Dan Beaver

Chasing the Cup

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Chasing Talladega (Fall)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


The Alabama 500 at Talladega SuperSpeedway looms large on the 2017 schedule. As the second race of the second round of the NASCAR playoffs, it will probably be one of the events pointed out by one or two of the drivers who fail to advance. This could come as the result of a "Big One" crash, an engine failure, or simply being in the wrong line in the closing laps.

But the race does not loom quite as large as it might with NASCAR’s new points system. Martin Truex Jr. has a 63-point advantage over the cutoff line and a round two win to his credit. Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick have 29 points over Matt Kenseth and that could make a big difference once the final tally is made at the end of the Kansas Speedway race. Everyone else is in a scrum, but could get an automatic berth by winning this Sunday.

Projected to make the Finals

Kyle Larson (4 wins / 4 stage wins / 3,072 points)
Power Ranking: 1
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 21.67
Kansas: 19.50
Martinsville: 16.60

Last week’s 10th-place finish in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway was not indicative of how well Larson ran. He was leading late in the event before a problem in the pits dropped him into the middle of the pack or else he would have a five-race streak of top-fives to his credit.

Martin Truex Jr. (6 wins / 19 stage wins / 3,106 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 21.17
Kansas: 9.00
Martinsville: 15.17

Truex started round two the same way he did round one: with a win. He keeps accumulating bonus points at an alarming rate, but he doesn’t seem to care. Advancing to the next level is achieved just as readily with victories and Truex is making a statement about this team’s strength.

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 3 stage wins / 3,059 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 15.67
Kansas: 23.00
Martinsville: 18.25

For the third time in four playoff races this year, Elliott finished second at Charlotte. That puts to rest any questions of whether he would be distracted by his disappointment at Dover International Speedway and lends credence to the opinion that he is going to win before the season is over.

Kevin Harvick (1 win / 5 stage wins / 3,069 points)
Power Ranking: 5
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 12.83
Kansas: 6.00
Martinsville: 17.67

Winning two stages last week at Charlotte and finishing third in the race has us rethinking Harvick’s motivation. He is the last hope for Stewart-Haas Racing and is a driver who can find a little something extra when he digs deeper.

Projected to Advance to Round 3

Brad Keselowski (2 wins / 5 stage wins / 3,042 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 10
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 12.17
Kansas: 17.00
Martinsville: 12.17

It is not only a 15th-place finish last week that caused us to drop Keselowski down the rankings. Quite frankly, he didn’t look good throughout the Bank of America 500 and it will take just one more mediocre finish to create some big problems for the driver and team.

Denny Hamlin (1 unencumbered win – 1 encumbered / 2 stage wins / 3,056 points)
Power Ranking: 9
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 18.17
Kansas: 20.83
Martinsville: 14.00

Hamlin and the Joe Gibbs Racing operation has been strong enough this season that they should easily advance to round three. Once there, they have a good shot at winning either Martinsville Speedway or Phoenix International Raceway, but the competition has closed the gap considerably on short, flat tracks in recent years.

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 3,044 points)
Power Ranking: 6
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 18.33
Kansas: 21.50
Martinsville: 16.17

Consistency has managed to keep McMurray in the hunt and now has him sitting eighth in the standings. While it seems unlikely he will outperform the next level, he should be able to hold onto that spot and get into round three. Either way, he is earning major points.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2 wins / 0 stage wins / 3,010 points)
Power Ranking: 16
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 16.83
Kansas: 16.50
Martinsville: 29.33

If Stenhouse does not manage to win this week, he is going to fall down the rankings. He sits 12th in the standings and probably cannot make up enough ground in points at Kansas. Then again, he has managed to get into Victory Lane in the last two restrictor-plate, superspeedway races.  

Projected to Fail to Advance to Round 3

Kyle Busch (4 wins / 13 stage wins / 3,055 points)
Power Ranking: 7
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 17.20
Kansas: 3.80
Martinsville: 4.80

Bonus points might yet save Busch in round two, but his trip into the Charlotte wall last week used up his mulligan. Now he heads to a track where calamity is around every corner and that may well be his undoing if a "Big One" crash erupts.

Jimmie Johnson (3 wins / 1 stage win / 3,017 points)
Power Ranking: 10
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 16.17
Kansas: 14.83
Martinsville: 17.33

Johnson has been strong enough in recent weeks to continue advancing, but one has to worry about Talladega. So much can go wrong there and since he is seventh in the standings, there is not much room for error. His average finish of ninth in the last seven races is nice, but one expected more than a single top-five in that span.

Ryan Blaney (1 win / 3 stage wins / 3,039 points)
Power Ranking: 11
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 21.33
Kansas: 7.50
Martinsville: 21.00

Blaney’s eighth-place finish at Charlotte was great, but it might fit in the category of “too little, too late.” Without enough bonus points to elevate him above four drivers, he is going to have to win again in order to clear next week’s Kansas showdown.

Matt Kenseth (0 wins / 3 stage wins / 3,043 points)
Power Ranking: 16
Points’ Standings: 9
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Talladega: 21.33
Kansas: 9.67
Martinsville: 12.67

Time is running out for Kenseth and it is going to take more than an average finish of 8.5 to get him into round three. With a worst finish of 11th in four playoff races, however, he has been a great place-and-hold driver in most fantasy NASCAR games.

 

Power
Rankings

Points
Standings

Driver

Wins

Stage
Wins

Power
Avg.

|

Talladega

Kansas

Martinsville

Projected to Make the Finals

1

2

Kyle Larson

4

4

6.59

|

21.67

19.50

16.60

3.

1

Martin Truex Jr.

6

19

8.13

|

21.17

9.00

15.17

2.

4

Chase Elliott

 

3

8.13

|

15.67

23.00

18.25

5.

3

Kevin Harvick

1

5

9.76

|

12.83

6.00

17.67

Projected to Advance to Round 3

4.

10

Brad Keselowski

2

5

8.24

|

12.17

17.00

12.17

9.

5

Denny Hamlin

2, 1

2

12.87

|

18.17

20.83

14.00

6.

8

Jamie McMurray

 

 

10.27

|

18.33

21.50

16.17

17.

12

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2

 

17.00

|

16.83

16.50

29.33

Projected to Fail to Advance to Round 3

7.

6

Kyle Busch

4

13

10.64

|

17.20

3.80

4.80

10.

7

Jimmie Johnson

3

1

13.17

|

16.17

14.83

17.33

11.

11

Ryan Blaney

1

3

13.30

|

21.33

7.50

21.00

16.

9

Matt Kenseth

 

3

16.96

|

21.33

9.67

12.67

Outside Playoff Contention

8.

18

Joey Logano

1

1

11.30

|

17.17

14.17

11.50

12.

17

Clint Bowyer

 

1

15.03

|

13.33

22.17

20.50

13.

15

Ryan Newman

1

 

15.18

|

15.17

14.33

11.83

14.

16

Kurt Busch

1

 

15.38

|

7.83

15.17

26.00

15.

 

Erik Jones

 

 

15.51

|

33.00

31.00

12.00

18.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

 

17.60

|

19.20

19.60

17.80

19.

14

Kasey Kahne

1

 

18.00

|

24.00

14.00

17.83

20.

13

Austin Dillon

1

 

18.79

|

18.33

16.50

16.17

21.

 

Trevor Bayne

 

 

19.64

|

26.33

20.20

22.40

22.

20

Daniel Suarez

 

1

21.07

|

19.00

7.00

32.00

23.

 

Paul Menard

 

 

21.61

|

15.50

23.50

17.33

24.

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

21.95

|

13.00

20.00

22.00

25.

 

Aric Almirola

 

 

22.38

|

18.17

27.00

20.33

26.

 

Chris Buescher

 

 

23.09

|

24.50

21.00

23.75

27.

 

AJ Allmendinger

 

 

23.29

|

21.83

16.33

13.50

28.

 

Michael McDowell

 

 

24.06

|

30.67

26.80

22.67

29.

 

Danica Patrick

 

 

24.30

|

24.83

23.17

24.00

30.

 

David Ragan

 

 

26.76

|

27.67

27.83

20.33

31.

 

Landon Cassill

 

 

27.50

|

23.00

28.67

24.17

32.

 

Cole Whitt

 

 

28.74

|

16.80

31.50

22.20

33.

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

 

28.85

|

27.80

28.20

31.40

34.

 

JJ Yeley

 

 

29.60

|

31.33

36.00

31.33

35.

 

Joey Gase

 

 

30.89

|

21.00

36.00

36.00

36.

 

Gray Gaulding

 

 

32.23

|

20.00

34.00

34.00

37.

 

Corey LaJoie

 

 

32.78

|

27.00

27.00

28.00

38.

 

Reed Sorenson

 

 

32.84

|

30.33

31.20

35.25

39.

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

 

34.96

|

31.00

33.00

34.50

 

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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