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Corey LaJoie
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Statistically Speaking

This Year Versus Last Year at Week 24

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: August 23, 2019, 2:39 pm ET

With two weeks remaining during the regular season, NASCAR’s off-week gives us an opportunity to look at some metrics that may get overlooked from time to time.

One of these is how a driver has performed this year compared to last. In many ways it confirms what fantasy players already know, but that in itself can be an important tool.


Winning and losing a weekly contest is not always about choosing the winner, but in finding a trend among a mid-pack drivers or back markers that works in your favor. Corey LaJoie is not a driver who gets profiled with any regularity, but he has had some incredibly strong runs on occasion and has been solid most of the other weeks. In the Draft Kings game, he has never cost more than $5,700 – which is among the cheapest every week – but he has scored top-25 points on almost a dozen occasions. One reason for his value is that he had an average finish of 32.36 last year. He’s improved nearly seven spots on average to 25.38 in 2019.

By now most fantasy players may be tired of hearing about Matt DiBenedetto. He’s been the top-performing mid-cap driver for the past couple of months and came within 11 laps of winning his first race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Switching teams was a gamble that might not pay off in the long run if he cannot find a ride for 2020, but he has than covered his worth with fantasy players all season long. In the first 24 weeks of 2019, he has posted an average finish that is 6.38 positions better than last year. Part of that is the level of funding between Leavine Family Racing and Go Fas Racing, but one should also note that LaJoie is currently racing for that team and has given them about a one position improvement over last year.

It takes a few years for a driver to come into his own. The sophomore slump is a real factor for drivers in their second seasons, but William Byron has managed to avoid it. He has regularly been listed among the Fantasy Power Rankings top 10 and fell out just this past week after a modest showing at Bristol Motor Speedway, but overall he’s been among the lead performers with eight top-10s and 18 top-20s so far this year. His average improvement is 5.71.

And of course, there drivers in the top five each week that also need to be showcased as improvers. Denny Hamlin is holding the hottest current hand in NASCAR with his six-race, top-five streak. He has stumbled on occasion, but overall has improved over last year even when he is not in the top-five. With an average finish of 9.04, he has the second-best record in that regard to Kyle Busch’s 7.17. That is an improvement of 3.54 spots over 2018.

The comparison of this year versus last will also show fantasy players who to avoid. It is natural to think that the drivers who were strong last year will also be good this season and despite the knowledge this is not always the case, higher than normal salary caps persist for last year’s Big 3.

A lot has been made about the current struggles at Stewart-Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick dominated much of the 2018 season and had a big lead entering the playoffs in terms of bonus points. He built his bonuses by running strong in the regular season and at this juncture in 2018 he had the second-best average finish of 8.13. The 2019 season has not gone nearly as well and he’s fallen 4.25 spots on average, which is the second-worst on the chart below.

The only driver who has been worse in the first 24 races of the year is Clint Bowyer. Luck plays a factor each week and there have been times when he’s simply been snake bit. Drivers often make their own luck, however, and Bowyer has put himself in a vulnerable position too many times. The combination of those factors has caused him to lose nearly five positions per week and has made him a difficult driver to place-and-hold.

Finally, this stat can clarify a few things. Yes Jimmie Johnson has been mediocre this year and is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time ever. But he really has not been any worse than he was in 2018 and his average finish of 16.21 is nearly identical to last year’s 16.17.

 

This Year Vs. Last Year
Through Week 24

Driver

2019

TY vs. LY

2018

Corey LaJoie

25.38

6.98

32.36

Matt DiBenedetto

19.67

6.38

26.04

William Byron

14.50

5.71

20.21

Ryan Newman

13.83

4.83

18.67

Chris Buescher

17.33

4.21

21.54

Ty Dillon

21.21

3.63

24.83

Denny Hamlin

9.04

3.54

12.58

Brad Keselowski

11.79

3.50

15.29

Paul Menard

16.83

2.46

19.29

Daniel Suarez

15.17

2.33

17.50

Alex Bowman

13.71

1.33

15.04

Joey Logano

10.54

1.25

11.79

 

Kurt Busch

11.25

0.75

12.00

Kyle Busch

7.17

0.42

7.58

Landon Cassill

29.71

0.23

29.94

Ryan Blaney

15.00

0.13

15.13

Jimmie Johnson

16.21

-0.04

16.17

Martin Truex Jr.

10.46

-0.29

10.17

Ross Chastain

28.48

-0.39

28.09

Erik Jones

13.96

-0.50

13.46

Michael McDowell

25.04

-0.71

24.33

Aric Almirola

14.75

-0.75

14.00

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

20.04

-0.88

19.17

 

Chase Elliott

13.71

-1.25

12.46

Bubba Wallace

25.04

-1.75

23.29

Kyle Larson

15.04

-1.83

13.21

Austin Dillon

21.29

-2.92

18.38

David Ragan

26.38

-3.38

23.00

Kevin Harvick

12.38

-4.25

8.13

Clint Bowyer

16.54

-4.96

11.58

 

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.