Loading scores...
Chasing the Cup

Chasing Texas (Fall)

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

NASCAR wanted to fill the Chase for the Championship with drama, but they got just a little more than they bargained for in the final segments of the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway. The Penske pals dominated much of the race and their pit crews kept servicing them so they lined up first and second after crucial caution periods. Deals were struck to allow the driver in the outside line to get down into the preferred groove, but as is often the case with those kinds of negotiations, someone was waiting in the wings to take spoil the plan.

On a lap-436 restart, Brad Keselowski got turned in front of Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth to seriously damage all three cars. As it turned out, another Chaser would suffer damage from the incident, but he had to wait 10 laps for his part to play. Keselowski, Busch, and Kenseth spent a lot of time in the garage, but eventually the No. 20 got back on track and hunted down his rival. On lap 455, Kenseth intentionally wrecked Joey Logano in an attempt to keep him from winning his fourth consecutive race and getting an automatic berth in the Championship round.

On Tuesday, NASCAR acknowledged the intent and suspended Kenseth for two races; unfortunately for Logano, Keselowski, and Busch the damage has been done and they are in essentially win-or-go-home situations.

Or are they?

Just as three primary Chasers sustained damage at Martinsville, another two or three could experience trouble at Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway and points may still come into play for the two of the four spots in the Championship round.

Joey Logano (6 wins / 4,009 points)
Chase Outlook: first 
Last week’s outlook: first 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 6.00
Phoenix: 13.33
Homestead: 12.67
Chase Wins: Charlotte, Kansas, Talladega

Ultimately, we predict Kenseth’s retaliation on Logano will be a pyrrhic victory. It may have felt good at the time to take out the driver who he blamed for his inability to advance to the Eliminator round, but the odds are good that Logano will win Texas this week and secure his berth. Winning at will is not easy, but the No. 22 has too much momentum to be put aside by one bad finish.

Kyle Busch (4 wins / 4,039 points)
Chase Outlook: second 
Last week’s outlook: third 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 4.80
Phoenix: 15.20
Homestead: 16.67
Busch’s fifth-place finish last week was good enough to move him up the grid. Last week we stated that Busch was not capable of stringing 10 strong races together, but he can get four near-perfect events. His top-five at Martinsville will be joined by equally strong runs at Texas and Phoenix, which leaves him to try and outrun three competitors at Homestead. He does have a tendency to overdrive, however, so the AAA 500 this week could be pivotal if he scrapes the wall.

Jeff Gordon (1 win / 4,047 points)
Chase Outlook: third 
Last week’s outlook: ninth 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 21.33
Phoenix: 11.50
Homestead: 7.33
Chase Wins: Martinsville

Last week, this article stated: “Gordon will qualify for the Championship race by winning this week’s Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500.” It’s great when a plan comes together, but he needed for Logano to crash in order to take the top spot. If Logano and Keselowski cannot overcome their points deficit—and if Harvick sustains damage at either Texas or Phoenix, Gordon could even end his career as champion in his final season.

Carl Edwards (2 wins / 4,030 points)
Chase Outlook: fourth 
Last week’s outlook: second 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 14.83
Phoenix: 11.50
Homestead: 19.33

Edwards’ 14th-place finish at Martinsville was not entirely unexpected, but he could have been in much worse circumstances if three of the top performers had not crashed. As it stands, another couple of mid-teens finishes could put him in jeopardy of allowing one of them to catch him in the standings. For now, fantasy owners should hedge their bets and count on him barely making his way into the Championship round.

Martin Truex Jr. (1 win / 4,039 points)
Chase Outlook: fifth  
Last week’s outlook: eighth 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 12.50
Phoenix: 21.33
Homestead: 9.00

Truex continues to surprise fantasy owners. He struggled for a bit during the summer, performed just well enough to advance in the first two round of the Chase, but has scored three top-10s in the past four races. He is going to hover on the cusp of being a great value, but this team from Colorado is too far from home to be a favorite to make the final four.

Kevin Harvick (3 wins / 4,037 points)
Chase Outlook: sixth 
Last week’s outlook: fifth 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 12.67
Phoenix: 3.00
Homestead: 6.33
Chase Wins: Dover

Harvick sits fourth in the standings and has a considerable lead over the bottom three drivers. This team continues to make mistakes, however, and Harvick’s fortune could have been much worse at Martinsville after sustaining pit road damage. The No. 4 team seems to be playing a version of Russian Roulette and the chamber is going to have a bullet in it one of these times.

Brad Keselowski (1 win / 4,013 points)
Chase Outlook: seventh 
Last week’s outlook: seventh 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 6.67
Phoenix: 5.67
Homestead: 8.00

Keselowski was one of the drivers most likely to repeat Newman’s pattern or pointing his way into the finale. An accident on a restart sent him hard into the wall and well down the standings. Only two of the three drivers in need of victories to advance can get them in the next couple of races and Kez does not seem to be capable of winning at will. Keselowski will still be a good value at Texas, however, because he is the only driver in the field to sweep the top 10 on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks this season.

Kurt Busch (2 wins / 4,011 points)
Chase Outlook: sixth 
Last week’s outlook: fourth 
Next three tracks, 3-year average finish
Texas: 20.50
Phoenix: 15.17
Homestead: 13.67

Busch was having a better Chase than teammate Harvick, but his luck has been worse. His part in the accident at Martinsville is going to keep him from advancing to the Championship round, but he put up a good fight and will be part of the Stewart-Haas Racing juggernaut next year. His best finish in the final three races of 2015 will come at Phoenix, but he is going to have some determined competitors trying to beat him to Victory Lane that weekend.

 

Upcoming Tracks Average Finish, last three years, sorted by Chase so Far

Driver

Chase
So Far

Remaining
Chase Tracks

Texas

Phoenix

Homestead

Jeff Gordon

7.86

14.60

21.33

11.50

7.33

Carl Edwards

7.86

14.40

14.83

11.50

19.33

Joey Logano

8.43

10.27

6.00

13.33

12.67

Martin Truex Jr.

9.00

15.33

12.50

21.33

9.00

Kyle Busch

12.71

11.54

4.80

15.20

16.67

Brad Keselowski

12.86

6.53

6.67

5.67

8.00

Kurt Busch

13.43

17.00

20.50

15.17

13.67

Kevin Harvick

15.00

7.53

12.67

3.00

6.33

 

Denny Hamlin

9.57

12.36

12.20

13.33

10.67

Ryan Newman

11.14

11.47

12.33

12.67

7.33

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

13.57

13.33

15.00

13.83

9.00

Jamie McMurray

15.29

15.80

15.50

14.83

18.33

Jimmie Johnson

18.57

12.13

5.83

15.50

18.00

Matt Kenseth

19.00

11.73

12.50

12.50

8.67

Paul Menard

19.00

19.00

21.00

17.50

18.00

Clint Bowyer

23.00

15.67

14.83

21.83

5.00

 

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 sometimes 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
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.