Dan Beaver

Statistically Speaking

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Weekend Update: Michigan

Saturday, June 9, 2018


Recently, it seems that the easiest way to stop a drought is to plan a NASCAR race weekend. Rain canceled the second practice session on Saturday, leaving only the slightly abbreviated morning practice to consider.

Qualification is important enough that most drivers worked on single runs during Friday's lone practice so the net effect of the weekend is that fantasy players do not have a lot to go on.

Qualification

Three drivers topped the 203 mph mark in qualification, but there is enough reason to doubt the potential of the front row. Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski will lead the field to green. Unfortunately neither of them was very strong at Michigan International Speedway last year, so their handicap is unclear for the FireKeepers Casino 400.

Busch nearly cracked the top 10 with a 12th in the spring and 11th in the summer. Keselowski finished 16th and 17th respectively. Both drivers are capable of running much better this week and could very well score a top-10, but given their starting position, it is almost guaranteed they will lose place-differential points.

Row two houses Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. It will only take a lap of two before either of those drivers assumes the top spot and the FireKeepers Casino 400 is going to be another show of domination by these two. It will be impossible to make up ground on the competition with them on the roster, but it will be equally impossible to win without them. Given his long-run speed, Harvick is the most likely contender to lead the most laps.

To find a differentiator, one has to go deeper in the pack. Joey Logano qualified fifth and had a long record of Michigan top-10s to his credit before last August. He has been steady all season and should easily challenge for a single-digit result this Sunday.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. could be this week's top dark horse based on his starting position, Roush Fenway Racing has been solid on the two-mile tracks throughout their history, and while their new drivers have not picked up the mantle completely, the addition of Matt Kenseth to the organization should allow them to return to their glory days.

Practice

Saturday's practice session was a microcosm of the season. Harvick posted the quickest 10-lap average of 199.345 mph. That was about 6/10ths of a mile per hour faster than Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson – who fell into a class of their own about 6/10ths of a mile per hour faster than Clint Bowyer and the remainder of the field. In all likelihood, Martin Truex Jr. would have fallen in the same range as Larson and Busch if he had run 10 consecutive laps.

The top four drivers will run away from the field again – and while that might not make for the most entertaining race (unless you are a fan of one of them), it makes the job of handicapping a lot easier. When playing multiple rosters, use two of those drivers as anchors in a revolving fashion and fill in with the rest of the field.

Larson is the most difficult choice among the Big Four. He struggled in qualification with a car that was too tight. As a result, he did not make it out of round one of qualification and starts 26th. On Saturday, he finally found speed and had the second-fastest lap to Harvick in addition to the third-quickest average speed.

Logano and Bowyer also landed high on the speed chart and should be used as fill-in picks to the top four.

Two hidden gems in practice were William Byron and Erik Jones. Byron posted the eighth fastest lap with Jones landing 10th on the chart.



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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