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 Daniel Hemric
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Statistically Speaking

The Rookies

by Dan Beaver

The past three rookie classes have turned out drivers who will endure in the NASCAR Cup series for several years. Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott graduated from the class of 2016, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Ty Dillon from the class of 2018, with William Byron and Bubba Wallace challenging for Rookie of the Year (ROTY) last season.

It has been quite some time since the freshmen were fantasy relevant on a consistent basis, however. By the end of his rookie season, Blaney had four top-fives to his credit, including one from 2015 as a pre-rookie. Chase Elliott was more productive with 10 top-fives, but no victories.

Since then, top-fives have become even rarer. This year will not be much different, but with rookies making up 13 percent of the field on some weekends, they may yet become a valuable part of your lineup in salary cap games when they are rightly-priced.

Daniel Hemric #8

Hemric will almost certainly grab ROTY honors. He has more experience in competitive cars than the remainder of the field and has shown some success in the Xfinity series. While he failed to win in the second series, he made the playoffs in 2017 and 2018 and persisted all the way to the championship race.

In 66 career Xfinity starts, he has 23 top-fives (.348) and 39 top-10s (.591) to go along with five poles. He spent two fulltime seasons in the Truck Series and scored top-fives in each. If he manages to score more than a handful of top-10s in Cup competition, they will most likely come on specialty tracks like the restrictor-plate superspeedways or in races with heavy attrition, but he could finish in the front half of the pack in nearly 50 percent of his attempts.

Ryan Preece #47

Preece is a bit of an unknown this season. Most of his formative time on the track has been spent in the Northeast Modified ranks, but he is joining a team that has been hovering on the edge of success for several seasons. The former driver of this car, AJ Allmendinger scored only a handful of top-10s last year and three of these came on plate tracks that are little more than lotteries for fantasy players.

But, ‘Dinger has also been strong on short, flat tracks. He scored an eighth-place finish at Martinsville last spring and has challenged for the win there in the past. His set of notes should dovetail nicely with Preece’s skill set. Many of the courses on which the Modifieds run are moderately banked. A player willing to gamble might actually roll the dice on Preece at Ingenuity Sun Media Raceway in the opening weeks and get rewarded with a top-20 finish.  

Matt Tifft #36

Tifft was a relatively late addition to the 2019 rookie lineup. Front Row Motorsports (FRM) purchased the BK Racing charter midway through 2018 and kept the No. 23 running so as not to lose its value. They had the opportunity to sell or lease it in this year, but instead chose to run a third car.

FRM is well-known for their prowess on plate tracks. David Ragan, David Gilliland and Michael McDowell regularly contend for top-10s on this course type – which makes them more than of passing interest at Daytona and Talladega. That means Tifft could be a good differentiator on those two tracks when the competition opts for the more established veterans.

Tanner Berryhill #97

Not a lot is expected of Berryhill in 2019. His career has been short and with the exception of the 2014 Xfinity campaign, he has never run a full season in any major stock car series. That season, he scored only three top-25s with a best of 17th at Mid-Ohio.

Berryhill qualified for two races in the Cup series last year at the end of the season and is best remembered for contributing to the caution total at Phoenix in the penultimate race.

Quinn Houff #77

Spire Sports + Entertainment will run multiple drivers in the No. 77. During the off-season, they purchased the franchise from Barney Visser’s No. 78 and speculation has centered on exactly what they planned to do with it. Under NASCAR’s rules, a team’s revenue is partially based on how they finished the previous season, so this could be a relatively lucrative team with the right driver behind the wheel.

This week it was announced that Houff will run about half of the races. Jamie McMurray will compete in the Daytona 500. Until we see what happens with the team, they are nothing more than a curiosity, but there is the potential to use them as field-filler in games where a player wants to top load the salary cap with marquee drivers. 

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.