Dan Beaver

Statistically Speaking

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Update: Michigan (Summer)

Saturday, August 12, 2017


With solid speeds in practice and a pole under his belt, Brad Keselowski is statistically the man to beat in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

There are times in a NASCAR weekend when clear favorites emerge in preliminaries. Kez has not been outside the top five for any session this weekend, posting the fifth-fastest speed in Friday’s session, winning the pole, coming second to Kyle Larson Saturday morning, and pacing the field in Happy Hour.

But there is a reason they run the race and do not automatically hand out the trophy to drivers with good numbers. Anything can happen during the running of a 400-mile race. Strategy is critical and all too often, so is fuel mileage on this course. Fortunately, Keselowski also has one of the best shot callers in the business with Paul Wolfe.

Joey Logano lines up on the outside of the front row alongside his teammate and is even more highly motivated to win than the hometown favorite. The No. 22 has never recovered from their encumbered win and as more drivers joined the playoffs, they have fallen well outside of points’ contention. The only way to overcome that is to get another victory—and those are difficult to come by under the best of circumstances. Logano has a great record on this track with nine straight top-10s, two of which are wins, and one that came after he started on the front row last spring.

Larson posted the quickest 10-lap average in Happy Hour. That was the only time during the weekend that more than a handful of drivers worked on long runs and he bested nearly half the field. His average speed of 198.331 mph was supported by the seventh-fastest lap in that session. Notably, his best trip around the track came near the end of that 10-lap run. Larson starts close enough to the front to capitalize on the long run speed and should challenge for his third consecutive win.

Ryan Blaney started the weekend off with the fastest lap in the first session and ended it with the second-quickest 10-lap average. He bobbled a little in qualification and rolls off the grid only 12, but should be able to earn positive place-differential points as a result. It seems unlikely that he is going to challenge for the win, but that is not necessary in order to make him a good value.

No one can count out Martin Truex Jr., but he is not the clear-cut favorite this week based on raw numbers. He failed to make the final round of qualification for the only the second time this year on unrestricted ovals, but that is probably a function of poor strategy. Still, he does not quite have the same dominant numbers as Keselowski overall with the fourth-fastest speed in the first session, only the 10th-best Saturday morning, and second-best in Happy Hour.

The rookies Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez continue to be the best value picks this week. Both of them swept the top 20 in all four sessions this weekend and both will earn top-15 finishes so long as they stay out of trouble and do not make any mistakes in the pits. Jones qualified better in eighth with Suarez 16th, but by the end of the show they are going to have one another in sight.

 



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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