Dan Beaver

Chasing the Cup

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Chasing Watkins Glen

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


When Kyle Busch crossed under the checkers first last week at Pocono Raceway, one of the first things the television reporters said was that it did not matter much because the No. 18 was high in the points. While Busch’s victory did not move the needle this week, it was absolutely wrong to say that it did not have a significant impact.

There are 13 drivers locked into the playoffs on points. There are five races remaining—including the road course event at Watkins Glen—and several drivers who most experts anticipated would have a victory by now.

If some other driver had earned a first win of the season at Pocono, Busch would find himself three spots from elimination—so you can bet your salary cap dollar that it was important.

Even if there are repeat winners in the next two weeks, that means some drivers with wins to their credit need to worry until mid-August and all of the winless drivers are not safe until at least Darlington Raceway and probably Richmond International Raceway.

Regular Season Races Remaining: 5 (Maximum points per race = 60)
Unique Winners in 2017: 14

Locked into the Playoffs

Martin Truex Jr.
(3 wins / 14 stage wins / 823 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 15.00
Michigan: 13.33
Bristol: 20.33

Pocono has always been a track that marches to its own drummer. As surprising as it was to see Truex forego a bonus point at the end of stage two, he—and most of the rest of the top 10 at that stage of the race—knew five points for the win would be even more valuable during the playoffs.

Jimmie Johnson (3 wins / 1 stage win / 566 points)
Power Ranking: 10
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 26.00
Michigan: 16.50
Bristol: 6.83

Once again Johnson underscored the difference between a driver’s potential to win the championship and his fantasy value. Johnson crashed at Pocono, earning his third sub-25th-place result in the past four weeks in the process.

Kyle Larson (2 wins / 3 stage wins / 738 points)
Power Ranking: 1
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 15.00
Michigan: 13.00
Bristol: 20.83

Another disappointing race now has Larson 85 markers out of first in the standings and that could influence the playoffs. Most importantly, the driver of the No. 42 needs to regain some momentum in the next five races or he is going to struggles once the points reset.

Brad Keselowski (2 wins / 3 stage wins / 649 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 15.00
Michigan: 7.67
Bristol: 21.33

Keselowski has finally earned three consecutive top-fives for the first time since Kansas Speedway. In between his two mini-streaks, he suffered through four 30-something results in six races and his only top-10 in that span came on the road course of Sonoma Raceway. That is actually good news heading into Watkins Glen International this week.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2 wins / 0 stage wins / 468 points)
Power Ranking: 16
Points’ Standings: 17
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 30.67
Michigan: 21.67
Bristol: 9.67

Stenhouse is not overly concerned with getting dropped out of the top 16 in points because he has a pair of wins, but one does not want to go into the playoffs with an asterisk by their name. He ran decently last week at Pocono with a 16th. He has finished in the front half of the pack in six of his last seven oval races.

Eligible on Wins

Kyle Busch (1 win / 8 stage wins / 723 points)
Power Ranking: 8
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 16.00
Michigan: 26.50
Bristol: 31.20

Busch added six bonus points to his tally last week at Pocono with his overall victory and a stage win. Most importantly, he got the monkey off his back. Busch is a streaky driver who could easily record another one or two wins before the points’ reset for the final 10 races.

Kevin Harvick (1 win / 3 stage wins / 726 points)
Power Ranking: 5
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 14.00
Michigan: 9.50
Bristol: 10.33

Harvick is going to look back at both Pocono races and wonder what he might have done differently to get wins instead of second-place finishes. Those lost bonus points are going to haunt him once the playoffs behind.

Ryan Blaney (1 win / 3 stage wins / 529 points)
Power Ranking: 9
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 19.00
Michigan: 18.80
Bristol: 25.25

Blaney will make the playoffs, but he is not going to be on very many fantasy rosters between now and then. His results on oval tracks have been poor at best in the last 10 races with only one top-five and two top-10s. One of these was the Pocono spring win.

Denny Hamlin (1 wins / 2 stage wins / 649 points)
Power Ranking: 11
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 17.33
Michigan: 11.50
Bristol: 17.00

Hamlin continues to head in the right direction with a fourth-place finish last week. That was his sixth top-five in the past 10 weeks and it gives him momentum heading to a track where he has also had some success in the past. Hamlin is a better road course racer than his career records suggests.

Ryan Newman (1 win / 0 stage wins / 491 points)
Power Ranking: 13
Points’ Standings: 15
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 24.00
Michigan: 13.33
Bristol: 13.17

Newman’s 14th-place finish last week at Pocono was the eighth time in the last 10 races that he earned a top-15. Only four of these were top-10s, but consistency is worth a lot in fantasy NASCAR and he has been a good place-and-hold pick.  

Kurt Busch (1 win / 0 stage wins / 494 points)
Power Ranking: 14
Points’ Standings: 14
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 6.33
Michigan: 14.33
Bristol: 16.67

The big news this week was that Stewart-Haas Racing was going to let Busch’s contract expire without renewing the option year of 2018. Immediately on the heels of that announcement, it appears they will enter into a new, different agreement, but before fantasy players want to sign him they need to see multiple top-10s in a row.

Kasey Kahne (1 win / 0 stage wins / 414 points)
Power Ranking: 18
Points’ Standings: 19
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Indianapolis: 24.67
Michigan: 15.67
Bristol: 23.00

Now that he has a win to his credit, Kahne’s 11th-place finish at Pocono last week does not seem all that bad. Three of the Hendrick Motorsports drives finished consecutively from 10th through 12th, but much more is expected from that marquee organization.

Austin Dillon (1 win / 0 stage wins / 395 points)
Power Ranking: 20
Points’ Standings: 21
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 27.67
Michigan: 16.17
Bristol: 15.67

Dillon finished 21st in back-to-back races on 2.5-mile flat tracks. Most of his efforts in the past 18 races have fallen in that same general range with a pair of top-fives, which improves his average finish to 18.6.

Eligible on Points

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 2 stage wins / 616 points)
Power Ranking: 3
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 13.00
Michigan: 2.00
Bristol: 8.67

Elliott (who is in playoff contention currently) and Bowyer (who is not) are currently separated by 39 points. With five races remaining, a lot can happen and the bubble has the potential to shift every week. That is why winning is so important under the current rules’ package.

Matt Kenseth (0 wins / 2 stage wins / 594 points)
Power Ranking: 19
Points’ Standings: 9
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 7.67
Michigan: 13.50
Bristol: 20.50

All of Joe Gibbs Racing is showing improvement. With recent wins by Busch and Hamlin it would seem to be only a matter of time before Kenseth wins. If that happens during the regular season, only two slots would be available for drivers to make the playoffs on points.

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 615 points)
Power Ranking: 6
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Watkins Glen: 20.67
Michigan: 9.83
Bristol: 11.00

McMurray’s spot in the playoffs seemed safe a few weeks ago, but with new unique winners and a slip in the points’ standings he is going to have to sweat out the next five races. Unless he wins, he will not know his fate until the checkers waves over Richmond International Raceway. 

 

Power
Rankings

Points’
Standings

Driver

Wins

Stage
Wins

Power
Avg.

|

Watkins Glen

Michigan

Bristol

Locked into the Playoffs

4.

1

Martin Truex Jr.

3

14

8.31

|

15.00

13.33

20.33

10.

11

Jimmie Johnson

3

1

13.30

|

26.00

16.50

6.83

1.

2

Kyle Larson

2

3

6.42

|

15.00

13.00

20.83

2.

5

Brad Keselowski

2

3

7.41

|

15.00

7.67

21.33

16.

17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2

 

16.60

|

30.67

21.67

9.67

Eligible on Wins

8.

4

Kyle Busch

1

8

11.02

|

16.00

26.50

31.20

5.

3

Kevin Harvick

1

3

9.15

|

14.00

9.50

10.33

9.

12

Ryan Blaney

1

3

13.05

|

19.00

18.80

25.25

11.

6

Denny Hamlin

1

2

13.46

|

17.33

11.50

17.00

13.

15

Ryan Newman

1

 

15.23

|

24.00

13.33

13.17

14.

14

Kurt Busch

1

 

15.62

|

6.33

14.33

16.67

18.

19

Kasey Kahne

1

 

17.31

|

24.67

15.67

23.00

20.

21

Austin Dillon

1

 

18.89

|

27.67

16.17

15.67

Eligible on Points

3.

7

Chase Elliott

 

2

8.05

|

13.00

2.00

8.67

19.

9

Matt Kenseth

 

2

17.91

|

7.67

13.50

20.50

6.

8

Jamie McMurray

 

 

10.16

|

20.67

9.83

11.00

Drivers Outside Playoff Contention

7.

13

Joey Logano

1

1

10.55

|

3.00

4.83

11.17

12.

10

Clint Bowyer

 

1

14.49

|

17.00

24.33

12.50

15.

16

Erik Jones

 

 

16.38

|

NA

13.00

17.00

17.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

 

17.20

|

11.00

13.00

20.80

21.

 

Trevor Bayne

 

 

19.34

|

15.50

21.33

14.20

22.

 

Paul Menard

 

 

21.69

|

22.33

13.67

17.83

23.

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

21.80

|

NA

19.33

20.00

24.

 

Aric Almirola

 

 

22.26

|

20.33

21.40

23.50

25.

 

Daniel Suarez

 

 

22.31

|

NA

24.00

18.00

26.

 

AJ Allmendinger

 

 

23.45

|

9.67

22.50

22.00

27.

 

Chris Buescher

 

 

23.51

|

33.50

30.33

22.50

28.

 

Michael McDowell

 

 

24.22

|

26.33

27.00

24.17

29.

 

Danica Patrick

 

 

24.49

|

19.67

23.33

24.67

30.

 

David Ragan

 

 

26.74

|

25.00

26.17

31.17

31.

 

Landon Cassill

 

 

27.33

|

29.00

32.00

29.50

32.

 

Cole Whitt

 

 

28.20

|

30.67

29.33

28.17

33.

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

 

28.98

|

30.00

32.60

19.20

34.

 

JJ Yeley

 

 

29.50

|

30.00

35.33

33.00

35.

 

Gray Gaulding

 

 

31.81

|

NA

NA

29.00

36.

 

Reed Sorenson

 

 

32.65

|

23.00

34.40

33.00

37.

 

Corey LaJoie

 

 

33.29

|

NA

30.00

24.00

38.

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

 

35.00

|

NA

36.33

29.33


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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