Dan Beaver

Chasing the Cup

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Chasing Richmond (Fall)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Last Chance.

Every driver from Clint Bowyer and lower in the points without a win to their credit will pull out all stops this week as they try to get the victory that will put them in the playoffs. Richmond International Raceway is not commonly known as a place for dark horses, but anything can happen in a NASCAR race. Clint Bowyer’s last ditch victory in 2012 has hope springing eternal.

As hopeful as those drivers are, the three racers currently in NASCAR’s playoff on points are dreading this week. The difference between Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, and Chase Elliott is minimal enough that the slightest bobble—coupled with another unique winner—could completely upset their apple cart.

Regular Season Races Remaining: 1 (Maximum points per race = 60)
Unique Winners in 2017: 14

Locked into the Playoffs

Martin Truex Jr. (4 wins / 17 stage wins / 1,000 points)
Power Ranking: 3
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 14.83
Chicagoland: 9.33
New Hampshire: 9.67

With his stage two win last week at Darlington Raceway, Martin Truex Jr. guaranteed he would enter the playoffs as the points’ leader at the end of the regular season. That will add another 15 bonus points to his already gaudy excess and all-but insures he has a clear path to Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kyle Larson (3 wins / 3 stage wins / 884 points)
Power Ranking: 1
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 14.83
Chicagoland: 9.33
New Hampshire: 13.17

A lot was expected of Larson last week. He began the weekend with promising practices and qualified on the second row, but he didn’t quite have the right strategy or a car that would work for longer runs. He is still a young driver with lessons to learn.

Jimmie Johnson (3 wins / 1 stage win / 653 points)
Power Ranking: 11
Points’ Standings: 10
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 7.50
Chicagoland: 11.67
New Hampshire: 11.50

Hendrick Motorsports just doesn’t seem to be hitting on all eight cylinders these days. Johnson’s three wins are not really a factor in most players’ decision to start or park him because the last of these came more than 10 races ago and he has only two top-10s since.

Kyle Busch (2 wins / 10 stage wins / 893 points)
Power Ranking: 7
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 8.60
Chicagoland: 8.00
New Hampshire: 11.50

Busch had the right strategy last week. Unfortunately, his teammate Denny Hamlin was employing it as well and had the faster car. Still, this is a promising development for an organization that went deep into the season without a win.

Brad Keselowski (2 wins / 4 stage wins / 761 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 7.17
Chicagoland: 4.67
New Hampshire: 8.17

Of the two Team Penske drivers last week, Keselowski seemed to show the most potential. And, he managed to finish ahead of his teammate at Darlington, but only by a few positions in 15th. These two drivers are quickly fading from fantasy owners’ minds at a critical juncture of the schedule.

Denny Hamlin (2 wins / 2 stage wins / 810 points)
Power Ranking: 10
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 9.83
Chicagoland: 4.33
New Hampshire: 13.00

It is not only that Hamlin won last week in the Southern 500, but the determination and poise with which he did so. After missing pit road during his final stop, he could easily have compounded the mistake by overdriving his car. He did not—and now he enters a track that has been extremely kind in the past. He could add five, six, or seven bonus points this week at Richmond.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2 wins / 0 stage wins / 536 points)
Power Ranking: 16
Points’ Standings: 18
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 19.67
Chicagoland: 20.00
New Hampshire: 19.50

For a time, Stenhouse was one of the better fantasy options and it did not have anything to do with his wild card wins on the plate tracks. He was consistently in the mid-teens, but with increasing frequency he has been falling back into the high side of the top 20 and that makes him a much more difficult choice.

Kevin Harvick (1 win / 3 stage wins / 867 points)
Power Ranking: 5
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 6.00
Chicagoland: 23.33
New Hampshire: 6.17

We really expected Harvick to be a much bigger factor than his ninth-place finish last week at Darlington. His record on that track was so great that anything short of a top-five was a disappointment and that brings into question how he will perform this week at Richmond.

Ryan Blaney (1 win / 3 stage wins / 629 points)
Power Ranking: 9
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 34.33
Chicagoland: 4.00
New Hampshire: 16.25

Every time we get excited about Blaney, something happens to bring us back down to earth. He entered the Southern 500 with a three-race, top-15 streak—two of which were top-10s—but like so many young drivers, he striped his car with paint from the Darlington wall and finished only 31st.

Ryan Newman (1 win / 0 stage wins / 604 points)
Power Ranking: 13
Points’ Standings: 16
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 15.50
Chicagoland: 12.67
New Hampshire: 15.50

Finishing seventh last week at Darlington was exactly what one expected from Newman. He is a hard-nosed driver who is at his best on tracks that are as tough as nails. Newman tends to get better as the season progresses and drivers with less stamina fall by the wayside.

Kurt Busch (1 win / 0 stage wins / 624 points)
Power Ranking: 14
Points’ Standings: 13
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 8.17
Chicagoland: 8.00

New Hampshire: 16.67

A third-place finish might have been precisely what the doctor ordered for Busch last week. He was the best in class and if Hamlin and Busch had not played an alternate strategy, he might have won. That gives him confidence entering the final 11 races of the season and he is going to need it in order to be competitive.

Kasey Kahne (1 win / 0 stage wins / 464 points)
Power Ranking: 19

Points’ Standings: 21
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 12.17
Chicagoland: 14.67
New Hampshire: 18.83

If statistics tell any kind of story, Kahne is going to have increasingly less fantasy relevance in the coming weeks with progressively worse average finishes at Richmond, Chicagoland Speedway, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. If you are going to roll the dice on him, now is the time to do so.

Austin Dillon (1 win / 0 stage wins / 473 points)
Power Ranking: 21
Points’ Standings: 19
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 21.17
Chicagoland: 24.33
New Hampshire: 14.17

With various strategies playing out last week, it is difficult to know who had strength-based finishes in the Southern 500. In many ways, that really doesn’t matter to the drivers and Dillon is going to take the momentum of a fourth-place finish in one of NASCAR’s top races and run with it.

Eligible on Points

Matt Kenseth (0 wins / 3 stage wins / 735 points)
Power Ranking: 17
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 19.50
Chicagoland: 8.00
New Hampshire: 5.83

It remains to be seen if Kenseth will need a victory to get into the playoffs, but he desperately wants it as next year’s rides are filling up. While he seems to be unconcerned about his future, a strong run in the final 10 races is going to be critical.

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 2 stage wins / 737 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 17.75
Chicagoland: 3.00
New Hampshire: 19.33

It bears repeating until there is no reason to repeat it: Elliott’s lack of a victory so far this season is a huge surprise. He will probably make the playoffs, however, and to get a win in the final 10 races could mean the difference between advancing to the next round.

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 734 points)
Power Ranking: 6
Points’ Standings: 9
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Richmond: 8.33
Chicagoland: 12.00
New Hampshire: 14.33

McMurray remains the only driver without any bonus points to his credit among those currently eligible for the playoffs. That is not insignificant because it is going to keep him from advancing from round to round. So long as he earns consistent top-15s, however, no one is really going to care.

 

Power

Rankings

Points’

Standings

Driver

Wins

Stage

Wins

Power Avg.

|

Richmond

Chicagoland

New Hampshire

Locked into the Playoffs

3

1

Martin Truex Jr.

4

17

8.29

|

14.83

9.33

9.67

1

3

Kyle Larson

3

3

6.63

|

11.00

9.33

13.17

11

10

Jimmie Johnson

3

1

13.63

|

7.50

11.67

10.50

7

2

Kyle Busch

2

10

10.76

|

8.60

8.00

11.50

2

6

Brad Keselowski

2

4

8.05

|

7.17

4.67

8.17

10

5

Denny Hamlin

2

2

13.16

|

9.83

4.33

13.00

16

18

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2

 

16.65

|

19.67

20.00

19.50

5

4

Kevin Harvick

1

3

9.33

|

6.00

22.33

6.17

9

12

Ryan Blaney

1

3

12.95

|

34.33

4.00

16.25

13

16

Ryan Newman

1

 

15.04

|

15.50

12.67

15.50

14

13

Kurt Busch

1

 

15.12

|

8.17

8.00

16.67

19

21

Kasey Kahne

1

 

17.85

|

12.17

14.67

18.83

21

19

Austin Dillon

1

 

19.20

|

21.17

24.33

14.17

Eligible on Points

17

8

Matt Kenseth

 

3

17.44

|

19.50

8.00

5.83

4

7

Chase Elliott

 

2

8.31

|

17.75

3.00

19.33

6

9

Jamie McMurray

 

 

10.23

|

8.33

12.00

14.33

Drivers Outside Playoff Contention

8

15

Joey Logano

1

1

11.12

|

5.50

4.00

9.83

12

11

Clint Bowyer

 

1

14.55

|

15.33

26.67

21.17

15

14

Erik Jones

 

 

15.76

|

38.00

NA

39.00

18

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

 

17.61

|

14.80

11.50

14.25

20

 

Trevor Bayne

 

 

19.12

|

18.20

25.50

25.80

22

 

Paul Menard

 

 

21.75

|

24.33

19.67

20.00

23

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

22.02

|

26.00

27.00

16.00

24

17

Daniel Suarez

 

1

22.06

|

12.00

NA

6.00

25

 

Aric Almirola

 

 

22.34

|

13.50

27.67

20.67

26

 

Chris Buescher

 

 

22.96

|

25.00

28.00

28.00

27

 

AJ Allmendinger

 

 

23.06

|

23.67

25.00

18.67

28

 

Michael McDowell

 

 

23.94

|

28.50

34.50

30.33

29

 

Danica Patrick

 

 

24.40

|

19.50

23.00

21.33

30

 

David Ragan

 

 

26.61

|

24.83

27.00

32.00

31

 

Landon Cassill

 

 

27.63

|

29.00

28.00

28.83

32

 

Cole Whitt

 

 

28.44

|

34.40

31.67

32.60

33

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

 

28.83

|

33.60

34.50

30.80

34

 

JJ Yeley

 

 

29.60

|

38.50

35.00

43.00

35

 

Joey Gase

 

 

30.89

|

43.00

38.50

NA

36

 

Gray Gaulding

 

 

31.79

|

31.00

NA

35.00

37

 

Reed Sorenson

 

 

32.79

|

33.00

36.00

36.00

38

 

Corey LaJoie

 

 

33.11

|

32.00

NA

36.00

39

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

 

35.11

|

35.00

NA

35.00

 

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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