Dan Beaver

Chasing the Cup

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Chasing Phoenix (Fall)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


The three-race rounds of the playoffs means something is always in contention – and a lot is on the line. Martinsville Speedway underscored that mindset when a round-robin of bump-the-leader occurred. Texas Motor Speedway was more sedate by comparison, but it also impacted the championship hunt significantly when a driver from lower than fourth in the standings won.

With Martin Truex Jr. having a huge points lead and Brad Keselowski relatively safe, that means the current bottom four will almost certainly need to win the Can Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway if they want to contend for the championship.

And we’ve already seen what they’re willing to do on the Virginian short track. 

Projected to Make the Finale

Martin Truex Jr. (7 wins / 19 stage wins / 4,168 points)
Power Ranking: 2
Points’ Standings: 1
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Phoenix: 16.33
Homestead: 21.67

He has not won in round three, but with a 57-point advantage over Brad Keselowski, Truex needs only to keep from dropping out of the race early while a nightmare scenario plays out behind him in the standings. Truex has proven he wants to win in every round, however, and that alone will make him dangerous at Phoenix.

Kevin Harvick (2 win / 6 stage wins / 4,112 points)
Power Ranking: 5
Points’ Standings: 3
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Phoenix: 2.50
Homestead: 2.00

Now that the pressure of winning is off his shoulders, the odds that Harvick will win the Can Am 500 have actually improved. This has statistically been one of his best tracks in recent seasons – although he struggled a little this spring and failed to finish in the top five. 

Kyle Busch (5 wins / 14 stage wins / 4,118 points)
Power Ranking: 6
Points’ Standings: 2
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Phoenix: 9.40
Homestead: 15.33

Busch sustained damage early last week in the AAA Texas 500 and struggled. That was unfortunate because the team could have used it as a test session for Homestead-Miami Speedway instead of trying all day to minimize their damage.

Brad Keselowski (3 wins / 8 stage wins / 4,111 points)
Power Ranking: 3
Points’ Standings: 4
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Phoenix: 11.17
Homestead: 13.67

Keselowski is not safe in the points by any stretch of the imagination. He sits 19 above Denny Hamlin, but with NASCAR’s Wave Around and Free Pass rules, he could still finish on the lead lap and fail to advance. There is also the not insignificant possibility that one of the drivers below him in the points could win and take the fourth spot in the Championship Finale.

Projected to Fail to Advance to the Final Round

Chase Elliott (0 wins / 3 stage wins / 4,062 points)
Power Ranking: 4
Points’ Standings: 7
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Phoenix: 9.67
Homestead: 11.00

It is difficult to make firm predictions about a second-year driver, so Elliott’s Phoenix record is not nearly as important as his run two weeks ago on another short, flat track. He almost won the First Data 500 until Hamlin spun him. He hasn’t been terrible on the upcoming course either with a worst finish of 12th on the dusty one-mile in the desert.

Denny Hamlin (1 unencumbered win – 1 encumbered / 3 stage wins / 4,092 points)
Power Ranking: 9
Points’ Standings: 5
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Phoenix: 9.33
Homestead: 8.67

Even before he spun Elliott out of the lead at Martinsville, we expected Hamlin to challenge for the win on that flat track. He has a similar record at Phoenix, but since only one driver can win on a given week, it is difficult to predict he will take these checkers first. Hamlin should be a good value in the Can Am 500, but he is likely to come up short of the points needed to advance.

Ryan Blaney (1 win / 4 stage wins / 4,089 points)
Power Ranking: 10
Points’ Standings: 6
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Phoenix: 13.67
Homestead: 21.50

No matter what happens at the end of the Can Am 500, Blaney has been one of the most pleasant surprises during the playoffs. His four top-10s in the past five races have made him one of the top performers and earners on a weekly basis and he is going to end the year with at least one more single-digit result.

Jimmie Johnson (3 wins / 1 stage win / 4,060 points)
Power Ranking: 11
Points’ Standings: 8
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Phoenix: 18.83
Homestead: 6.33

This is just not the Johnson of old. He got off to a decent start with top-10s in three of the first four playoff races – and while this team has a knack for doing just enough to advance and then picking up their game, that does not seem to be what is happening in 2017. His inability to crack the top 10 in the last four races suggests his playoff hopes are about to come to an end. 

Power
Rankings

Points
Standings

Driver

Wins

Stage
Winds

Power
Avg.

|

Phoenix

Homestead

Projected to Make the Finale

2.

1

Martin Truex Jr.

7

19

8.06

|

16.33

21.67

5.

3

Kevin Harvick

2

6

9.69

|

2.50

2.00

6.

2

Kyle Busch

5

14

10.85

|

9.40

15.33

3.

4

Brad Keselowski

3

8

8.10

|

11.17

13.67

Projected to Fail to Advance to The Finale

4.

7

Chase Elliott

 

3

8.46

|

9.67

11.00

9.

5

Denny Hamlin

2, 1

3

12.42

|

9.33

8.67

10.

6

Ryan Blaney

1

4

13.03

|

13.67

21.50

11.

8

Jimmie Johnson

3

1

13.48

|

18.83

6.33

Outside Playoff Contention

1.

9

Kyle Larson

4

5

7.96

|

10.17

6.67

7.

15

Jamie McMurray

 

 

11.35

|

12.17

7.67

8.

17

Joey Logano

1

1

11.46

|

11.17

8.00

12.

16

Ryan Newman

1

 

15.31

|

12.83

14.33

13.

11

Kurt Busch

1

 

15.32

|

9.17

10.67

14.

18

Clint Bowyer

 

1

15.53

|

25.83

24.67

15.

 

Erik Jones

 

 

16.20

|

13.50

NA

16.

10

Matt Kenseth

 

3

16.90

|

16.80

6.67

17.

14

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2

 

17.15

|

22.33

24.67

18.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

 

 

17.44

|

14.20

27.00

19.

12

Kasey Kahne

1

 

17.62

|

17.67

22.67

20.

13

Austin Dillon

1

 

18.68

|

23.17

17.00

21.

 

Trevor Bayne

 

 

19.28

|

26.40

26.67

22.

20

Daniel Suarez

 

1

21.00

|

7.00

NA

23.

 

Paul Menard

 

 

21.28

|

19.83

13.00

24.

 

Aric Almirola

 

 

21.55

|

16.50

33.33

25.

 

Ty Dillon

 

 

21.83

|

19.33

28.00

26.

 

Chris Buescher

 

 

22.64

|

29.67

24.00

27.

 

AJ Allmendinger

 

 

23.57

|

19.50

22.67

28.

 

Michael McDowell

 

 

23.91

|

28.75

21.33

29.

 

Danica Patrick

 

 

24.23

|

22.33

23.67

30.

 

David Ragan

 

 

26.39

|

25.67

28.67

31.

 

Landon Cassill

 

 

27.33

|

26.50

28.33

32.

 

Cole Whitt

 

 

28.69

|

34.00

27.00

33.

 

Matt DiBenedetto

 

 

28.88

|

27.40

32.00

34.

 

JJ Yeley

 

 

29.60

|

30.00

35.50

35.

 

Joey Gase

 

 

31.09

|

35.67

NA

36.

 

Gray Gaulding

 

 

31.79

|

36.50

40.00

37.

 

Reed Sorenson

 

 

32.63

|

31.33

33.67

38.

 

Corey LaJoie

 

 

32.80

|

38.00

NA

39.

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt

 

 

34.87

|

36.00

31.00

 

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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