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Erik Jones
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Statistically Speaking

Buttering the bread: 1.5-mile success

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: January 11, 2020, 8:11 pm ET

The 1.5-mile tracks are NASCAR’s bread and butter. With 11 of the 36 races contested on this course type, more than 30% of the races are on doglegged and double-doglegged, 1.5-mile tracks plus the true oval of Homestead. It has become so important in recent years, that even moderately funded teams put the lions’ share of their effort into going fast at Atlanta, Charlotte, Texas, Las Vegas, Kansas, Chicagoland, Kentucky, and Homestead.

Dark horses have not traditionally run well on this course type, but over the past few seasons that has changed. As a result fantasy owners have found some very good bargains.

Of course the top of the order continues to be dominated by marquee teams.

In terms of average finishes over the past three years, four organizations have dominated. Joe Gibbs Racing occupies three of the top spots in the chart below. Hendrick Motorsports with their Ganassi alliance have three spots. Stewart-Haas Racing has two current drivers among the top 10 (and one former driver in Kurt Busch). Team Penske also has two drivers in the top 10.


One has to look all the way to the 16th driver and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to find another organization represented, but since there are so many drivers among the Big 4 there are a lot of options on a given Sunday.

In the past three years, Martin Truex Jr. had amassed the best average finish. For two of those seasons, he was practically untouchable with eight wins in 22 races and only one result worse than eighth – and that was caused by crash damage in the April 2018 Texas race.

Truex’s 2019 season was not nearly as strong. He began the year with a second at Atlanta, followed by an eighth at Las Vegas. After that, he finished 12th and 19th in his next two starts and was 19th in the summer at Kentucky. He had some highlights, however. Most notably, Truex’s win in the Coke 600 and at Las Vegas 2 to start the playoffs put him in contention to challenge for the championship.

Kevin Harvick was nearly as strong. He finished outside the top 10 only four times in 2017 and 2018. As with Truex, it took an accident to get him out of contention for a strong run.

And as with Truex, he faded slightly in 2019. In the 11 races on 1.5-milers last year, he was outside the top 10 on three occasions, but an absolutely dominant run in the AAA Texas 500 reminded players of just how strong he could be.

Harvick ended the year with three top-fives and a ninth in the last four races on this course type. His fourth-place finish in the Ford 400 kept him in contention for the championship until the very end.

But the bobbles by Truex and Harvick, as well as similar deficits for Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, and Denny Hamlin created opportunities for some other drivers.

Erik Jones was the highest finishing non-playoff driver at Homestead. He was eliminated from contention with a horrible showing in the Round of 16 and struggled to find any kind of momentum in the final 10 races, but this was a track type that was good for him in the second half of the season.

Jones finished third in the Ford 400, which was his fourth top-five and eighth top-10 in 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks last year. Beginning with a seventh-place finish in the Camping World 400 at Chicagoland, he earned five top-10s in the last six races on this course type and if not for trouble at Las Vegas in the playoff opener, his season might have gone much differently.

Jones’ eight top-10s in 2019 made him one of only eight drivers with a more-than 50% success rate in that regard.

Alex Bowman was another mid-cap driver with a top-tier team who was consistently strong on 1.5-mile tracks in 2019. It took a few races for him to get up to speed, but once he did the No. 88 was a solid value. Bowman finished between 11th and 18th in his first three races on this track type. Bowman ended the season as one of the drivers with top-10s in more than 50 percent of his starts on 1.5-milers.

Beginning with a second in Kansas 1, Bowman improved dramatically and earned six top-10s and an 11th in the last eight races on this course type. He got his first win at Chicagoland and showed a lot of resolve in the Camping World 400. He was run down and passed late in the going by Kyle Larson. At that point everyone thought he would not be able to get back to the lead. He proved the pundit wrong, found another gear, and charged.

Bowman’s season took an immediate and harsh turn for the worse at that point, but he continued to run well on the 1.5-milers with a sixth at Vegas 2, fifth at Texas, and ninth at Homestead.

Chris Buescher may well have been the best overall value on 1.5-milers, however. He earned four top-10s in 2019. All of them came on this track type with a sixth at Charlotte, ninth at Atlanta, and 10th-place finishes at Kansas and Kentucky. In 11 races he never finished outside the top 20 and with an average finish of 14.27 in 2019, he earned a lot of points at his level.

Clint Bowyer was the third driver with top-10s in more than half his starts on this track type. Bowyer scored three top-fives at the start of the season. He added three more top-10s in the summer and fall, but he could be uneven at times with another three efforts landing outside the top 20. Bowyer deserves special attention in 2020. If SHR improves their performance, he could be one of the top contenders.

 

3-Year Avg. Fin
1.5-mile tracks

Driver

Avg. Fin

Avg. Start

Starts

Martin Truex Jr.

5.67

11.70

33

Kevin Harvick

8.76

7.33

33

Kyle Busch

9.15

7.91

33

Joey Logano

9.91

13.00

33

Chase Elliott

12.00

14.67

33

Brad Keselowski

12.00

8.61

33

Kyle Larson

12.67

15.48

33

Denny Hamlin

13.00

9.61

33

Kurt Busch

13.91

9.82

33

Clint Bowyer

14.00

13.18

33

Ryan Blaney

14.18

10.67

33

Alex Bowman

14.23

15.05

22

Erik Jones

14.30

14.21

33

Aric Almirola

15.00

14.55

31

Jimmie Johnson

16.82

16.82

33

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

17.27

14.21

33

Daniel Suarez

17.88

12.82

33

Paul Menard

18.18

17.21

33

Austin Dillon

18.36

15.18

33

Chris Buescher

18.55

24.00

33

William Byron

20.18

15.59

22

Ryan Newman

20.55

16.97

33

Daniel Hemric

21.27

11.27

11

JH Nemechek

22.00

29.50

2

Michael McDowell

24.18

22.18

33

Ty Dillon

24.24

24.91

33

David Ragan

24.24

24.88

33

Bubba Wallace

24.57

22.65

23

Ryan Preece

24.91

24.64

11

Matt Tifft

26.44

29.00

9

Matt DiBenedetto

26.55

27.52

33

Parker Kligerman

27.88

32.63

8

Landon Cassill

28.39

31.19

31

Ross Chastain

29.55

32.36

22

Corey LaJoie

29.83

31.76

29

JJ Yeley

30.25

34.33

12

Reed Sorenson

32.00

35.44

25

Gray Gaulding

32.69

32.81

16

Kyle Weatherman

32.80

34.20

5

BJ McLeod

32.83

35.44

18

Quin Houff

33.40

34.40

5

Bayley Currey

33.60

31.00

5

Joe Nemechek

33.67

35.67

3

Josh Bilicki

33.75

37.50

4

Garrett Smithley

34.83

35.50

6

Timmy Hill

35.21

38.16

19

Joey Gase

36.00

36.90

10

Cody Ware

37.00

34.80

5

 

See Also:
Short Tracks
Road Courses
Pocono and Indy

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.