Dan Beaver

Chasing the Cup

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Chasing Michigan (Summer)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Last week was a significant point in the playoff rundown for two reasons: 1) Four races remain in the regular season, which means that 75 percent of the races have to be won by new drivers in order to put one of the winners in jeopardy and 2) Watkins Glen International was one of the best opportunities for a wild card driver to take the trophy.

Instead, the win went to Martin Truex Jr. and along with his 14 stage wins, he is amassing a bonus point total that practically assures he will be part of the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The remaining 15 drivers will be vying for the other spots and any idea of gambling has pretty much gone by the wayside. It is time for everyone to gather momentum however they can.

Regular Season Races Remaining: 4 (Maximum points per race = 60)
Unique Winners in 2017: 14

Locked into the Playoffs

Martin Truex Jr. (4 wins / 14 stage wins / 881 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 13.33
Bristol: 20.33
Darlington: 12.33

It is easy to get swept into hyperbolic reactions when a driver has a season like Truex is currently experiencing. No, he is not the greatest driver who ever lived simply because he is sweeping every track type, but he has enough momentum on his side to be placed-and-held until further notice.

Jimmie Johnson (3 wins / 1 stage win / 574 points)
Power Ranking: 11
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 16.50
Bristol: 6.83
Darlington: 18.33

The other side of the coin is that fantasy players have a tendency to overreact when a driver like Johnson struggles. He is not earning very many points, but this team has a tendency to experiment when nothing is on the line and then respond extraordinarily well in clutch situations.

Kyle Larson (2 wins / 3 stage wins / 759 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 13.00
Bristol: 20.83
Darlington: 7.00

Larson was among the class of the field for much of the year, but once he got out of his rhythm he faded. Losing the points’ lead to Truex was one thing, but now that he has slipped to third, he is beginning to raise big questions in fantasy owners’ minds.

Brad Keselowski (2 wins / 3 stage wins / 681 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 7.67
Bristol: 21.33
Darlington: 9.33

Keselowski finished only 15th last week at the Glen, but he challenged for a much better result before he was forced to get off sequence following an incident with Kyle Busch. He’ll forget about that quickly and concentrate on the three straight top-10s earned on the flat tracks of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Pocono Raceway.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2 wins / 0 stage wins / 486 points)
Power Ranking: 16
Points’ Standings: 17
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 21.67
Bristol: 9.67
Darlington: 25.33

Stenhouse seems to be in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment. Since winning his second race of the season at Talladega SuperSpeedway, he has failed to crack the top 10 again with an average finish of almost 20th. You’ve got to be in it to win it, however, and anything can happen during the final four weeks of the regular season to give him some momentum.

Eligible on Wins

Kyle Busch (1 win / 9 stage wins / 765 points)
Power Ranking: 8
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 26.50
Bristol: 31.20
Darlington: 8.00

Last week’s overzealousness by Busch would have been much more annoying for the team and fans if he has not just won at Pocono. He is known for his aggression and that is a big part of the reason he has a good Fantasy Power Ranking, but if his incident had happened early in the race before he led some laps, he would not have been a good value at the Glen.

Kevin Harvick (1 win / 3 stage wins / 746 points)
Power Ranking: 5
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 9.50
Bristol: 10.33
Darlington: 2.67

Based on his three-year stats, the next three weeks should be good for Harvick as he looks to add some bonus points to his total. He has been solid at Michigan International Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, and Darlington Raceway and could easily gain some momentum.

Ryan Blaney (1 win / 3 stage wins / 565 points)
Power Ranking: 9
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 18.80
Bristol: 25.25
Darlington: 21.50

Blaney snapped a three-race streak of results 19th or worse last week and while could yet be encouraging, it is not automatically so since it came on a road course. Blaney needs to string some strong runs together on ovals in order to be more fantasy relevant.

Denny Hamlin (1 wins / 2 stage wins / 687 points)
Power Ranking: 10
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 11.50
Bristol: 17.00
Darlington: 8.67

Hamlin improved both his points’ standing and Fantasy Power Ranking last week, but he can still be a little frustrating for players who want to place-and-hold him. In the last 12 races, Hamlin has alternated one run outside the top 10 with two inside that mark but has not been able to add a third consecutive. He is coming off back-to-back fourths at Pocono and the Glen.

Ryan Newman (1 win / 0 stage wins / 503 points)
Power Ranking: 13
Points’ Standings: 16
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 13.33
Bristol: 13.17
Darlington: 10.33

Since finished ninth in the World 600 and fourth in the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, Newman has earned only two more top-10s. Both of these were top-fives and that is encouraging, but his average in that span of time is 15.5 and players want a little more out of their marquee racers.

Kurt Busch (1 win / 0 stage wins / 528 points)
Power Ranking: 14
Points’ Standings: 14
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 14.33
Bristol: 16.67
Darlington: 23.67

By apparently renegotiating his contract in the public eye, Busch has focused a spotlight on himself and the team. That is not a set of circumstances that usually plays in his favor.

Kasey Kahne (1 win / 0 stage wins / 437 points)
Power Ranking: 7
Points’ Standings: 19
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 15.67
Bristol: 23.00
Darlington: 18.67

This week, Kahne became the latest casualty of the youth movement. This Silly Season resembles a game a musical chairs and one has to wonder where key players like Kahne, Busch, and Matt Kenseth are going to land when the tune fades.

Austin Dillon (1 win / 0 stage wins / 406 points)
Power Ranking: 20
Points’ Standings: 21
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 16.17
Bristol: 15.67
Darlington: 15.00

Dillon might have been the driver happiest to see a repeat winner last week at the Glen. He is not out of the woods yet if three more unique winners grace Victory Lane, but with each passing week he can start to make plans for the playoffs.

Eligible on Points

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 2 stage wins / 648 points)
Power Ranking: 3
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 2.00
Bristol: 8.67
Darlington: 25.50

If he could not be the next unique winner, Elliott (and for that matter, the two drivers listed below him) was happy to see a repeater. It is difficult not to sound like a broken record as the time winds down, but in order to be a good value and have a legitimate chance to advance, the three who are eligible on points are going to have to find Victory Lane.

Matt Kenseth (0 wins / 2 stage wins / 637 points)
Power Ranking: 19
Points’ Standings: 9
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 13.50
Bristol: 20.50
Darlington: 10.33

When Kenseth was getting reports that Truex was slowing to conserve fuel, he had to have visions of Victory Lane in his head. He charged hard, but it turned out that there was plenty of gas to make it to the end even if the No. 78 had pushed the throttle much earlier. The good news is that his second-place finish added a lot of points and that might ultimately make a difference.

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 643 points)
Power Ranking: 6
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Michigan: 9.83
Bristol: 11.00
Darlington: 15.00

McMurray’s vaunted consistency is starting to fade. In the last four races, he has finished outside the top 15 twice and has a best of 14th. When those mid-teen finishes were his worst results, they were acceptable. Now that they define the high water mark, that no longer true. 

Power
Rankings

Points’
Standings

Driver

Wins

Stage
Wins

Power
Avg.

|

Michigan

Bristol

Darlington

Locked into the Playoffs

4.

1

Martin Truex Jr.

4

14

8.18

|

13.33

20.33

12.33

11.

11

Jimmie Johnson

3

1

13.58

|

16.50

6.83

18.33

1.

3

Kyle Larson

2

3

6.69

|

13.00

20.83

7.00

2.

6

Brad Keselowski

2

3

7.54

|

7.67

21.33

9.33

16.

17

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2

 

16.67

|

21.67

9.67

25.33

Eligible on Wins

8.

2

Kyle Busch

1

9

10.95

|

26.50

31.20

8.00

5.

4

Kevin Harvick

1

3

9.29

|

9.50

10.33

2.67

9.

12

Ryan Blaney

1

3

12.96

|

18.80

25.25

21.50

10.

5

Denny Hamlin

1

2

13.29

|

11.50

17.00

8.67

13.

16

Ryan Newman

1

 

15.42

|

13.33

13.17

10.33

14.

14

Kurt Busch

1

 

15.42

|

14.33

16.67

23.67

17.

19

Kasey Kahne

1

 

17.28

|

15.67

23.00

18.67

20.

21

Austin Dillon

1

 

19.04

|

16.17

15.67

15.00

Eligible on Points

3.

7

Chase Elliott

 

2

8.14

|

2.00

8.67

25.50

19.

9

Matt Kenseth

 

2

17.58

|

13.50

20.50

10.33

6.

8

Jamie McMurray

 

 

10.22

|

9.83

11.00

15.00

Drivers Outside Playoff Contention

7.

13

Joey Logano

1

1

10.79

|

4.83

11.17

14.67

12.

10

Clint Bowyer

 

1

14.31

|

24.33

12.50

17.00

15.

 

Erik Jones

 

 

16.26

|

13.00

17.00

NA

18.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

 

17.58

|

13.00

20.80

5.00

21.

 

Trevor Bayne

 

 

19.67

|

21.33

14.20

37.50

22.

 

Paul Menard

 

 

21.61

|

13.67

17.83

27.67

23.

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

21.74

|

19.33

20.00

NA

24.

15

Daniel Suarez

 

1

21.89

|

24.00

18.00

NA

25.

 

Aric Almirola

 

 

22.23

|

21.40

23.50

22.33

26.

 

AJ Allmendinger

 

 

23.15

|

22.50

22.00

20.33

27.

 

Chris Buescher

 

 

23.24

|

30.33

22.50

17.00

28.

 

Michael McDowell

 

 

23.96

|

27.00

24.17

27.00

29.

 

Danica Patrick

 

 

24.44

|

23.33

24.67

29.33

30.

 

David Ragan

 

 

26.74

|

26.17

31.17

31.00

31.

 

Landon Cassill

 

 

27.52

|

32.00

29.50

25.00

32.

 

Cole Whitt

 

 

28.33

|

29.33

28.17

39.33

33.

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

 

28.96

|

32.60

19.20

25.50

34.

 

Gray Gaulding

 

 

31.81

|

NA

29.00

NA

35.

 

Reed Sorenson

 

 

32.65

|

34.40

33.00

35.00

36.

 

Corey LaJoie

 

 

33.28

|

30.00

24.00

NA

37.

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

 

35.00

|

36.33

29.33

38.00

 

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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