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Statistically Speaking

Final Off Week Stats

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

With two weeks remaining in the regular season and a dozen races to go before the checkered flag waves at Homestead-Miami Speedway, fantasy owners have one final opportunity to regroup and assess the year to date. And with one-third of the season remaining, it is not too late to make a determined charge at the leaders in one’s group.

That is especially true when one considers player fatigue and the distraction of fantasy football that looms on the horizon.

Some drivers, like Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart, are strong closers. Others, like Jamie McMurray and Brad Keselowski, have shown an increased propensity in that regard in recent years, so it will pay dividends to watch for signs of momentum from current mid-pack teams. Last year both Ganassi guys increased their fantasy relevance in the final 10 races even though they were outside of Chase contention and this season someone else will have a point to prove.

10 best drivers in 2015

Over the past 24 races (unless otherwise noted), these drivers have the best average this season.

1. Kevin Harvick
Average finish this season: 7.54

Unless one has been living in a cave—in which case, they are probably not playing fantasy NASCAR—it will come as no surprise that Harvick tops the average finish chart for the first 24 races. He has finished first or second in half his starts and among the top five 71 percent of the time. He is the consummate place-and-hold driver to this point of the season.

2. Joey Logano
Average finish this season: 9.04

Logano is the only driver other than Harvick to make it this far into the season with a better-than-10th-place average finish. More importantly, he is starting to nip away at Harvick’s lead with an average of 6.9 compared to Harvick’s 10.0 in the past 10 races. Logano has also shown an ability to win in recent weeks and that could give him the edge once the Chase begins.

3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Average finish this season: 10.50

Hendrick Motorsports has lost some momentum recently, but Earnhardt continues to carry the banner. Not only does he have the best average finish to this point of the season, he has finished 11th or better in nine of the past 11 races. One of these was a victory at Daytona International Speedway—and that is not predictive of how he will run on unrestricted tracks—but he also has top-fives at Michigan International Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and Pocono Raceway.

4. Kurt Busch
Average finish this season: 10.95 (21 starts)

The tide is beginning to turn on Busch with three results of 14th or worse in his last three oval races. Before that, however, he had a seven-race top-10 streak to his credit. If he can rekindle that spark during the Chase, he will be a contender once the series rolls into Homestead and he will be a great value all along the way.

5. Brad Keselowski
Average finish this season: 11.83

From Bristol Motor Speedway this spring through the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Keselowski was not overly impressive. In that span of 10 races, he scored just three top-10s and had an average of 17.1. He turned a corner with a sixth in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway, however, and has swept the top 10 in his last six races.

6. Jimmie Johnson
Average finish this season: 11.96

Johnson has developed a pattern in recent years of falling off considerably during the second half of the regular season. Occasionally the team admits to testing wild setups and sometimes they express surprise at their slump, but one thing is nearly always certain: they rise to the occasion in the final 10 races that define the Chase. Wait two weeks, and then plan to place-and-hold the No. 48.

7. Kyle Busch
Average finish this season: 12.46 (13 starts)

Busch is not completely out of the woods where the top 30 is concerned and a couple of unfortunate incidents might still spoil his Chase hopes. Four wins in five races from Sonoma Raceway through Indianapolis Motor Speedway have only elevated him to seventh in the top 10 list, which gives fantasy owners an idea of the fragility of his position.

8. Martin Truex Jr.
Average finish this season: 12.58

Fantasy players who were willing to give the No. 78 team the benefit of the doubt and believe their slump from Sonoma through Watkins Glen International was largely attributable to experimental setups were bitten once more at Bristol in the Irwin Tools Night Race. It may be time to park this team for a while and wait until they score consecutive top-fives or at least top-10s.

9. Matt Kenseth
Average finish this season: 13.54

Kenseth was arguably the hottest driver on the circuit entering the Irwin Tools Night Race. His latest six races ended in result of seventh or better and he won the last two oval races. The team apparently pushed the envelope with their engine at Bristol, but both Harvick and Logano have had gambles in recent weeks that did not bear fruit as well so Kenseth can be forgiven this lapse.

10. Ryan Newman
Average finish this season: 13.63

Newman is having the same type of season in 2015 that he did last year. One needs to be reminded of just how strong this team became in the final 10 races of the 2014 season, so even if they do not make the final four, the No. 31 will probably be a good value for most of the Chase.

Others of Note

11. Denny Hamlin
Average finish this season: 14.92

For the second time this season, Hamlin has back-to-back top-fives to his credit. He finished fifth at Michigan and third at Bristol after starting on the front row both times. It is too soon to say he has turned his season around, but Darlington should provide another top-five and if that happens, it will be time to form a bandwagon for the Virginia native.

12. Jamie McMurray
Average finish this season: 15.13

At the end of last year, McMurray finished out the regular season with three consecutive top-15s. He missed the playoffs, but during the Challenger round he scored two top-10s and he was 16th or better in all three races of the Eliminator round. This year it would take a perfectly bad scenario to keep him out of the Chase, but fantasy owners cannot automatically expect the same results in the final 10 events of 2015.

16. Carl Edwards
Average finish this season: 17.00

Edwards has two things in his favor: his fuel-mileage victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway and seven consecutive top-15s in the most recent races this season. If he keeps his current momentum, he will easily advance to the Eliminator round, but needs to earn top-fives if he wants to be a realistic threat for the championship.

22. Ty Dillon
Average finish this season: 21.50 (4 starts)
24. Chase Elliott
Average finish this season: 22.50 (4 starts)

The two highest profiled pre-rookies have yet to battle head-to-head and that has been good news for fantasy owners. With cheap salary caps they have allowed players to roll the dice and earn top-20s in the majority of their starts. Keep an eye on the roster and do not overlook these Young Guns in their next outings.

34. Justin Allgaier
Average finish this season: 27.00

The No. 51 team lacks the resources to be consistent top-15 finishers, but an impressive run at Bristol last week proves they can contend on drivers’ tracks. Richmond is one of Allgaier’s five best courses in terms of career-average finishes and he could be a pleasant surprise one more time before the Chase begins. 

 

2015 Average Finish

Four or More starts

Rank

Driver

Avg. Fin

Starts

1.

Kevin Harvick

7.54

24

2.

Joey Logano

9.04

24

3.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

10.50

24

4.

Kurt Busch

10.95

21

5.

Brad Keselowski

11.83

24

6.

Jimmie Johnson

11.96

24

7.

Kyle Busch

12.46

13

8.

Martin Truex Jr.

12.58

24

9.

Matt Kenseth

13.54

24

10.

Ryan Newman

13.63

24

 

11.

Denny Hamlin

14.92

24

12.

Jamie McMurray

15.13

24

13.

Paul Menard

15.96

24

14.

Jeff Gordon

16.42

24

15.

Clint Bowyer

16.92

24

16.

Carl Edwards

17.00

24

17.

Aric Almirola

18.21

24

18.

Kasey Kahne

18.50

24

19.

Kyle Larson

20.22

23

20.

Greg Biffle

20.29

24

21.

Austin Dillon

20.63

24

22.

Ty Dillon

21.50

4

23.

Danica Patrick

22.21

24

24.

Chase Elliott

22.50

4

25.

Casey Mears

22.58

24

26.

AJ Allmendinger

22.71

24

27.

David Ragan

23.63

24

28.

Sam Hornish Jr.

24.17

24

29.

Tony Stewart

24.67

24

30.

Ryan Blaney

25.10

10

31.

Trevor Bayne

25.54

24

32.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

25.96

24

33.

Chris Buescher

26.67

6

34.

Justin Allgaier

27.00

24

35.

Cole Whitt

27.96

24

36.

Brett Moffitt

28.95

20

37.

David Gilliland

29.04

24

38.

Landon Cassill

30.50

24

39.

Michael McDowell

30.58

12

40.

Alex Bowman

31.63

24

41.

Matt DiBenedetto

32.61

23

42.

Michael Annett

33.20

25

43.

JJ Yeley

34.70

24

44.

Alex Kennedy

34.70

10

45.

Brian Scott

34.71

8

46.

Josh Wise

34.76

21

47.

Mike Bliss

36.91

11

48.

Jeb Burton

38.84

25

49.

Timmy Hill

39.17

6

50.

Brendan Gaughan

40.25

16

51.

Reed Sorenson

40.82

11

52.

Travis Kvapil

41.56

9

 

Exercise Caution

Most caution flags: 16, STP 500 – Martinsville Speedway
Fewest caution flags: 5 (3 times), Cheez-it 355 at the Glen – Watkins Glen International, Toyota / Save Mart 350 – Sonoma Raceway, Quicken Loans 400 - Michigan International Speedway
Average number of caution flags per race: 8.1

Most caution laps: 117, Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes – Bristol Motor Speedway
Fewest caution laps: 16, Cheez-it 355 at the Glen – Watkins Glen International
Average number of caution laps per race: 44.0

Leading the way

Most leaders: 15, Geico 500 – Talladega SuperSpeedway
Fewest leaders: 4 (2 times), Toyota / Save Mart 350 – Sonoma Raceway, CampingWorld.com 500 – Phoenix International Raceway
Average number of leaders: 9.0

Most lead changes: 31, STP 500 – Martinsville Speedway
Fewest lead changes: 8 (two times), Cheez-it 355 at the Glen – Watkins Glen International, CampingWorld.com 500 - Phoenix International Raceway
Average number of lead changes: 18.1

Victory Lane

Worst starting position for race winner this year: 37th, Jimmie Johnson, Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500 (Atlanta)

A race this season has been won by the pole sitter 4 times and from the front row 4 times in 24 races.

Recent races won from the pole:
Kevin Harvick, CampingWorld.com 500 (Phoenix)
Matt Kenseth, Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes (Bristol)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola (Daytona) *
Matt Kenseth, Pure Michigan 400 (Michigan)
* set by NASCAR’s rule book.

Winners in 2015:
Kyle Busch: 4
Jimmie Johnson: 4
Joey Logano: 3
Matt Kenseth: 3
Kevin Harvick: 2
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 2
Kurt Busch: 2
Denny Hamlin: 1
Brad Keselowski: 1
Carl Edwards: 1
Martin Truex Jr.: 1

Top-fives

The following drivers have earned top-fives in 2015:
Kevin Harvick: 17
Joey Logano: 14
Jimmie Johnson: 11
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 11
Matt Kenseth: 9
Kurt Busch: 8
Denny Hamlin: 8
Martin Truex Jr.: 7
Brad Keselowski: 5
Kyle Busch: 5
Ryan Newman: 4
Jeff Gordon: 3
Kasey Kahne: 2
Jamie McMurray: 2
Greg Biffle: 2
Carl Edwards: 2
Paul Menard: 2
Clint Bowyer: 2
David Ragan: 1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 1
Kyle Larson: 1
Ryan Blaney: 1
Austin Dillon: 1
Aric Almirola: 1

Top-10s

The following drivers have earned top-10s in 2015:
Kevin Harvick: 21
Joey Logano: 18
Brad Keselowski: 16
Martin Truex Jr.: 16
Jimmie Johnson: 16
Matt Kenseth: 15
Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 15
Kurt Busch: 13
Jeff Gordon: 12
Ryan Newman: 12
Denny Hamlin: 11
Clint Bowyer: 10
Carl Edwards: 8
Jamie McMurray: 7
Kyle Busch: 7
Kyle Larson: 6
Kasey Kahne: 6
Paul Menard: 4
Austin Dillon: 4
Sam Hornish Jr.: 3
AJ Allmendinger: 3
Greg Biffle: 3
Trevor Bayne: 2
Tony Stewart: 2
Danica Patrick: 2
Justin Allgaier: 1
David Ragan: 1
Casey Mears: 1
Brett Moffitt: 1
Josh Wise: 1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.: 1
Aric Almirola: 1
Ryan Blaney: 1

Poles

The following drivers have earned poles (in time trials) in 2015:
Joey Logano: 4
Kurt Busch: 3
Matt Kenseth: 3
Jeff Gordon: 3
Carl Edwards: 2
Denny Hamlin: 2
AJ Allmendinger: 2
Kasey Kahne: 1
Kyle Busch: 1
Kevin Harvick: 1

Average Running Position

10-best average running positions:
1. Kevin Harvick, 7.499
2. Kurt Busch, 9.85
3. Martin Truex Jr., 10.767
4. Joey Logano, 10.876
5. Brad Keselowski, 11.102
6. Carl Edwards, 11.434
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 12.169
8. Matt Kenseth, 12.176
9. Denny Hamlin, 12.456
10. Jimmie Johnson, 12.886

 

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.