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Matt Tifft
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Statistically Speaking

Moving On Up

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: April 19, 2019, 4:42 pm ET

Scoring points in Fantasy NASCAR is not always about picking the winner. Some games reward how a driver got there in the form of place-differential points.

So far in 2019, one driver has finished better than he started in eight of nine races; that’s as close to perfect as anyone has come. The only time Matt Tifft failed to finish better than he started was in the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway and we all know that plate tracks can be hard to predict. He is not yet a household name, but fantasy players who have paid attention and looked for a bargain basement driver in the Draft Kings certainly know that Tifft exists.

Regularly one of the lowest-priced drivers in that game, he has never commanded more than $5,600, but he has added an average of 3.7 place-differential points to his total. One three occasions he has been a top-20 pick in terms of overall points; on three more, he was ranked in the low-20s. And with an average finish of 28.1, he hasn’t cost players many points in terms of his raw finish.


Ross Chastain has been a little less consistent than Tifft, but he is another bargain basement driver who bears note. He has improved over his qualification effort in seven of the nine races so far. The only two times he did not finish better than he started was at Martinsville Speedway when he lost four spots due to an engine failure that sent him home 34th and last week at Richmond when he was one position back in 30th. His average improvement of 5.6 positions is heavily skewed by the Daytona 500, however, when he finished 10th after starting 36th.

No matter how one parses the numbers, Kyle Busch has simply been the most valuable driver in the game through nine races. He leads the field in victories, leads the points standings, and has failed to finish better than he started only once. Busch earned positive place-differential points six times in nine races; he finished exactly where he started twice more. The only time he failed to add value in this category came last week at Richmond Raceway when he lost four spots in the Toyota Owners 400.

Busch was of particular value in the three races that preceded Richmond, however. Uncharacteristically poor starting positions at Martinsville, Texas Motor Speedway, and Bristol Motor Speedway allowed him to gain 10, six, and 16 positions respectively. Busch has made plenty of mistakes and incurred five penalties along the way, but he manages to stay on the lead lap and has not yet failed to go the complete distance of a race.

Gaining more than nine spots, brother Kurt Busch has the best average improvement so far this year. He regularly qualifies deep in the field with only two top-10 starts to his credit, but he has advanced in race trim in all but one unrestricted race. Notably the only time he failed to improve on a non-plate track was last week at Richmond when he had his best qualification effort of the season—an outside pole to former teammate Kevin Harvick.

One of the secrets to Busch’s success has also been his ability to stay out of trouble and on the lead lap. The only time he has failed to go the distance was at Daytona when he lost 11 laps to crash damage. He was still running at the end of that race, however.

One of the reasons that Martin Truex Jr. is being overlooked most weekends is that he is starting too deep in the pack to spend a substantial amount of time with the leaders. Qualifying only 15th on average, half of his average running positions have been outside the top 10. He has only three top-five finishes in nine races – including last week’s victory –and an average finish outside the top 10 (10.3), but he has enhanced that performance with an average improvement of 4.7 positions per race.

Parker Kligerman deserves honorable mention. He has started only four races this year, but he has improved in all of them to the tune of 5.25 on average. When he and the No. 96 Gaunt Brothers entry shows up, they might be worth the roll of the dice.

 

Driver

Avg. Fin

Avg. Start

Diff.

Times
improved

Kurt Busch

8.89

18.11

9.22

7

Kyle Busch

3.89

10.89

7.00

6

Ross Chastain

27.89

33.44

5.56

7

Parker Kligerman

25.75

31.00

5.25

4 (of 4)

Martin Truex Jr./p>

10.33

15.00

4.67

7

Matt Tifft

28.11

31.78

3.67

8

Daniel Suarez

15.00

18.22

3.22

6

Brad Keselowski

11.00

14.00

3.00

6

Denny Hamlin

5.56

7.89

2.33

3

Erik Jones

15.89

17.44

1.56

5

Ryan Newman

15.22

16.56

1.33

5

Clint Bowyer

11.89

13.11

1.22

6

Corey LaJoie

28.00

28.44

0.44

3

Landon Cassill

30.11

30.11

0.00

4

 

Ty Dillon

19.11

19.00

-0.11

5

Ryan Preece

23.11

22.78

-0.33

4

Joey Logano

9.00

8.56

-0.44

6

Kevin Harvick

8.67

8.11

-0.56

2

Chase Elliott

12.33

11.67

-0.67

5

Jimmie Johnson

14.22

13.22

-1.00

3

Chris Buescher

20.11

19.00

-1.11

4

Matt DiBenedetto

22.56

21.33

-1.22

4

Paul Menard

16.11

13.78

-2.33

2

Kyle Larson

18.00

15.56

-2.44

3

Aric Almirola

15.11

12.33

-2.78

4

Austin Dillon

14.78

11.44

-3.33

3

William Byron

16.67

13.11

-3.56

3

David Ragan

24.89

21.22

-3.67

4

Bubba Wallace

25.56

21.89

-3.67

4

Ryan Blaney

17.00

13.22

-3.78

3

Ricky Stenhouse Jr./p>

17.11

13.00

-4.11

3

Alex Bowman

18.33

13.78

-4.56

4

Michael McDowell

26.89

21.33

-5.56

2

Daniel Hemric

26.33

18.67

-7.67

2

 

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 15 years with a little help from his >600,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.