Kevin Harvick (0 wins / 3 stage wins / 309 points)
Power Ranking: 7
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 5.83
Charlotte: 9.00
Dover: 14.17

Veterans know best how to put Talladega behind them. Instead of worrying about a crash he couldn't avoid, Harvick will concentrate on the three consecutive top-fives that immediately preceded the Geico 500. His victory and second-place finish at Kansas last year will also help give him a positive attitude.

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 2 stage wins / 353 points)
Power Ranking: 3
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 20.00
Charlotte: 19.67
Dover: 3.00

If not for an accident late in the Geico 500, Elliott might have graced Victory Lane and locked the No. 24 team into the playoffs. Failing to win last week might be a blessing in disguise, however, because he now has an opportunity to score his first win on a track that is less of a wild card.

Ryan Blaney (0 wins / 2 stage wins / 240 points)
Power Ranking: 10
Points’ Standings: 13
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 13.25
Charlotte: 26.75
Dover: 23.00

Blaney is still doing well enough in the points’ standings that he does not need to worry about the playoffs for now. That can change in a heartbeat, however, if he continues to suffer through misfortune. His last three outings ended in the 30s and it does not take long to lose contact with the points’ leaders when that happens.

Joey Logano (1 encumbered win / 1 stage win / 318 points)
Power Ranking: 5
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 8.67
Charlotte: 12.50
Dover: 10.17

Logano addressed the media at Talladega and relayed how the team took responsibility for the penalty that encumbered their Richmond International Raceway win. That is all well and good, but now he needs to win another race in order to get out of the points’ scrum that is developing. Each unique winner—like Stenhouse last week—makes it increasingly difficult for winless drivers to qualify for the playoffs.

Kyle Busch (0 wins / 1 stage win / 277 points)
Power Ranking: 8
Points’ Standings: 10
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 5.80
Charlotte: 14.00
Dover: 20.33

Busch was visibly frustrated with his third-place finish at Talladega last week—and this is not a driver who responds well to that emotion. He and Jamie McMurray made contact heading to the checkers that could easily have caused a second "Big One" crash on the final lap. Busch would have been much more exasperated with a 20-something result.

Denny Hamlin (0 wins / 1 stage win / 267 points)
Power Ranking: 11
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 20.00
Charlotte: 12.83
Dover: 12.00

Hamlin finally earned a stage win last week in Talladega. As minor as that seems for an organization that is still seeking its first victory, every point matters once the playoffs begin. Now, there are only three drivers in playoff contention without bonus points and Hamlin doesn’t have to worry about being on that list.

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 318 points)
Power Ranking: 6
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 26.67
Charlotte: 11.33
Dover: 17.83

Lest anyone think McMurray is not an aggressive driver, scroll back to the end of the Geico 500. He stuffed his car in a hole that really didn’t exist and benefited from the skill and precision of Johnson and Kyle Busch. That maneuver could easily have gone awry, but such is the pressure to win in NASCAR’s current format that a potential accident at Talladega is outweighed by a shot at visiting Victory Lane.

Clint Bowyer (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 266 points)
Power Ranking: 12
Points’ Standings:
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 24.50
Charlotte: 21.83
Dover: 12.00

Bowyer finished 14th last week in Talladega to keep a nine-race, top-15 streak alive. He’s come close to winning at Bristol Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway, but his real worth to fantasy owners lies in his 9.6 average finish in the past nine races.

Trevor Bayne (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 223 points)
Power Ranking: 19
Points’ Standings: 16
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 22.75
Charlotte: 26.00
Dover: 26.00

With race points awarded for stage finishes, Bayne needs to be careful about sitting 16th in the standings. Currently Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and AJ Allmendinger sit behind him in the points and they have proved capable of winning on the upcoming tracks. He could also fall to Aric Almirola or Kasey Kahne if those drivers sweep any stages in the coming weeks and back that up with a solid finish at the end of the race. 

 

Power
Rankings

Top
16

Driver

Wins

Stage

Wins

Power
Avg.

|

Kansas

Charlotte

Dover

Locked into the Playoffs

2

3

Brad Keselowski

2

2

5.13

|

18.83

9.00

7.00

9

8

Jimmie Johnson

2

 

11.56

|

12.33

16.83

13.00

Eligible on Wins

4

2

Martin Truex Jr.

1

5

7.43

|

12.33

10.17

6.67

1

1

Kyle Larson

1

2

4.41

|

20.50

14.67

9.33

13

15

Kurt Busch

1

 

15.03

|

16.83

13.33

17.33

14

14

Ryan Newman

1

 

15.22

|

9.50

9.50

18.17

16

12

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

1

 

16.08

|

18.33

22.50

21.67

Eligible on Points

7

7

Kevin Harvick

 

3

9.35

|

5.83

9.00

14.17

3

4

Chase Elliott

 

2

6.09

|

20.00

19.67

3.00

10

13

Ryan Blaney

 

2

11.70

|

13.25

26.75

23.00

5

6

Joey Logano

1

1

7.91

|

8.67

12.50

10.17

8

10

Kyle Busch

 

1

11.14

|

5.80

14.00

20.33

11

11

Denny Hamlin

 

1

14.44

|

20.00

12.83

12.00

6

5

Jamie McMurray

 

 

9.17

|

26.67

11.33

17.83

12

9

Clint Bowyer

 

 

14.55

|

24.50

21.83

12.00

19

16

Trevor Bayne

 

 

18.81

|

22.75

26.00

26.00

Drivers Outside Playoff Contention

15

 

Kasey Kahne

 

 

15.76

|

12.00

17.33

10.83

17

 

Erik Jones

 

 

16.44

|

40.00

NA

NA

18

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

 

16.83

|

16.60

16.80

15.00

20

 

Austin Dillon

 

 

19.14

|

17.00

16.00

23.50

21

 

Matt Kenseth

 

1

19.72

|

9.33

12.83

10.00

22

 

Aric Almirola

 

 

21.56

|

22.00

16.83

16.17

23

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

22.06

|

26.00

NA

32.00

24

 

Paul Menard

 

 

22.38

|

20.50

25.17

15.33

25

 

AJ Allmendinger

 

 

24.42

|

16.33

22.17

23.17

26

 

Chris Buescher

 

 

24.56

|

22.50

26.50

20.50

27

 

Daniel Suarez

 

 

25.59

|

NA

NA

NA

28

 

Danica Patrick

 

 

25.86

|

18.33

23.00

20.83

29

 

Michael McDowell

 

 

26.15

|

30.25

28.00

20.00

30

 

David Ragan

 

 

27.31

|

31.33

32.83

24.83

31

 

Landon Cassill

 

 

27.56

|

32.17

27.83

30.00

32

 

Cole Whitt

 

 

28.18

|

31.83

30.50

27.60

33

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

 

29.71

|

27.25

30.00

33.25

34

 

Gray Gaulding

 

 

32.34

|

NA

NA

NA

35

 

Reed Sorenson

 

 

33.20

|

32.60

34.40

32.40

36

 

Corey LaJoie

 

 

34.53

|

NA

35.00

NA

37

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

 

35.61

|

NA

32.50

35.50

38

 

Derrike Cope

 

 

35.80

|

NA

NA

NA

39

 

Timmy Hill

 

 

36.36

|

39.00

40.50

38.67

 

A note about the three-year stats: The three-year average finish is a script that looks at the last 1,116 days—to provide for minor changes in the schedule. Since some races shift dates more than a week or two, the past three years occasionally contain five races instead of six. It is a consistent snapshot, however.

A note about the Power Average: The Fantasy Power Rankings formula includes finishing results this season as well as various “strength-based” intangibles such as Laps in the top five, 10, and 15, average running position, speed in traffic, and quality passes (passing a car while in the top 15) expressed as if they were finishing results. The lower the number, the stronger the driver.



Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 12 years with a little help from his >500,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.
Email :Dan Beaver



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