Dan Beaver

Chasing the Cup

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Chasing Kansas (Fall)

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Talladega is unpredictable—that is well-known—but it also has the capability to radically alter the playoff landscape both in who it favors and who it hurts.

Last week in the Alabama 500 at Talladega SuperSpeedway, Jamie McMurray was the first of 10 playoff drivers to sustain damage. Two of the contenders made it to the end of the race unscathed and depending on how lucky the others were, they either lost a lot of points to the competition or minimized the damage by finishing near the other stricken competitors.

Then, of course, there was Brad Keselowski who won the race and secured his spot in the third round.

A lot changed with that wild card race, but there is still one more opportunity for a driver to win and get to the next level before the points reset.

Kyle Larson (4 wins / 4 stage wins / 3,096 points)
Power Ranking: 1
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 19.50
Martinsville: 16.60
Texas: 16.67

Larson was one of the lucky ones last week. He avoided the massive pileup on lap 171 when more than 30 cars were still in contention. Then, he watched several other drivers fall by the wayside. He even managed to keep his car running after slapping the wall hard with five to go and salvaged enough points to be safe entering Kansas Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr. (6 wins / 19 stage wins / 3,120 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 9.00
Martinsville: 15.17
Texas: 8.83

With a win at Charlotte Motor Speedway under his belt, Truex was the only driver last week comfortable entering Talladega. In all likelihood, his involvement in the "Big One" crash would not have been critical given the others who lost points, but his fans never had a moment of anguish.

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 3 stage wins / 3,087 points)
Power Ranking: 3
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 23.00
Martinsville: 18.25
Texas: 6.00

Elliott is actually in a little jeopardy of failing to advance to round three. He sits sixth in the points, just 13 ahead of the cutoff and with limited experience this scenario could get in his head and cause him to make a mistake. We are betting he runs in the top 10 next week and that should keep him from losing ground on the competition, however.

Brad Keselowski (3 wins / 6 stage wins / 3,101 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 17.00
Martinsville: 12.17
Texas: 8.00

Keselowski had a great day last week. He added six more bonus points to his total with a stage victory and the overall win. He now has the fourth-most bonus points and that will help him navigate round three.

Projected to Advance to Round 3

Kevin Harvick (1 win / 5 stage wins / 3,089 points)
Power Ranking: 5
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 6.00
Martinsville: 17.67
Texas: 4.5

Predicting the final four is tricky and since NASCAR is a zero sum game, it’s hard to decide who will be on the right side of the cutoff. Harvick and Keselowski swapped that spot this week because of the bonus points pocketed by the No. 2, but the difference in their performance for Fantasy Owners in the next five weeks is going to be minimal.

Denny Hamlin (1 unencumbered win – 1 encumbered / 2 stage wins / 3,088 points)
Power Ranking: 9
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 20.83
Martinsville: 14.00
Texas: 17.50

Hamlin was one of only two playoff drivers who made it to the checkers without crash damage. He had a shot at winning, but unfortunately did not have any help since all of his teammates were missing from the lead pack. Joe Gibbs Racing has been strong, but not dominant this season and that is a minor difference that will keep the No. 11 from going all the way.

Jimmie Johnson (3 wins / 1 stage win / 3,074 points)
Power Ranking: 10
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 14.83
Martinsville: 17.33
Texas: 3.17

Johnson is on the cusp of making the round of eight and should be able to run just well enough to advance. Last year, he did the same thing until he finally won the championship with a dramatic restart at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Lightning is not supposed to strike the same place twice, however.

Ryan Blaney (1 win / 4 stage wins / 3,076 points)
Power Ranking: 11
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 7.50
Martinsville: 21.00
Texas: 27.60

Blaney has only one thing to worry about this week: staying ahead of Johnson, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth. That might seem simple, but those drivers have more experience than the sophomore and are competing for teams with a few more resources.

Projected to Fail to Advance to Round 3

Kyle Busch (4 wins / 13 stage wins / 3,067 points)
Power Ranking: 7
Points’ Standings: 9
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 3.80
Martinsville: 4.80
Texas: 5.80

What once seemed like an unassailable number of bonus points has evaporated with back-to-back accidents at Charlotte and Talladega. Busch is now in a position where he has to earn points in order to advance and he is a driver who tends to race over his head under certain circumstances.

Matt Kenseth (0 wins / 3 stage wins / 3,066 points)
Power Ranking: 16
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 9.67
Martinsville: 12.67
Texas: 16.40

Kenseth kept his car rolling after getting involved in a "Big One" crash so he salvaged a 14th-place finish. That was his seventh top-15 in the past eight weeks, but he really needs a top-10 to advance. He could get it, but there is a lot of competition standing in the way.

Jamie McMurray (0 wins / 0 stage wins / 3,045 points)
Power Ranking: 6
Points’ Standings: 12
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 21.50
Martinsville: 16.17
Texas: 10.00

Last week, we assumed McMurray would make round three based on consistency, but his accident early in the Alabama 500 has put him in a situation where he must win in order to advance. This team has not been able to do that all year and they will not win on demand.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2 wins / 0 stage wins / 3,052 points)
Power Ranking: 17
Points’ Standings: 11
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Kansas: 16.50
Martinsville: 29.33
Texas: 17.50

Without the Talladega win, Stenhouse is no longer projected to advance out of round two. He has been decent on this track type in 2017 with six top-15s in eight races, but he has not had a top-10 on the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks since early 2016 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

 

Power
Rankings

Points
Standings

Driver

Wins

Stage
Wins

Power
Avg.

|

Kansas

Martinsville

Texas

Projected to Make the Finals

1.

3

Kyle Larson

4

4

6.69

|

19.50

16.60

16.67

4.

1

Martin Truex Jr.

6

19

8.35

|

9.00

15.17

8.83

3.

6

Chase Elliott

 

3

8.25

|

23.00

18.25

6.00

2.

2

Brad Keselowski

3

6

8.13

|

17.00

12.17

8.00

Projected to Advance to Round 3

5.

4

Kevin Harvick

1

5

9.92

|

6.00

17.67

4.50

9.

5

Denny Hamlin

2, 1

2

12.77

|

20.83

14.00

17.50

10.

8

Jimmie Johnson

3

1

13.33

|

14.83

17.33

3.17

11.

7

Ryan Blaney

1

4

13.37

|

7.50

21.00

27.60

Projected to Fail to Advance to Round 3

6.

12

Jamie McMurray

 

 

10.66

|

21.50

16.17

10.00

7.

9

Kyle Busch

4

13

10.89

|

3.80

4.80

5.80

16.

10

Matt Kenseth

 

3

16.91

|

9.67

12.67

16.40

17.

11

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2

 

17.16

|

16.50

29.33

17.50

Outside Playoff Contention

8.

17

Joey Logano

1

1

11.18

|

14.17

11.50

10.67

12.

14

Ryan Newman

1

 

14.97

|

14.33

11.83

17.00

13.

18

Clint Bowyer

 

1

15.35

|

22.17

20.50

23.17

14.

16

Kurt Busch

1

 

15.54

|

15.17

26.00

11.33

15.

 

Erik Jones

 

 

15.84

|

31.00

12.00

17.00

18.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

 

17.43

|

19.60

17.80

4.40

19.

13

Kasey Kahne

1

 

17.82

|

14.00

17.83

20.00

20.

15

Austin Dillon

1

 

18.96

|

16.50

16.17

23.50

21.

 

Trevor Bayne

 

 

19.35

|

20.20

22.40

25.67

22.

20

Daniel Suarez

 

1

20.96

|

7.00

32.00

19.00

23.

 

Paul Menard

 

 

21.44

|

23.50

17.33

26.83

24.

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

21.75

|

20.00

22.00

18.50

25.

 

Aric Almirola

 

 

22.02

|

27.00

20.33

20.83

26.

 

Chris Buescher

 

 

22.98

|

21.00

23.75

25.00

27.

 

AJ Allmendinger

 

 

23.26

|

16.33

13.50

18.50

28.

 

Michael McDowell

 

 

24.16

|

26.80

22.67

28.20

29.

 

Danica Patrick

 

 

24.25

|

23.17

24.00

22.83

30.

 

David Ragan

 

 

26.46

|

27.83

20.33

27.00

31.

 

Landon Cassill

 

 

27.51

|

28.67

24.17

30.50

32.

 

Cole Whitt

 

 

28.84

|

31.50

22.20

29.60

33.

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

 

28.89

|

28.20

31.40

33.50

34.

 

JJ Yeley

 

 

29.60

|

36.00

31.33

33.50

35.

 

Joey Gase

 

 

31.00

|

36.00

36.00

39.00

36.

 

Gray Gaulding

 

 

31.70

|

34.00

34.00

34.00

37.

 

Corey LaJoie

 

 

32.78

|

27.00

28.00

32.00

38.

 

Reed Sorenson

 

 

32.84

|

31.20

35.25

36.80

39.

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

 

35.02

|

33.00

34.50

36.33

 

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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